Pilot programme aims to improve quality of China's top judges and prosecutors

Judges and prosecutors will be chosen by teams of specialists and managed apart from the rest of the civil service under pilot programme

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 June, 2014, 11:53am

The system for appointing judges and prosecutors is to be overhauled and local governments will also have less control over the courts as part of a series of trial reforms to the mainland's judicial system.

An unnamed senior official serving the Communist Party's judicial reform panel told Xinhua yesterday judges and prosecutors would be managed separately from the rest of the civil service under a pilot scheme. There would be stricter controls to ensure they had proper legal qualifications, the official said.

The reforms will be launched initially in Shanghai, Guangdong, Jilin , Hubei , Hainan and Qinghai , the report said.

Overseeing judges and prosecutors separately from administrative workers in the civil service would improve the professionalism of judicial staff, the report said.

The initiative comes as the government is about to release its next five-year plan on legal reforms, a judge familiar with the situation told the South China Morning Post.

"This round of the judicial reform is likely to become one of China's boldest legal initiatives," the senior judge said. "The top leadership is now making final preparations for the announcement."

The Post has previously reported that this year's Central Committee plenum would likely be brought forward, and the rule of law is set to dominate the discussions.

Under the pilot legal reforms, provincial-level boards would be set up to appoint and promote judicial officials, Xinhua reported. The boards will be made up of judges, prosecutors, legal professors and lawyers.

Legal cases will also be handled only by presiding judges and prosecutors and not local judicial committees, which are usually under the control of the party's regional politics and law committees.

Provincial and lower level courts will also be managed independently from regional governments to avoid allegations of political interference.

Mainland judges and prosecutors have long been accused of unprofessionalism as many were appointed based on their military background or administrative work in the Communist Party.

Nearly half of the country's provincial-level judges and prosecutors do not have a legal degree, the Post has reported.

The government was also considering improving the system to take some of the workload off police officers and national security agents, Xinhua said. "Front-line police officers have heavy duties, yet rank low and are poorly compensated," it said.

The authorities have pledged to find ways to improve how investigators were appointed to cases, the report said.

Zhang Qianfan, a Peking University law professor, welcomed the suggested reforms. "The reforms aim for a relatively independent and impartial judicial system by solving major problems, but the process will be fraught with difficulty as the current system is so full of problems and it's hard to change."