The mainland's top judge and prosecutor delivered their five-yearly work reports yesterday, promising to deepen judicial reforms and touting their achievements in cracking down on graft, but disappointing legal experts who hoped for wider reforms.
Wang Shengjun, president of the Supreme People's Court, said in his report to the National People's Congress that it had completed many tasks in the nation's latest round of judicial reforms which began in 2008, including plans to eradicate evidence obtained illegally and the standardisation of sentences.
He said the courts had been "cautious" about handing down death sentences to a small number of people and that the Supreme Court "strictly reviewed" those cases.
Since 2006, death sentences handed down by local courts have to be approved by the Supreme Court. But Wang's report did not give clues to what extent such sentences have been reduced, nor did it say how many executions were carried out.
Wang admitted that mainland courts had many weaknesses: judgments were often not enacted, and judicial independence and transparency still "need to be further improved". "And some judges have moral issues … a small number cheat for personal gain, break the law and are corrupt," he said.
Meanwhile, Cao Jianming, the nation's top prosecutor, touted success in bringing corrupt officials to justice in his report to the legislature.
More than 218,000 people, including 30 ministerial-level officials, had been placed under investigation for graft or dereliction of duty since 2008, Cao said. This compares with the 209,487 people reported in the last five-yearly report, which covered 2003 to 2007.
Cao said some prosecutors had abused their power, and curbing graft among them would remain a main focus.
Legal experts said there was little substance in the reports, as they omitted details such as statistics on state security charges, death sentences and reform of re-education through labour.
"[Legal reform] is highly managed and the party is firmly in charge of its direction and pace," said Joshua Rosenzweig, a law researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "I don't pin much hope on the legal reform, as [it] is not pulling China into a rule-of-law system as much as perfecting a rule-by-law system."