Top judicial officials yesterday vowed to establish a fairer legal system. In their last reports to the NPC, top judge Ren Jianxin and Procurator-General Zhang Siqing said reforms would be speeded up and trial procedures reformed. Judge Ren and Mr Zhang will retire to join the advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, as vice-chairmen after the current NPC session. In his 23-page report, Mr Zhang promised the 2,877 deputies that state prosecutors would 'act strictly according to the law' and allow greater transparency in their investigations. They would continue to crack down on corruption and ensure no officials could be 'above the law'. Mr Zhang said that between 1993 and 1997, prosecutors probed 102,476 corruption cases, 70,507 bribery cases and 61,795 cases of misuse of public funds. The graft probes recovered 23 billion yuan (HK$21.5 billion). However, Mr Zhang made no mention of the case involving 'tobacco king' Chu Shijian who allegedly diverted more than US$145 million (HK$1.12 billion) of company funds to his personal overseas bank accounts when he was boss of the Hongta Group in Yunnan province. Mr Zhang said his office would follow the Criminal Procedures Law in carrying out its duties. The law was amended in 1996 to allow defendants greater legal protection. However, Mr Zhang admitted there was a weakness in its work, saying suspects were often held beyond the legal limits and justice was sacrificed when prosecutors bowed to political pressure. Judge Ren told NPC deputies that since 1993, 39,518 people had been convicted of graft. However, fewer than one in 20 of those convicted were involved in cases totalling one million yuan (HK$935,000) in bribes. In his report, the judge also said sentences had been passed on 2.7 million criminals in the past five years, of which 40 per cent received terms ranging from five years' jail to the death penalty. Fewer than one-in-20 people tried were acquitted. He said judges would continue to use tough penalties to fight crimes to ensure national security. He said from 1993 to 1997, more than 1.4 million people had been convicted for 'seriously endangering national security and public order'. Judge Ren said the judiciary had received three million public petitions in the five-year period, while public lawsuits against the Government rose 26.7 per cent.