The Supreme People's Court's first annual report to the public, released on Tuesday, has been generally welcomed as a step towards transparency, but lawyers and rights activists say it is far from enough to fix a system long plagued by secrecy and corruption. The country's top court presents a work report to the National People's Congress every March, but The People's Court Annual Report 2009 is the first annual report of mainland courts to the public in the form of a white paper, a Supreme People's Court spokesman said. He said it would provide more details and expand on the March work report, taking readers through the different categories of cases adjudicated by mainland courts last year and judicial reforms that were implemented. The 80-page report, supplemented with colour charts, reveals breakdowns of figures that were previously unavailable as well as details of specific cases. For example, it breaks down the significant increase in administrative litigation last year, saying that birth-planning cases rose by almost three-quarters, environmental protection cases by just over two-thirds and that civil affairs cases more than doubled. Patent and pricing cases both rose by more than 180 per cent. 'Any efforts of the Chinese judiciary to make its working more transparent are welcomed,' said Joshua Rosenzweig, senior research manager at the Hong Kong-based Dui Hua Foundation. 'The Chinese criminal justice system involves so many aspects where transparency is lacking. There's a lot of data that's not made public, or made public in ways that's not informative.' This week's report does not include one of the numbers most sought after by human rights activists: the number of death penalties carried out each year. And while it says there was a 20 per cent jump in the number of offences under the controversial charge of endangering state security, it fails to detail the actual number of cases. Hong Kong-based Chinese law professor Ong Yew Kim agreed that the report was a step in the right direction, but said 'increasing transparency and gaining popular support are two different matters'. 'This report is in line with the judiciary's efforts to win the public's hearts, as seen in recent years,' Ong said. 'However, what we need is an overall increase in the transparency of the operations of the courts.' For example, judges explaining how they arrive at their judgments, courts making judgments available to concerned parties and the public, and courts sticking to open trials, except in specified cases, are all basic but important elements promised in law but rarely practised. Mainland media were also intrigued by some of the controversial cases included in the report, including that of Deng Yujiao, the Hubei hotel hostess who stabbed to death an official who was trying to rape her, and the case of Sun Weiming, the Sichuan drink-driver with no licence who killed four people and seriously injured another. The report cited the two cases as examples of how the courts 'properly adjudicated cases hotly discussed by the media and the public, responded to the concerns of society, and strengthened the authority of the judiciary'. But both judgments raised eyebrows among legal scholars, who described them as judicial compromises that strayed from the rule of law. Deng was convicted of excessive self-defence resulting in death, but spared from punishment due to her so-called mental illness; Sun was jailed for life for 'endangering public safety' because the more appropriate charge of drink-driving resulting in death only carried a maximum jail term of seven years. 'These two cases were completely wrongly adjudicated, and in complete defiance of procedural laws,' mainland law professor He Weifang said.