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UPDATED: October 21, 2014 NO. 43 OCTOBER 23, 2014
A Systemic Fix
China is accelerating the building of a society based on rule of law with unprecedented focus
By Li Li

TRANSPARENT PROCEEDINGS: Bo Xilai, former Communist Party of China chief of Chongqing Municipality, appears in court in Jinan, Shandong Province, in August 2013 on corruption charges (XIE HUANCHI)

An independent judiciary

The trial of Bo Xilai, former CPC chief of Chongqing Municipality, charged with bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, was presided over by Jinan Intermediate People's Court in August 2013. The trial of Bo shocked many with its apparent openness as the proceedings were broadcast online in unusual detail through the court's official feed on the microblogging platform, China's version of Twitter, while similar trials of senior Party officials have typically not allowed public observation.

In November 2011, the Supreme People's Court issued an order to require courts to promote the openness of three forms of information: trial proceedings, verdicts and executive of the verdicts.

"Judicial openness has achieved remarkable progress after enormous efforts made by the court system," said Professor Hou.

Explaining the decision on major issues concerning comprehensively deepening reforms after its adoption in November 2013, Xi said that judicial reform will be a major part of China's overall reform.

In June, three guideline documents on conducting judicial reforms were adopted by the leading group for overall reform, which has been headed by Xi.

The suggested measures include improving the classification of judiciary workers, providing them with competitive compensation and benefits and giving local courts and procuratorates more control over its budget, human resources as well as other parts of its administration. Pilot programs have been ratified in six municipalities and provinces.

The core of these measures is to increase the independence of courts and procuratorates by reducing their dependence on governments of the same level.

"In the past, judicial reforms mainly focused on technical issues while the current round of reforms attempts to overhaul the system. If the reform plans can be well implemented, the independence of judges and prosecutors will be truly guaranteed," said Hou.

Checks on governmental power

The State Council said on September 10 that it will further cut administrative approvals and delegate power to lower-level governments in order to promote efficiency and clear obstacles standing in the way of economic growth.

The move is aimed at eliminating up to 200 administrative approval items by the end of 2014. Over the past year, the State Council has cut or adjusted 632 administrative approval items.

A guideline on reforming the supply and use of government vehicles was released in July in an effort to cut hefty spending in the area amid mounting public complaints over misuse of public money.

According to the guideline, China will scrap the supply of vehicles for use in regular government affairs, while keeping those for special services such as intelligence communication and emergencies.

The Central Government will instead allocate a "proper amount" in subsidies to public servants to allow them to choose their own means of transportation.

In recent years, the departments of Central Government and local governments have been urged to publicize their expenses on official overseas visits, official vehicles and official hospitality. More and more departments have been publicizing the information with more details.

"The reforms have been shaping the government toward being limited in power, cleaner and more open, which meet the requirements on the government in a society ruled by law," Professor Hou said.

Earning his bachelor's degree in law from Peking University, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang helped translate The Due Process of Law by famed English jurist Lord Denning into Chinese.

Meeting the press following his installation to the new post in March 2013, Li emphasized that the market economy is one based on the rule of law. "We need to ensure that market energies can do anything that is not prohibited by the law, and government departments must not do anything unless it is mandated by the law." He also urged "building a modern economy, modern society and modern government with the spirit of the rule of law."

Email us at: lili@bjreview.com

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