Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The topic is on the table

Rule of law is a basic concept of governance. It's a subject of study in all the AP6, except perhaps the UK. Here's an interpretation from China.

China Grants Courts Greater Autonomy on Limited Matters
This past year has been a time of ups and downs for Judge Jiang Huiling and his 20-year quest for legal reform in China.

Jiang Huiling
Judge Jiang heads a government research institute that is spearheading an ambitious remake of China’s legal system. With pride, he points to potentially significant changes unveiled over the past year that could lead to a fairer legal system, instead of the politicized structure that upholds the law in China today.

But Judge Jiang, 52, also knows that many people see the past year as a period of retreat…

In December, for example, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers was tried for blog posts criticizing government policy, while another nationally known lawyer has been held incommunicado since August…

“You can mention one case to defeat me,” Judge Jiang said in an interview over tea… “But I could give you 10 examples to show our determination to move forward.”

Even skeptics say that the changes are significant. Their centerpiece aims to make courts independent of local government. Currently, lower-level courts in China are overseen by the county government, whose party boss runs the courts… Local party secretaries appoint judges and often vet politically important decisions…

“It’s clear there is a high-level determination to let the courts get more involved,” said Neysun Mahboubi, a research scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Contemporary China. “The question is why — are efforts at ‘stability maintenance’ not working?”

The reforms would put all courts under provincial administration. Although this still means government control over the courts, the effect could be significant at the local level…

Other measures are being tried as well. The government has set up two pilot projects to establish circuit courts, which allow judges from one province to hear cases from others, further reducing the risk of local influence…

But another of the initiatives — professionalizing judges — illustrates some of the deep-seated challenges facing reformers. China has about 196,000 judges, but many are simply law school graduates… Even those judges who hear cases rarely have to make decisions; instead, the cases are sent to senior judges or Communist Party committees to decide…

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