Xinhua Insight: China's chief justice warns of weakness, pledges reform in court system
                 English.news.cn | 2014-03-10 17:37:16 | Editor: Yang Yi

BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Chief Justice Zhou Qiang warned against some judges' bureaucracy and misconduct Monday, when elaborating problems in China's court system.

"Some judges and court staff showed bureaucracy at work and enjoyed privileges. They were indifferent to litigants and some even took bribes and bent the law for personal ends. People are angry with them," said Zhou, when delivering a work report of the Supreme People's Court (SPC) at the second session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC).

In June last year, three judges and a discipline official with a Shanghai court were found to have solicited prostitutes by a netizen who released a video footage on the Internet.

The SPC issued a strong-worded statement, accusing them of tarring the image of the nation's judges and scarring judicial credibility. They were dismissed later.

Last month, Liu Yong, an SPC official, was suspected of taking bribes of over 2 million yuan (330,000 U.S. dollars) in exchange for intervening in trials. Liu was transferred to judicial organs and related departments have decided to expel him from public office.

According to Zhou's report, a total of 381 judges and court staff were caught misusing their power and violating disciplines and laws, 101 of whom were prosecuted.

Zhou also noted that some courts were not efficient and delivered wrong verdicts, which damaged the interests of litigants and credibility of the court.

More efforts should be made to ensure independent exercise of jurisdiction and improve the quality and efficiency of trials, he said.

Common people still find it difficult to lodge and proceed with a lawsuit while, in many cases, court orders are not enforced, he said.

A proposal from Zhou Haibo, an NPC deputy from south China's Guangdong Province, echoed the chief justice's report on the management of judges that affected the efficiency and independent jurisdiction of courts.

In his proposal submitted to the NPC, Zhou said since Chinese judges are now under the same assessment and promotion system as civil servants, many judges are inclined to seeking promotion through hierarchic ranks other than perfecting professional performance.

"Instead of being a good judge, they may prefer being a resourceful official," he wrote in the proposal.

Also, since the budget of courts and promotion of judges are linked with the administration at the same level, independent jurisdiction has been affected, he added.

The chief justice's report noted that, as the number of lawsuits keeps increasing, a number of local courts are running short of judges and staff, especially in underdeveloped and remote areas.

Last year, local courts at various levels heard more than 14.22 million cases of various types, up 7.4 percent over 2012, and concluded 12.95 million cases, up 4.4 percent.

Zhang's research also accorded with the report. He cited city courts at Qingyuan, a small city in Guangdong. The total number of cases handled by the courts increased by 52.7 percent from 2008 to 2012 but the number of judges and court staff dropped by about 8 percent.

Pledging to work hard to solve these problems, the chief justice said the SPC will push forward the reform of court system and supervise the behavior of judges.

The reform will include reducing the government's influence on jurisdiction, improving transparency of trials and exploring a way to set up a jurisdiction system of courts that is not completely based on administrative divisions, according to the report.

PROGRESS IN JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY

Chinese courts have made notable moves to improve judicial transparency last year.

According to Zhou's report, about 45,000 trial proceedings were published through media, including social media on the Internet, to engage the public.

The most prominent case was the trial of Bo Xilai, former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, in August last year. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

The Jinan City Intermediate People's Court, which heard the case, posted the trial transcript, pictures and video through its microblog account, which was welcomed by the public.

The SPC opened official accounts on Sina Weibo and WeChat, two of the country's leading social media tools.

The SPC opened a website to publish judgement papers. So far about 3,900 SPC judgements and 1.65 million ones from local courts have been published.

Judgement documents from more than 3,000 courts across China will be accessible through the online database within three years, Zhou said.

All judgement papers of the SPC and 14 provincial divisions in east and central China will be published on the website this year, he added.

In addition, courts will adopt open trials of commutation of sentences and parole cases as well as publish the verdicts that allow someone to serve a sentence outside jail for medical reasons.

Mu Ping, president of the Beijing Municipal Higher People's Court, confirmed that from Jan. 1, all judgement papers of Beijing courts, except for those involving state secrets, personal and business privacy and the underage, have been published online and searchable.

"This year, our major move of transparency will be a mobile phone application," said Mu, also an NPC deputy attending the ongoing annual session.

Ordinary citizens can follow the updates of court information and notices, as well as get the instruction about how to file a case, if they download the application, according to Mu.

Litigants can follow the proceedings of their cases through the application, Mu added.

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