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45,000 trials broadcast live last year, says China's chief justice

Publication Date : 11-03-2014

 

China broadcast 45,000 trials live last year, including high-profile ones like disgraced politician Bo Xilai's, its chief justice has said, as Beijing intensifies efforts to boost transparency in the judicial process to shore up its legitimacy.

Giving his first annual report as chief justice on the Supreme People's Court's (SPC) work in the past year, at the tail end of the National People's Congress meeting yesterday, judge Zhou Qiang said deepening judicial reform by improving transparency will be a key task this year.

This was likely the first time the figure for trials broadcast live through various media had been released. It makes up just a tiny fraction of the 14.2 million cases heard at local courts last year.

"The judgment documents of the Supreme People's Court and the courts of 14 provinces can already be found online. We have a target for courts of all provinces to be able to do so in three years," he added.

He also sounded a stern warning against bureaucracy in the judicial system and misconduct.

Observers say the move to peel off the shroud of secrecy surrounding China's courts is long overdue and will help them regain the trust of the people in light of the many cases of miscarriage of justice in recent years such as wrongful convictions.

"We have cases of forced confessions surfacing and also criminals running the law rather than the other way around," China University of Political Science and Law analyst He Bing told The Straits Times.

"So these measures that increase openness will have some effect in raising the trust people have in the system."

Last year, for instance, the SPC established a website to publish judgment documents, with 3,900 SPC judgments and 1.65 million from local courts posted online.

It also started accounts on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging site and mobile texting service WeChat, two of the country's leading social media platforms.

But with bread-and-butter issues such as food safety and environmental pollution growing in severity, experts say China has also stepped up legal efforts to tackle these.

In a separate work report, China's procurator-general Cao Jianming - or its attorney-general - told the nearly 3,000 delegates that 10,540 suspects were prosecuted in food-safety and fake medicinal drug cases last year. This is an increase of 29.5 per cent compared with 2012.

Another 20,969 suspects were charged with involvement in major environmental pollution accidents, illegal mining and illegal logging, he said. Figures for 2012 were unavailable, but this is 18 per cent more than the 17,725 suspects prosecuted for similar charges in 2011.

Still, Professor He thinks there is a long way to go to strengthen the laws in these areas. "While there are noticeable improvements, it's still insufficient. The system that deals with food safety, for instance, is almost at its breaking point."

In his speech, Cao also emphasised the government's efforts to further its crackdown on corruption and maintain social stability through a "lawful crackdown on terrorism and violent crimes".

But he also acknowledged the system's shortcomings.

"Our work still falls short of the demands of China's deepening reforms and its people's expectations," he said. He admitted that the rights and interests of those involved in lawsuits had not been sufficiently protected.

 

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