Jamie P. Horsley: China's rulers commit to the (socialist) rule of law- Nikkei Asian Review:
Jamie Horsley is Executive Director of the Yale China Law Center
"Amid signs of a faltering economy, an anti-corruption campaign that has ensnared some 180,000 party cadres, daily protests and an increasingly complex international environment, China's Communist Party leadership convened last week to discuss "governing the country in accordance with law." The goal was to chart a course toward legal and governance reforms, in order to bolster public trust in the party and help achieve sweeping economic and other reforms announced nearly a year ago.
As anticipated, the Central Committee Fourth Plenum, held Oct. 20-23, reaffirmed the necessity of party leadership to build "socialist rule of law." While more detailed results of the meeting are expected shortly, the initial concluding communique gave unusual prominence to the constitution as the country's basic law. ***
Significant reforms to enhance the stature of the judicial system, which includes both the courts and the procuratorates that investigate and prosecute cases, are among the more concrete measures described in the communique.
Faced with a rising number of disputes of growing complexity, the party recognizes that political interference, low compensation and corruption have undermined trust in the system.
To promote more independent exercise of judicial authority, the plenum directed the exploration of cross-jurisdictional courts and procuratorates removed from local government pressure. It also called for a system to end "interference" by leading cadres in specific cases by recording, reporting and pursuing individual liability for such obstruction.
The current Supreme People's Court has overseen a reduction in use of the death penalty, the overturning of wrongful convictions and increased transparency of the entire judicial process. It has promised more open trials and required that judicial decisions nationwide be posted online. The plenum endorsed such developments through its call for stronger judicial guarantees of human rights and building a "sunshine" judiciary that is open, dynamic and convenient for the people.
To ensure that leaders in all sectors take these initiatives seriously, the plenum ordered that rule-of-law indicators be written into annual cadre performance evaluations, and that government officials and judges be held permanently accountable for their decisions, even after they transfer to different positions or retire.
Increased law-based governance also holds implications for China's international relations. The plenum called for strengthening foreign-related legal work and using legal measures to safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development interests -- as well as to protect Chinese citizens and corporations abroad and foreign counterparts in China.
The more law-based, transparent, participatory and accountable China becomes, the more it might be expected to achieve its goals of delivering sustainable economic growth along with social justice and stability. It would also be better positioned to participate constructively in the rules-based international system. These are outcomes the international community should welcome.
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