China steps up crackdown on judicial corruption

From: Xinhua Updated: 2014-03-12 11:29
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BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) -- The chief prosecutor of the northeastern city of Shenyang, is the first high-ranking law enforcer to fall foul of China's anti-corruption campaign this year.

In late February, just days before the start of the annual parliamentary session, a short statement posted on a government anti-corruption website said Zhang was being investigated for "serious violations of discipline".

As a senior judicial official, Zhang's case caught the public's attention and showed that the campaign is far from finished its pursuit of judicial authorities.

In two work reports to the National People's Congress (NPC) on Monday, both Zhou Qiang, China's chief justice and Cao Jianming, the top prosecutor, spoke of "judicial corruption".

Zhou pledged harsh punishments and dismissal for corrupt court staff. Cao vowed zero tolerance.

The two echoed President Xi Jinping's call to ensure every citizen feels the fairness and justice of every judicial case, and their work in 2013 showed their determination to clamp down on judicial corruption.

According to Zhou's report, a total of 381 judges and court staff were caught misusing powers, 101 of whom were prosecuted. Procuratorates investigated and punished 210 of their own prosecutors in 2013, as part of a campaign to "eradicate black sheep" among staff.

In February, the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee publicized 10 cases of corruption involving judicial officials. Among them, Liu Yong, formerly on the staff of the Supreme People's Court, was accused of accepting over 2 million yuan (326,000 U.S. dollars) to help others influence verdicts.

Judicial corruption is widely seen as some of the worst. If cases do not receive just and fair treatment, judicial authorities lose credibility. To avoid this, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate disclosed statistics on internal corruption and threatened harsh punishments for all concerned.

"A fair and just judiciary is the last line of defense of citizens' rights and interests," said Huang Jingping, a professor of law at Renmin University of China.

"If you let judicial corruption run wild, fairness and justice collapse and society falls into disorder," Huang told Xinhua.

The Criminal Procedure Law, which went into effect last year, allows lawyers to be involved in cases still under investigation. This transparency will help prevent corruption and unsafe findings. Cai Xue'en, a NPC deputy and a lawyer, welcomes the judical reforms outlined in the reports.

"They said they would strive to reduce administrative interference in trials. This major change should reduce corruption" said Cai.

Late last month, authorities turned their attention to corruption in commutation of sentences and probation, following a number of cases of convicts bribing their way out of prison.

Transparency, such as open trials, should help tackle corruption and win public trust, said Qiao Xinsheng, director of the clean governance research institute at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.

"Only with sincerity and courage can judicial authorities promote judicial reform," Qiao said. "This is the road a state must take when marching toward a new system of governance."

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