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China Daily Website

Local officials' grip on power loosened

Updated: 2013-11-27 01:21
By Jiang Xueqing, Zhao Xu and Wang Shanshan in Beijing ( China Daily)

The multi-pronged approach suggested by Song has already been embraced by the top leadership, which has decided to unravel the interwoven nature of administrative and judicial regions.

"Geographically, the delineating lines of the two are not supposed to be superimposed on each other," said Ying Songnian, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law. "This is meant to minimize and counter the erosion of judicial justice by administrative powers, especially at the very local level."

According to Ying, in practice, this could mean one basic court having judicial power over several neighboring counties, or one intermediate court presiding over several prefectures. "In this way, the courts will become, in a way, reminiscent of the customs and railway bureaus; structures that straddle several administrative regions and consequently remain independent of any single governing body," he said.

Greater autonomy

"If realized, the changes would automatically provide more autonomy, and, many would say, credibility, to the judicial system. For example, a peasant who wants to sue the son of his county chief but is concerned about the chances of a fair trial, might have more reason for hope if the court is structurally detached from his locale. Taizhou city in Zhejiang province, which pioneered this model several years ago, has received very positive feedback from the public," he added.

An alternative would be for the authorities to dispatch independent, mobile courts to areas as and when they are needed, said Ying. "At the end of day, it's all about openness and transparency, without which no reform can be expected to succeed," he said. "Exposing the entire trial process to the light of day would nip any under-the-table deals in the bud."

Since the beginning of the year, a number of high-level officials have been investigated by discipline inspection commissions in connection with allegations that they accepted bribes or violated Party discipline. Jiang Jiemin, director of the State-owned Assests Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, and the former railways minister Liu Zhijun were among those investigated. Liu was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for accepting bribes worth 64.6 million yuan ($10.6 million).

"President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang are firmly determined to deepen the reforms. They have a practical working style that will achieve results and we firmly believe that the CPC Central Committee will produce specific measures to implement the reform plan," said Ma of the Chinese Academy of Governance.

For Peking University's Yan, the crucial factors are willpower and determination. He believes the process of Party reform has started, but to succeed, the leadership must remain resolute in the face of resistance from both senior officials and special interest groups.

The way to break up groups with vested interests is to build a constitutional system and a democratic government of responsibility, said Yan. "China is at a point where it must deepen reforms. If the Party does not play hardball, it will find it more and more difficult to continue ruling the nation and might be eliminated by history in the end."

Zhang Yuchen and Wu Wencong contributed to this story.

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