left corner left corner
China Daily Website  

Towards the rule of law: an arduous but hopeful journey for China

Updated: 2014-10-16 21:35


Li Xueming, Party chief of Shushan district of Hefei, capital city of East China's Anhui province, had a story. In his jurisdiction, a petitioner went to Beijing for 91 times in a year, so that local government had to meet his needs to pacify him. "Many ordinary people believed in petition rather than legal procedure," he said. "Once they make a fuss, they believe, local government has to give in."

In the Shidi town of Mianzhu in Southwest China's Sichuan province, seven villagers, cheated by a seed company, had a detailed petition plan.

"We divided ourselves into three groups, each with a truck," Luo Kaihua said. "We were going to carry the bamboo shoots harvested to three provincial government departments to seek justice."

The 51-year-old farmer saw his house toppled down in the earthquake in 2008, which deprived him of all his fortune, with "only a stool" remaining. He then worked very hard and with the money he earned, he contracted for 10 hectares of land with six other villagers.

They bought some seed earlier this year. But the bamboo shoots they reaped were not green, but white, which no one would buy. The seed company refused to compensate for their loss. The angry villagers decided to make petitions.

Their plan was heard by Luo Yinjie, Party chief of the Shidi town. The 32-year-old Sociology major convinced them. "They didn't know how to obtain evidence, we found legal experts to help," he said. "If this dispute could be resolved through legal procedures, I am sure more villagers here will believe in the rule of law in the future."

In China, between seven to eight million petitions were lodged each year. "It is quite important to raise people's awareness at grassroots level in China, so as to promote the rule of law," Yang Tianzong said.

Local governments have their own ways for law education. In the Fuqiang village of Deyang, Sichuan, 1,400 villagers spent half a year drafting village regulations.

Deng Yuanqin suggested that chicken should be kept in pens so as to avoid disputes and improve the environment in the village. "Then people took a vote. More than 90 percent of them raised up their hands to show support," said the 39-year-old woman, beaming with pride.

She noted that in the past, neighbors always argued about the use of land and missing livestock. "Now the relationship between villagers improved," she said.


While the mindset of people at grassroots level is changing, experts are calling for change among law executors.

China's famous legal expert Jiang Ping believed that however the rule of law was stressed, power abuse is still a common phenomenon in China. Some officials took the lead in violating laws.

Ren Runhou, former vice governor of Shanxi, who was caught earlier this year, had a theory. He thought that power could generate profit, while money could buy power. Once visiting a coal mine, he asked the staff members "if I give you the right of sales, the right to hire people and the right to purchase material, will you earn another 100 million yuan (about $16.3 million) for the mine?"

Improvement of laws and regulations is another necessity for rule of law.

A unnamed procurator told Xinhua that some clauses were not precise with loopholes. "Such as sentencing," he said. "A corrupt official who took 100,000 yuan might be sentenced to death, while another who embezzled millions of yuan could only be jailed for 15 years."

The Haimen city of East China's Jiangsu province launched a campaign to check the implementation of laws. So far they have discovered six laws out of 60 which lost efficacy at grassroots level. Another 13 were vague, unreasonable or not feasible enough, or contradicted other regulations.

"Seeing these problems, people will gradually lose confidence in the rule of law," said a local official who declined to be named.

Experts have pinned their hope on the upcoming Fourth Plenary Session of the Eighteenth CPC Central Committee, which is set to open next Monday. The rule of law is expected to be the central theme.

  • Group a building block for Africa

    An unusually heavy downpour hit Durban for two days before the BRICS summit's debut on African soil, but interest for a better platform for emerging markets were still sparked at the summit.