Archive for ‘Rule of law’

30/06/2014

China supreme court appoints top environmental judge | Reuters

China’s supreme court has appointed a senior judge to handle environmental cases as the environmentally challenged country bids to get tough on polluters and improve the way its laws are enforced, an official newspaper said on Monday.

China Environmental News, published by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, said Deng Xuelin had been appointed as the presiding judge of the Environmental and Resources Tribunal of the Supreme People’s Court.

The tribunal was formally established just two weeks ago.

Beijing, hit by a series of pollution scares and scandals, has vowed to reverse some of the damage done by three decades of untrammeled economic growth, but it has traditionally struggled to impose its will on big industrial enterprises and the local governments that protect them.

The report said the new state tribunal would give “unified guidance and coordination” to the 134 specialist environmental courts that have been set up by local governments, noting that the procedures used to handle such cases was “very informal”.

Litigators have long complained that lawsuits launched against polluters have been routinely rejected or even ignored by local courts, many of which lack the capacity and the independence to take on powerful government-backed firms.

China has promised to create legal channels allowing members of the public to take action against firms that break the law, but environmental officials say they lack resources and are already overwhelmed by the number of cases.

 

Earlier this year, China passed amendments to its 1989 Environmental Protection Law, giving local governments greater powers to fine, shut down and even imprison violators.

via China supreme court appoints top environmental judge | Reuters.

16/06/2014

China aims to revamp justice system but Communist Party to retain control | Reuters

Legal reforms are a key platform for President Xi Jinping‘s government to restore popular faith in the Party and judicial system amid simmering public discontent over miscarriages of justice often caused by officialsabuse of power.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony of the sixth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 5, 2014. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

China must “improve the requirements for appointing justices and prosecutors while upholding the principles of leading party officials and respecting the rule of justice”, an unnamed official in the top office in charge of judicial reforms told the official Xinhua news agency.

It did not say when the pilot programs would be launched.

To limit interference by local governments, provincial governments will pick judges and prosecutors and fix the budgets of local courts and procuratorates, Xinhua reported. The system currently gives local governments greater sway in appointments.

Panels of legal specialists at the provincial level will nominate judges and prosecutors, but the Party must still approve their appointments.

The reforms must “uphold the Party’s leadership,” the official said, signaling a willingness by the central leadership to improve its courts as long as the Party’s overall control is not threatened.

Critics have described the leadership’s call for greater independence for courts as a hollow gesture, because judges ultimately answer to the Party.

via China aims to revamp justice system but Communist Party to retain control | Reuters.

13/06/2014

China’s Supreme Court overturns death sentences for two men who raped 11-year-old girl | South China Morning Post

The Supreme People’s Court has overturned the death sentences given to two men convicted of raping and forcing an 11-year-old girl to work in a brothel.

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The court said the high-profile case, which has received national media attention, would be retried.

Tang Hui, the victim’s mother, has campaigned for years believing death sentences should be handed out to all people who were guilty in her daughter’s case.

She has also petitioned local governments to punish officials who she said had been bribed by prostitution gangs to protect their operations.

“The ruling has dealt a heavy blow to us,” Tang told the South China Morning Post yesterday.

“My family just tries to live a normal life. As the case reopens, we’ll experience all the nightmares again. I’m especially worried about my daughter.”

Tang’s daughter has contracted herpes, an incurable sexually transmitted disease, and psychological trauma after she was raped and forced to work as a prostitute at the age 11 for two months in a brothel in Yongzhou in Hunan province in 2006.

Her daughter’s two main kidnappers were sentenced to death in June 2012, four accomplices received life sentences and one was jailed for 15 years.

A representative from the Supreme People’s Court said in an interview with the People’s Daily that the death sentences had been overturned because the crimes were not serious enough to warrant capital punishment.

“The circumstances of the crime had not reached the degree of being extremely serious,” the spokesman said.

Forcing a large number of victims into prostitution, or performing torture on victims that resulted in death or permanent injury might have warranted the death sentence, the official added.

Lu Miaoqing , a lawyer in Guangzhou, said the Supreme People’s Court ruling was understandable as judges tended to avoid capital punishment unless a crime had caused deaths.

via China’s Supreme Court overturns death sentences for two men who raped 11-year-old girl | South China Morning Post.

01/04/2014

The Links Between the Delhi and Mumbai Rape Cases – India Real Time – WSJ

The two crimes were strikingly similar: In both, a young, ambitious woman was gang-raped by a group of impoverished men in one of India’s premier cities.

But their connection didn’t end there.

National outrage at the first case, involving a physiotherapy student who died from her injuries in New Delhi in Dec. 2012, arguably had an impact on how the country reacted to the second, in which a photojournalist in Mumbai was attacked while out on an assignment in an abandoned area of the financial capital.

They are also linked through the law.

The Delhi rape triggered changes to legislation to protect women that were subsequently used to convict the men charged with the attack in Mumbai.

Parts of that toughened up legislation, which made death the maximum penalty for rape in the case of repeat offenders, are also being used, for the first time, against the men guilty of gang-raping the Mumbai photojournalist.

Three of the four men convicted of gang-raping the photojournalist have also been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for gang-raping a telephone receptionist a few weeks earlier at the same location.

This makes them repeat offenders, so eligible for the death penalty, said the public prosecutor when he pressed fresh charges against the men last week in the hope of securing a death sentence for them at a trial court in Mumbai.

In the case of the Delhi victim, the attackers were punished under the previous version of the law, which awarded the death penalty for murder in the rarest of rare cases but set the maximum penalty for rape to a life term of 14 years.

The trial judge in the case in Mumbai allowed the prosecutor to introduce the new charge of repeated offense before sentencing began, but the defense lawyers appealed against the decision in the high court. The defense also challenged the constitutional validity of handing the death penalty to repeat gang-rape offenders.

The Mumbai High Court rejected the defense’s appeal against the fresh charges but refrained from expressing  its view on the “tenability of framing additional charge.”

The judges added that their decision not to interfere in the trial court hearing fresh charges should not be construed as approval.

The High Court judges also observed that sentencing repeat gang-rape offenders to death could bypass the “rarest of rare” criteria, which has long been invoked to prevent judges from using the death penalty too frequently or in an arbitrary manner.

via The Links Between the Delhi and Mumbai Rape Cases – India Real Time – WSJ.

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20/02/2014

China charges former mining magnate with murder, gun-running | Reuters

Prosecutors in central China on Thursday charged the former chairman of Hanlong Mining, which had tried to take over Australia’s Sundance Resources Ltd, with murder, gun-running and other crimes as part of a “mafia-style” gang.

Police last year announced the detention of Liu Han and an investigation into his younger brother Liu Yong – also known as Liu Wei – on suspicion of various criminal activities.

In a report carried by the official Xinhua news agency, prosecutors in the central province of Hubei said the two Lius set up the gang in 1993, along with 34 others, which “carried out a vast number of criminal activities”.

The gang was responsible for nine murders, the report said.

via China charges former mining magnate with murder, gun-running | Reuters.

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19/12/2013

China continues rights abuses even as labor camps ditched -Amnesty | Reuters

China is increasingly using extra-judicial \”black jails\” and drug rehabilitation centers to punish people who would formerly have been sent to forced labor camps, rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

A drug addict walks at a compulsory drug rehabilitation center in Kunming, capital of southern China's Yunnan Province November 28, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee

China vowed last month to do away with hundreds of labor camps, as part of a landmark package of social and economic reforms. Official news agency Xinhua has said there are 350 such camps across the country, with up to 160,000 inmates.

But many of those in extra-judicial jails and rehabilitation centers are being punished for their political or religious beliefs, the London-based rights group said.

via China continues rights abuses even as labor camps ditched -Amnesty | Reuters.

23/11/2013

Reform in China: Let quite a few flowers bloom | The Economist

THE jury is in. After months of speculation and an initial summary last week, the final 22,000-character overview of China’s “third plenum” was published on November 15th. In the economic sphere the document turned out to be bolder than the initial summary suggested. The new party boss, Xi Jinping, wants to push through changes that have stalled over the past decade. As the document itself says: “We should let labour, knowledge, technology, management and capital unleash their dynamism, let all sources of wealth spread and let all people enjoy more fruits of development fairly.” Quite.

It is by no means certain that Mr Xi will be able to do all he wants to (see article), but it is clear he has won the battle so far. Economically, he is proving himself an heir to Deng Xiaoping, China’s great reformer, and not the closet Maoist that some had feared. Conservative forces seeking to stifle reformist voices have been quieted, at least for the time being.

The document’s interest lies not just in the economic reforms, which were anticipated. More striking were some of the social changes the document announced, such as the relaxation of the one-child policy. A couple in which one parent is an only child will be allowed to have two children, and the policy is likely to be loosened even further. In another widely welcomed move, labour camps—in which around 190,000 people, including political and religious activists, are detained—are to be abolished.

But possibly the most important announcements were buried deep in the document and grabbed fewer headlines. Two moves in particular showed that the party is sensitive to the ferment in Chinese society and the demands for greater liberty and accountability that accompany it.

In the past 30 years China has gone from a totalitarian society to one in which people can usually work where they want, marry whom they want, travel where they want (albeit with varying degrees of hassle for those from the countryside and ethnic-minority regions). In ten years internet penetration has gone from minimal to almost universal. Old welfare structures have broken down, with little to take their place. Ordinary people are being empowered by new wealth and participation, through microblogs, and by becoming consumers and property owners. Change is bubbling up from the bottom and the system cannot contain it.

An uNGOvernable state

Society is becoming too complex for the old structures to handle. Hence the government’s decision to allow the development of what it calls “social organisations”. In essence these are NGOs. The party dislikes the idea of anything non-governmental and has long regarded NGOs as a Trojan horse for Western political ideas and subversion, but it is coming to realise that they could solve some of its problems—caring for the sick, elderly and poor, for instance. The growth of civil society is not just important in itself. It is also the bridge to the future, linking today’s economic reforms to whatever putative future political reform might come.

Equally important is the issue of judicial reform. China’s hopelessly corrupt judges are unpopular. The party resolution floats the idea of “judicial jurisdiction systems that are suitably separated from administrative areas”; that is, local judiciaries that are not controlled and paid for by local officials. Though some observers doubt this will happen, if it does it could be the start of a system of basic checks and balances, which would make officials more accountable.

That these two gestures towards reform were mentioned at all is encouraging; that they were barely visible to the untrained eye shows the party’s ambivalence towards liberalisation. But it must push ahead. Its planned economic reforms will surely generate not just wealth, but more pressure for political change. Unless the party responds, there could be an explosion. If Mr Xi is inclined to wobble, he should remember the advice in the plenary document: “Dare to gnaw through even tough bones, dare to ford dangerous rapids, break through the fetters of ideological concepts with even greater resolution.”

via Reform in China: Let quite a few flowers bloom | The Economist.

22/11/2013

China: Labour camp system abolished forever

Originally posted on China Daily Mail:

China Labour Camp

China Labour Camp

In its prime time news, China’s official mouthpiece CCTV gave an authoritative interpretation of the reform decisions of the Third Plenum of the Eighteenth CCP Central Committee (the Decisions), stressing that not all families are allowed to have two children and family planning will continue to be imposed.

The land reform to give peasants property rights will be started with pilot projects in a few areas, so that it will be carried out prudently and soundly step by step instead of on a large scale.

However, the system of reeducation through labour, the labour camp system, will be abolished forever.

CCTV says, “This system that once played an important role” shall “quit the historical stage” and “its abolishment reflects the Central authority’s high respect for human rights.

“The reeducation through labour system is our country’s judicial means that was implemented in the 1950s.”

CCTV had…

View original 812 more words

21/11/2013

China Supreme Court rules out confession through torture | Reuters

Using torture to extract confessions must be eliminated, China\’s Supreme People\’s Court said on Thursday, singling out a widespread practice that has long attracted international condemnation.

Policemen guard the entrance outside Shandong Province Supreme People's Court in Jinan, Shandong province, October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

\”Inquisition by torture used to extract a confession, as well as the use of cold, hunger, drying, scorching, fatigue and other illegal methods to obtain confessions from the accused must be eliminated,\” the Supreme Court said in a statement posted on its official microblog account.

The Supreme People\’s Court also introduced more stringent rules for death penalty cases, saying adequate evidence must be furnished and that only experienced judges should handle capital punishment trials.

China\’s government said last week it would work to reduce the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.

via China Supreme Court rules out confession through torture | Reuters.

20/11/2013

China Legal Reform Promises Cause for Cautious Optimism – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The initial communiqué that emanated from China’s major meeting of top Communist Party leaders on November 12th focused on economic reform and had little to say about the legal realm. That changed three days later when the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party released a 60-point “resolution” that announced two potentially significant legal reforms and provided more detail about additional reform targets.

While it’s only possible to gauge the transformation of rhetoric into action after the fact, I’m not alone in welcoming the new goals. I recently attended a long-planned meeting in Seattle of a group of specialists on Chinese law. The meeting began on November 14, and the mood was discouraged given the scarcity of references to legal institutions in the communiqué. By the next morning, however, the atmosphere shifted as details of the just-released resolution trickled in.

The resolution specifically mentions two potentially important reforms: abolition of the system of “re-education through labor” (in Chinese: laojiao) and a plan to move the courts and the procuracy (prosecutors) away from the influence of local governments.

Laojiao, initiated in 1957, is a system under which the police may send people to labor camps for up to four years without formal arrest or trial.  Initially established to deal with recidivist petty criminals who would otherwise burden the courts, it has been extensively used to incarcerate “counter-revolutionary” dissidents, aggressive petitioners, members of the Falun Gong religious movement and other persons deemed to present unwelcome political challenges to CCP rule. It has long provoked criticism by Chinese legal scholars, other advocates of legal reform and members of the public.

via China Legal Reform Promises Cause for Cautious Optimism – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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