Thursday, July 05, 2007

Dog bites man - Chinese courts lack credibility

RTRS-Chinese courts lack credibility, trust -chief judge

BEIJING, July 6 (Reuters) - Chinese courts have made "huge strides" in improving judicial procedures but still suffer from a lack of credibility and public trust, China's top judge said in comments published on Friday.

"The majority of the nearly 8 million cases dealt with by Chinese courts annually are fair," Supreme Court Chief Justice Xiao Yang said.

"However, we still have to endure criticism of injustice, and low judiciary credibility and the absence of authority. These are acute challenges for Chinese courts," the China Daily quoted him as saying.

China has vowed to make its justice system more transparent after a string of corruption scandals involving judges last year.

Top prosecutor Jia Chunwang said last October that 91 prosecutors had been punished for violating judicial procedures and 275 had been sacked over the previous 18 months.

With public confidence in the legal system low, some people choose to avoid the courts, Nie Shouming, a Supreme Court spokesman, told the China Daily.

"Instead, they choose to seek help from the media or other state administrative departments," he said. "People will naturally turn to the courts once the procedures are complete and fair enough."

Despite piecemeal reforms to trial procedures in recent years, China's judiciary remains under the firm grip of the ruling Communist Party, and courts are often viewed as mere vehicles for passing sentences.

In November, an official judicial newspaper, the People's Court Daily, reported that only 41,038 people out of 6.2 million defendants were acquitted in criminal trial cases between 1998 and September 2006, representing 0.66 percent of the total.

This will be a fruitless enterprise until China becomes a nation of laws - and that will be impossible under the Communist Party.

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