Hainan chosen to pilot judicial reforms in China
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has confirmed that October's congress would discuss advancing the rule of law.
In a short statement the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee said it will discuss "governing the country according to law" on every front, during its fourth plenary session.
China first incorporated the rule of law into its Constitution in the 1990s. The phrase "exercises the rule of law, building a socialist country governed according to law" was added to the Constitution in 1999.
The concept is now an important Party mission and crucial to the current reform campaign as it enters the "deep-water zone" where – according to President Xi Jinping himself – problems that remain are all difficult ones. This is the first time a plenary session of the CPC Central Committee has taken the rule of law as its central theme.
"Stressing the rule of law reflects the CPC's new understanding and a dramatically changing legal environment," Zhao Bingzhi, head of the Law School at Beijing Normal University, told Xinhua in an earlier interview.
In the 1980s many reforms were adopted without proper legal arrangements, but times have changed. A socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics was established in 2010.
China has over 240 laws covering almost every aspect of political and social life. Most reform requires revision or abolition of existing laws, or completely new ones.
"No major reform should be conducted if it is not legally grounded," Zhao said.
There is still a long way to go. Wang Yukai, professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, says laws in China do not wield as much power and authority as in other countries that have fully established the rule of law.
His words were echoed by Yang Weidong, another academy professor, who added that non-compliance with the law remains a big problem in today's China.
"Many of our laws and regulations are not fully observed. The powers of some government organs have not been exercised within the cage of regulations," Yang said.
The CPC regards the rule of law as a must for peaceful development,economic growth, clean government, cultural prosperity, social justice and a sound environment. Yang believes current judicial reform might eventually offer a solution.
Earlier this month, China's top court published a guideline for reform of the court system over the next five years. The guideline includes 45 major measures, on personnel, finance, judicial selection and so forth.
Removing some deep problems affecting the judicial system will ensure the courts exercise their power in a legal, independent and just manner, the document said. Guangdong, Hainan, Hubei, Jilin, Qinghai and Shanghai have been chosen to pilot judicial reforms.
"Reform of the court system is an important step," said Yang Weidong.
Yang noted that the rule of law could also lend force to the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.
According to Wang Yukai, the anti-graft campaign has on the one hand showcased Party resolve to rid the country of corruption, but on the other hand exposes the lack of corruption prevention measures.
Yang Weidong agrees, adding that checks on power are at the heart of the rule of law.
"China needs a set of constraints to curb power and deprive officials of the opportunity to cheat, and has to dish out harsher punishments," he said.