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Chief Judge Speaks on Progress, Problems in Legal System

China News Digest, 5 March 2002

[CND, 03/05/02] China's chief of the Supreme People's Court outlined the problems and recent progress in the legal system in a newspaper interview, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday

In the interview, which was published on Saturday's Workers Daily, Judge XIAO Yang admitted serious operation and system problems within the legal system, including long delay of bringing cases to trial and lack of sufficient enforcement on court judgments. The enforcement issue was getting the attention of the nation's top-level leadership, he said.

On the issue of poor quality of some judges and legal officers, Xiao pointed the finger to the judge selection procedure, under which disqualified people could be put on the bench through various channels. Judges have been treated as civil servants and not regarded as the special professionals they are, he said, so that their quality is poor. According to Xiao, there are 310,000 judges and other officials working in 3,568 people's courts in China.

Xiao claimed the Supreme People's Court had made progress in the legal system reform, including intensifying training and establishing a unified exam for judges. The top court has sent hundreds of trainees to overseas, and plans to send out 70 more this year. The National Legal College has so far provided training to nearly 1,000 judges through eight seminars.

China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) will impose serious challenge on China's legal system, Xiao said in the interview. The other major task we have is to eliminate laws that are not compatible with the WTO and come up with new ones that are, he said.

Xiao may face an increasingly critical audience when he presents his report on China's legal system to the 3,000 delegates of the National People's Congress in the next few days. The Post speculated that his report may get the most votes against it, public dissatisfaction over inefficiency, corruption and political interference in the legal system. (LIU Weijun)