Supreme People's Court Rebukes Academics on Proposed Judicial Reforms

December 20, 2004

According to articles in the South China Morning Post (subscription required), Beijing News, and the People’s Daily, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) has rebuked two Beijing academics who authored broad-ranging judicial reform proposals. The proposals involved significant changes to both the SPC death penalty review and the internal organization of the courts.

A representative of the research department of the SPC said, "court reform must take into account many different opinions, including the suggestions and opinions of experts. But it must be emphasized that the implementation of each reform proposed by the Supreme People’s Court is extremely careful. Opinions regarding court reform that do not come from the Supreme People’s Court itself can only represent the views of the speaker himself."

According to the SPC, only those proposals that "suit China's national character, and operate to “strengthen the governing capacity of the Communist Party” will be adopted. The SPC directed particular fire at the proposal to formally rename the Chinese courts as "Courts," rather than "People’s Courts," asserting that the latter term correctly embodies the core nature of Chinese courts as "government trial organs under the leadership of the Communist Party."

The public rebuke of the authors of the reform proposals came after they had completed a draft proposal to amend the Organic Law of the People's Courts at the request of the SPC and had publicly commented on it. The strong SPC reaction may reflect an outright rejection of the authors’ proposals; indicate an attempt to check reformers who have pushed past a boundary that the Chinese leadership has set; or represent the SPC's effort to give itself political cover for carrying out limited court reform proposals without being criticized for moving too quickly or for attempting to "Westernize" China. The government's official position on the developments, in an English-language People's Daily article), suggests one of the latter two interpretations.