By Sam Bermas-Dawes
In October of 2014, a central committee of top Chinese Communist Party officials declared “Rule of Law” an important theme of the current government, reflecting a growing concern from the Chinese public that their legal system is corrupt and inefficient.
On January 28, 2015, Vice President of China’s Supreme People’s Court Madame Tao Kaiyuan spoke at the Brooking Institute in Washington, D.C. on the developments in Chinese legal reform the Chinese Communist Party are seeking.
Sometimes in English, and sometimes through a translator, Madame Kaiyuan spoke to a crowded auditorium at the Brooking Institute’s Falk Auditorium in Dupont Circle, and then took part in a panel discussion with People’s Supreme Court President Luo Dongchuan and Direct General of the International Department of CPC Central Committee Ma Hui. Moderator Cheng Li, Director and Senior Fellow of the Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute, took part as well.
With high rates of corruption, and a burgeoning Chinese middle class, China has never valued the need for the rule of law more than today, Kaiyuan said.
In February 2010, Wen Qiang, the 55-year-old former head of Chongqing’s justice department and deputy police chief, was accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for providing a protective umbrella over the city’s gangsters, according to a Wall Street article.
The month before, one of Kaiyuan’s predecessors in the People’s Supreme Court, Huang Songyou, received a life sentence for bribery and embezzlement.
Kaiyuan called The CCP’s declaration of intent for judicial reform “a milestone” in China’s legal construction.
Those judicial reforms include attempting to make the courts more independent, and transparent.
In order to become more transparent, China’s court system has turned to the internet. Court decisions will be put online for the public, and important national cases will be live-blogged and have an account on We-Chat, a popular social media app.
Chinese courts see 10 million lawsuits a year, she said.
“Justice is the lifeline of the rule of law,” Kaiyuan said. “The purpose is to make the people feel fairness and justice in every judicial case.”
At the end of her speech, Kaiyuan told the crowd, “Seeing is believing,” and invited the audience to come to China see the legal reforms for themselves.
Afterwards, the president of an important Chinese court and the head of the CCP International Department of the Central Committee joined Kaiyuan to briefly answer questions from the audience.
After the event, Kaiyuan was scheduled to visit her American counterparts at the Supreme Court in downtown Washington.