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Talk of the Day -- China's stagnant judicial system

2012/08/10 23:15:59

China's judicial system has made little progress over the past three decades as seen in the trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese Communist Party official Bo Xilai, according to local media reports.

The murder trial of Gu in Hefei on Thursday was reminiscent of the trial of Jiang Qing, the widow of China's paramount leader Mao Zedong, in Beijing 32 years ago, the reports said.

If the trial of Jiang and her three proteges was a move to rid the Communist Party and Mao of the blame of igniting the bloody Cultural Revolution, the reports said, the trial of Gu had a similar political purpose -- using her involvement in the murder of a British businessman to cover up a high-level political struggle in Beijing that involved her husband.

While China hopes that by convicting Gu of murder, its people will believe that justice has been served, the judicial circus only highlighted the lack of the rule of law in China, the reports said.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of the issue:

China Times:

Mainland Chinese legal experts said judicial trials of criminal cases in China are mostly circus acts designed to provide legitimacy to Chinese authorities' decisions made in secret.

Chinese lawyers also revealed that defendants' attorneys have been given far shorter time to study a case than prosecutors.

Worse still, they said, attorneys typically have few opportunities to search for evidence or contact witnesses and even defendants.

In China, attorneys are also barred from recommending witnesses to testify in courts nor are they allowed to engage in cross debates with witnesses summoned by prosecutors.

As a result, mainland judges usually can hand out their rulings on a large number of criminal cases within one day and the Chinese courts' conviction rate reaches a high of roughly 98 percent.

In principle, China's criminal laws allow defendants to appeal their cases, but few of them have ended up successful.

Take Gu's case. Her lawyer was designated by mainalnd authorities. The lawyer is not specialized in criminal laws, but rather more familiar with economic and financial cases.

While Chinese authorities allowed two British diplomats to enter the court before the start of Gu's trial, Chinese citizens were denied access to the trial. (Aug. 10, 2012).

United Daily News:

Gu's trial took place in Hefei in Anhui Province because Wang Shengjun, head of the Supreme People's Court in China, is an Anhui native.

Chinese authorities believe that the Hefei Intermediate People's Court will handle Gu's case in accordance with consensus reached among senior Chinese leaders, according to some mainland political analysts.

China's state-run television station CCTV broadcast footage of Gu standing trial in the court.

Political analysts said the broadcast was mainly aimed at warning against resumption of Bo Xilai's leftist policy line.

Bo promoted Maoist policy during his stint as party chief in Chongqing, China's third largest metropolis.

The verdict in the case of Gu, who is accused along with an orderly from her home of murdering Neil Heywood, will be announced at a later date, after the trial was adjourned Thursday, according to a spokesman for the Hefei Intermediate People's Court where the case is being heard. (Aug. 10, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)