China's ruling party calls for better legal system under stronger party rule

BEIJING, China – China’s ruling Communist Party has introduced guidelines aimed at improving the country’s legal system but said it will also strengthen the party’s leadership position through the use of law, according to a party document released Tuesday.

The full guidelines on how to govern the country according to law were made public after the party’s 205-member Central Committee met last week to discuss its priorities for the upcoming year. A summary was released Thursday.

“I think the major goals are to maintain the party’s long-term rule and to curb corruption,” said Zhang Qianfan, a professor of constitutional law at Peking University in Beijing.

The document said China must improve its legal system but do so under the party’s leadership and that ensuring the party’s leadership is the fundamental basis for ruling the country according to law.

“We should deftly use the legal procedure to turn the ideas championed by the party into the national will, and we should deftly use the legal procedure to turn personnel recommended by the party into leader of state agencies,” the document said.

The decisions did not propose any measures that would place meaningful checks on the ruling party. Some scholars say they have never harboured any illusion that the party would restrict its own powers.

The document said China will establish a constitutional day, and the party has pledged to strengthen a supervision system to ensure proper implementation of the constitution.

“This is urgently needed because many laws would be unconstitutional if that supervision system does not play its role,” said He Bing, a legal professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

The key is whether such a system would be implemented, said Zhang. “The system has been around for a while, but it has yet to play its role,” he said.

In the document, the party said the country should have legal reviews of administrative decisions and must boost judicial independence to safeguard justice and increase public trust.

Some measures to improve judicial independence include setting up a national circuit court, allowing for change of venue, holding government officials accountable for intervening in legal matters, and separating judicial powers.

Social tensions arising from lack of legal justice have become a major source of unrest in China to the alarm of the party.

The document also said China should introduce laws to curb corruption.

Scholars have said the ruling party needs to push for legal reforms to better manage its vast bureaucracy and advance its expansive economic reforms because corruption has undermined the party leadership and hurt the economy.


AP researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.