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China plans to give 'people's assessors' bigger role in court

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-04-25 14:37

BEIJING — A second draft of a law on "people's assessors" was submitted to China's national legislature for review Wednesday, suggesting that assessors be granted a bigger role in court.

It recognizes that the assessors "have equal rights" as professional judges in trials, unless the law specifically provides otherwise. The assessors are also allowed to participate in legal proceedings in which the death penalty is possible and in other cases with "severe social impact," according to the draft.

The draft was first submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee last December. The legislation was based on an NPC Standing Committee decision in 2004 to improve the use of people's assessors and a pilot program in 10 provincial-level regions starting in 2015.

The ongoing bimonthly legislative session will run until Friday.

After revisions, the draft is relatively mature and the NPC Constitution and Law Committee has suggested putting it to vote at this session, said a committee report read to the lawmakers.

The draft law states that Chinese citizens aged 28 or older who have received high school education or higher can be selected as assessors.

In courts, an assessor exercises the same power as a judge but cannot hear a case alone nor act as chief judge of a collegial panel.

Assessors are mostly selected randomly from eligible local residents, and only less than 20 percent will be chosen based on personal applications and recommendations by entities, the draft law states.

But lawyers, notaries and arbitrators, among others, are excluded from the service, said the draft.

Citizens who have received criminal punishment, been removed from public posts, been listed as court order defaulters, or committed a severe illegal offense cannot be selected as assessors, and disbarred lawyers and notaries are also prohibited from being selected.

The second draft also adds articles to protect the personal safety and home security of assessors, forbidding any organizations or individuals from retaliating against people's assessors and their relatives.

According to another report on the pilot program delivered by Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court, to the NPC Standing Committee Wednesday, a total of 13,740 assessors in the 10 regions have participated in the pilot program till this April.

People's assessors have participated in hearings on 30,659 criminal cases, 178,749 civil cases and 11,846 administrative cases in the regions since the pilot program started in 2015, said Zhou.

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