Law enforcers offer hope for justice
It is too early to predict how the nation's lawmakers will score the reports from the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, submitted yesterday.
We have to wait until Monday morning to know the outcome, when the full session of the National People's Congress marks the papers with their votes.
But judging from what we have heard in private interviews, the signs so far look good.
It is almost certain that Xiao Yang and Jia Chunwang, the country's top law-executors, who respectively head the supreme court and procuratorate, will not encounter the kind of embarrassment their institutions experienced in previous years.
Indignation inside the national legislature over judicial corruption and malpractice resulted in massive naysaying against the two institutions in 2000 and 2001.
All the complimentary words we heard this year about their reports boil down to one thing - law enforcers are taking themselves, and their jobs, more seriously.
We need the numbers to add up, and to give us an even picture of the country's overall security conditions for the past year.
From this year's reports, we were alarmed to read that the number of young people sentenced to criminal punishment rose by 19.1 per cent in 2004 over 2003.
It is worrisome because the corresponding margin of increase in the total number of people who received criminal punishment was only 2.8 percentage points.
We need to find out what is wrong, and what we can do to make a difference.
But numbers can also be misleading.
We read about steep rises in the numbers of lawsuits involving intellectual property violation, and labour disputes, as well as the number of high officials sentenced on corruption charges last year.
Eleven officials at the provincial-ministerial level were investigated last year on criminal charges. That number has almost tripled that in 2003.
But this figure could have more to do with the judiciary's increased intervention rather than an increase in the number of crimes.
That is why neither we, nor our legislators, will dwell on those numbers.
Efficiency is indeed a virtue, and not only in law-enforcement.
But nothing should detract from justice as the paramount value in jurisprudence.
Our interviewees expressed reasonable satisfaction with the two reports, not because our courts and procuratorates worked more efficiently and handled more cases than before, but because they are working harder to deliver justice.
The two reports go to great lengths to elaborate what has been done and is to be done to guarantee fair investigation, prosecution and judgment.
As is evident in the reports, a lot has already been done.
The procuratorial report is more impressive in that it devoted a special section to explaining how it subjected itself to outside scrutiny.
We see in it inspiring responsiveness to legislators' concerns, and thus the general public's.
Besides experimenting with more transparency and procedural improvements, which may to some extent dilute suspicion of behind-the-scenes dealings, both reports pledge commitment to clearing their own ranks and upgrade competence.
That is crucial, at local levels in particular.
The Supreme Court report says 80 per cent of lawsuits across the nation were filed at courts at local levels.
As we all know, however, the cream of the nation's legal professionals are concentrated in a few of the country's relatively prosperous cities.
Lack of professional training and effective supervision has led to the disappointing reality that the twin evils of corruption and incompetence are even more rampant in local judicial organs.
Both reports pledge to crack the nut. We will be looking forward to seeing real progress in that regard.
If society cannot depend on our judiciary for justice, harmony will always be somewhere beyond our reach.
(China Daily 03/10/2005 page4)