Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Sunday, September 28, 2008

He Weifang on judicial mystification

Here's an interesting essay by He Weifang that follows up on his earlier essay emphasizing the need for professionalization in the judiciary. In this essay, entitled "How to Eliminate Mystification in the Judicial Process" (司法神秘化该如何祛除), He takes up a recently-reported speech by Supreme People's Court President Wang Shengjun in which Wang calls for demystification of the judicial process. Wang wants to demystify by somehow making the process closer to the masses - using simpler language, for example. He Weifang argues that true demystification requires, among other things, two things not mentioned by Wang. First, clarity about the rules that courts use in making decisions. It's mystifying when a lawyer has to tell the client, "Well, according to the law you should be declared innocent, but I can't tell you how the court will rule, because the judge will have to consider current policies, the security situation, and what is of service to the larger picture (法官还要考虑政策啊,治安状况啊,另外还要考虑服务大局)." Second, transparency in court proceedings. China has specific rules about proceedings that are to be closed to the public; all others are to be open. Yet as He points out, these rules are regularly violated. Cases that are for any reason sensitive, regardless of whether they come within the scope of the rules on closed trials, are routinely closed. (The recent trial of Yang Jia, the man who killed several policemen in Shanghai, is a case in point.)

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