Friday, November 7, 2008
Here's a report from the Financial Times about proceedings at the Xicheng District court in Beijing in a case involving objections to forced demolition. Although none of the grounds for not opening the proceedings to the public would seem to apply, the court closed them anyway.
It's not difficult to find reports of court proceedings in politically sensitive cases being closed even where the conditions for closing aren't met. Article 7 of the Court Organization Law, passed in 1979, says: "The hearing of all cases by People's Courts shall be public, with the exception of cases involving state secrets, private personal matters, and minors." (人民法院审理案件，除涉及国家机密、个人阴私和未成年人犯罪案件外，一律公开进行。) And this rule has been repeated in other regulations at other times since then (Article 120 of the Civil Procedure Law, for example, has called for open trials since 1991, and there are many, many Supreme People's Court notices and rules on this subject, including this one from 1999). But almost three decades later - a very long time in the history of the PRC, and a period in which other features of Chinese society have changed unrecognizably - courts regularly ignore their own rules, and the promise of truly open court proceedings remains unfulfilled. Kind of remarkable.