Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Supreme People's Procuratorate sends working groups to hear petitions at the provincial level

China's central government has recently been making efforts, involving both carrots and sticks, to prevent petitioners from showing up in Beijing. This policy thrust showed up in a recent directive from the Party's Central Commission on Politics and Law (中央政法委员会) (abbreviated "ZhengFaWei" below).

Here's an interesting communication I received on this from a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous. The last paragraph has been slightly edited:

The Supreme People's Procuratorate has acted upon ZhengFaWei's recent directive to send working groups to select provinces to hear Shang Fang grievances locally.  The first five provinces named are Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and Henan.

The pronounced policy is that the groups will only hear claims that warrant proper SPP jurisdiction in the first place, which encompasses two categories: claims of (usually completed) unfair trials (shensu claims) that have gone through provincial-level xinfang offices and tips and allegations regarding high-level corruption.  The policy means two things.  Those already in Beijing with proper claims will not be entertained at the SPP and will be directed back to the provinces; those who may come before the working groups without proper claims will be ignored and redirected to the provincial-level offices.

It remains to be seen how long the mission will last and if the coverage will be expanded in future.

With the help of a map, it is not difficult to realize that the first four provinces directly abut or surround Beijing and [seem to have been chosen to] create a buffer zone.  Talk about priorities.  Henan, being the lone exception, must have had an exceptional record in this department.

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One might hope that this step is the beginning of multiple efforts to break down the interlocking local and Provincial judicial, procuratorate, and Party power structures that allow "local protectionism," corruption, and disregard of national laws about health, safety, and environment to go unchallenged.

I believe that the lack of "vertical" law enforcement machinery is a serious weakness of the Chinese legal system - and one that causes a lot of unhappiness throughout the country. See my brief analysis on the U.S. - Asia Law Institute web site:

Posted by: Sam Bleicher | Sep 9, 2009 7:08:48 AM

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