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China opens second circuit court in a week

Updated: Jan 31,2015 5:11 PM     Xinhua

SHENYANG — China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) inaugurated another circuit court on Jan 31, the second in a week, in its latest efforts to reform and branch out so as to bring justice to the doorsteps of ordinary people.

The court, based in Shenyang, capital city of northeast China’s Liaoning province, will primarily handle major administrative, civil and commercial cases that will be heard by the SPC in the northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, according to the SPC.

The First Circuit Court of SPC, covering the provinces of Guangdong and Hainan, and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, was inaugurated in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Jan 28.

The establishment of the circuit courts are part of a reorganization designed to better allocate workloads across the country’s court system. Both courts will begin taking cases from Jan 31.

The circuit courts are adjudicatory organs designated by the SPC. Their judgments, orders and decisions equal those of the SPC.

All judges working in the circuit courts will be selected and sent by the SPC.

Sun Jungong, spokesman of the SPC, said the location of the circuit courts were chosen based on local social and economic development and judicial work.

The second circuit court is located in Shenyang because of a high volume of disputes fueled by the structural transformation of the economy in the old industrial base.

President of the Shenyang circuit court Hu Yunteng said the establishment of the circuit courts can better protect the rights of litigants by preventing lawsuits from being interfered with by local protectionism.

He said they will help the SPC headquarters better concentrate on more policy-oriented work by reducing the need to deal with lawsuits.

The jurisdiction of China’s local courts is largely consistent with administrative divisions and the promotion of judges and finance of courts are influenced by local administrations. There have been concerns that local governments may interfere in court rulings.

Li Yalan, a lawyer with Longdian law firm in Heilongjiang province, said the inauguration of the circuit court is good news to both the litigants and lawyers, since it can help save litigation costs and prevent the interference of local governments.

Cui Dezhong, a farmer in Xinmin city of Liaoning province, has been petitioning for years over alleged unjust treatment to his sons from local authorities. He said he was excited to hear the news of the circuit court as it will save him the money and energy it takes to travel to Beijing.

“I will go to the court tomorrow and hopefully it will help solve my problems,” he said.

The SPC circuit courts are part of the legal reform package adopted at the fourth plenary session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee in late October 2014.

The SPC said they will help the public file cases in local communities and get their disputes solved more quickly and locally. They will also free up the SPC headquarters to concentrate on judicial policies and trying more complex cases.

The newly-inaugurated courts are also expected to act as test grounds for the country’s judicial reform.

“As a significant step in judicial reform, the circuit court system could pioneer institutional changes for wider and deeper reform,” Ma Huaide, vice president of the China University of Political Science.