China’s judicial authorities have taken measures to prevent corruption and abuse of judicial power after they were given more room to offer leniency to those willing to plead guilty, a senior legislator said on March 9.
Last September, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the top legislature, approved a pilot program through which courts can give suspects or defendants lighter punishment if they plead guilty and agree with the sentences suggested by prosecutors.
The program, designed to improve judicial efficiency and ease the work pressure of prosecutors and judges amid a mountain of cases, has been carried out in 18 cities nationwide, including Beijing, Chongqing and Xiamen in Fujian province.
However, the new policy has also triggered public concern of forced confession or power-for-money deals as judges are offered more flexibility in handing down sentences.
At a news conference on March 9, Wang Aili, director of the Criminal Law Office with the NPC Standing Committee’s Legal Affairs Commission, said detailed measures were issued late last year jointly by the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate to prevent possible judicial corruption brought by the new policy.
“Judges and procurators would bear administrative or criminal liabilities if they’re found with any power abuse in the pilot program,” he said.
Wang said the rules also stipulate how to improve supervision and how to regulate legal procedures while handling such cases, but he did not give details.
“The top judicial authorities have also been required to make a midterm report of the two-year pilot program to the NPC this year,” he said.
Under the pilot program, for example, courts are allowed to announce judgments directly, even without court investigation and debate, if criminal defendants plead guilty and face sentences of three years or less in prison.
“The move is to highlight the principle that tempers justice with mercy, as well as to optimize legal resources by accelerating the process in handling cases with clear facts,” Wang added.
Also at the news conference on March 9, Xu Anbiao, deputy director of the NPC Standing Committee’s Legal Affairs Commission, said the top legislature this year will push forward anti-corruption legislation and improve tax-related laws.
A major legislative task will be amending the Administrative Supervision Law into a more powerful national supervision law, which is expected to be submitted to the NPC for reading in March 2018, he said.