By James Zimmerman 

On October 9, 2012, the State Council’s Information Office released a white paper on China’s Judicial System and Reform Process. The report reviews China’s judicial system and reform process, and emphasizes the need for judicial institutions to maintain social justice, to improve judicial proceedings and supervision. The white paper also emphasizes the need to respect and protect human rights, and highlights that effective measures continue to be implemented to deter and prohibit confessions through torture, to better protect the rights of criminal suspects and defendants, and to protect the rights of attorneys in the course of performing their professional duties.

By the end of 2011, China had more than 3,600 legal assistance agencies, 14,000 full-time legal assistance personnel, 215,000 lawyers and 73,000 community-level legal services personnel. From 2006-2011 lawyers provided defense in 2.4 million criminal cases, which is an increase of 54% over the time period of 2001-2005. While the white paper generally mentions the need for the courts and prosecutorial institutions to exercise their authority “fairly and independently”, the goal of reform is to establish a "just, effective and authoritative socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics”; hence, China’s version of judicial independence will still ensure that politics will continue to play a role.

Please click here for an English version of the Judicial Reform white paper.