Full Text: Judicial Reform in China

5. Providing Legal Assistance

China attaches great importance to legal assistance. Since the implementation of the Regulations on Legal Assistance promulgated in 2003, China has gradually extended its coverage of legal assistance, and established and improved its funding guarantee system, providing free legal services for citizens with economic difficulties and parties to special cases of lawsuits, making it possible for more and more impoverished people to protect their legitimate rights and interests through legal assistance. In recent years, legal assistance has extended from criminal defence to areas involving people's livelihood, such as seeing a doctor, seeking employment and obtaining education; the standards of economic difficulty have been established in reference to local subsistence allowance standards; the subsidies for handling cases have been improved; and specific funding guarantee systems have been established for five special groups: migrant workers, the disabled, the elderly, minors and women. 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 grassroots legal service personnel. A total of 28 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) have formulated local statutory regulations on legal assistance. Since 2009, funding for legal assistance has increased at an annual rate of 26.8%, reaching 1.28 billion yuan in 2011. The work of legal assistance has constantly improved along with socioeconomic advances.

The graphics shows the number of legal assistance cases, consultation and total funding in recent years, according to China's white paper on judicial reform published by the Information Office of the State Council on Oct. 9, 2012. (Xinhua)

(Table 3. Number of Legal Assistance Cases, Consultation and Total Funding in Recent Years)

6. Facilitating Channels of Communication between Judicial Organs and the Public

Judicial organs in China attach great importance to listening to the public's opinions, and make proactive efforts to guarantee the people's rights to know, participate in, be heard and supervise in terms of judicial affairs. They have established special departments to strengthen communication with members of the people's congresses and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and handle proposals and recommendations related to judicial work. They invite members of the democratic parties, personages without party affiliation and representatives from among the general public to act as special supervisors and procurators, people's supervisors, and specially-invited consultants to oversee their work and provide comments and advice. They have built websites and microblogs to establish mechanisms for the online expression of public opinion and opinion polls, so as to facilitate communication with the general public. They also approach the public through such activities as receiving visitors, handling petitions and hosting open days.

Conclusion

Through judicial reform, China has constantly improved the socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics, enhancing rigorous, just, polite and incorruptible law enforcement by the country's judicial organs, promoting the country's scientific development of judicial work and personnel, and winning the public's approval and support.

As circumstances keep changing, there is no end to innovation. Judicial reform is regarded as an important part of China's political system reform; it is the self-improvement and development of a socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics. It remains a long and arduous task, and we will deepen the reform along with economic and social development. Establishing a just, effective and authoritative socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics is the goal of our reform, and China will make continuous efforts to achieve this goal.

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