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Judicial Transparency Still Falls Short

07-15 16:54 《财经》杂志 《财经》杂志
Among the samples of verdicts published online, corruption cases with high-ranking defendants and high-profile bribery cases were notably missing.

By staff reporter Wang Lina and intern reporter Chen Jing

In an effort topromote transparency during judicial procedures, the SupremePeople’s Court (SPC) requires that starting from Jan. 1, 2014, courts at alllevels in China shall publish online all qualified verdicts that have come intoforce by upholding the principle of transparency as the rule andnon-transparency as the exception.

Caijing found 1,311bribery cases involving 1,448 defendants that were ruled on and posted online betweenJan. 1, 2014 and May 20, 2014 by using “bribery” as a search keyword on Judicial Opinions of China, a governmentaffairs website operated by the SPC.

By analyzing thesample cases, Caijing was able to gain insight into corrupt practices such asrent-seeking and siphoning of interests, and the status quo of judicialadjudication and judicial transparency .This report sought to resolve thefollowing questions: Who are the defendantsin thepublishedbribery cases? What were their official ranks? How often did the defendants receivecommutation or probation? What are the industries and fields that are most susceptibleto bribery? And whose bribery cases went unpublished?

In only a few publishedcases, the defendants were found not guilty after a retrial. In about 88.7 percentof the cases, the defendantswere state functionaries who were found guilty of bribery. In the remaining cases, the defendantswere non-state functionaries who were found guilty of bribery, people who were found guilty of takingadvantage of their closeness with state functionaries to accept bribes, or state-run units whichwere found guilty of taking bribes.

Among the samples, however, corruptioncases with high-ranking defendants and high-profile bribery cases were notablymissing. Not one official among the 1,448 defendants held a rank above the provincial or ministeriallevel; and less than 10 were officials above the municipal or bureau level.

A source from the judicial system told Caijing that it is not up to thecourt to decide whether and to what extent cases with high-ranking defendants shall be published.

The defendants were released on parole in 112 of the 1,311 bribery cases.Criminal Law stipulates that qualifiedcriminal offenders can be paroled if they were sentenced to fixed-term imprisonmentand have served more than half of their prison terms; or if they were sentencedto life imprisonment and have served more than 13 years of their sentence.

Caijing reviewed the numbers of the probation periods in the 112 paroleverdicts and found that the defendants on average served about 59 percent oftheir original prison terms. Fifty-eight out of the 112 verdicts were fromShandong Province, wherein the defendants also served an average of 59 percentof their original prison terms. 

In comparison, by analyzing 119 parole verdicts in connection to fraudand 28 parole verdicts in connection to illegal business practices given bycourts in Shandong Province and postedon the Judicial Opinions of Chinawebsite during the same period, Caijing learned that the defendants of bothcrimes served an average of 69 percent of their original prison terms separately.

Why did bribery offenders that were paroled get to serve a smallerpercentage of their prison terms compared with offenders of other nonviolentcrimes? It is difficult to fully explain the phenomenon given the limitednumber of sample cases.

The SPC made a new judicialinterpretation concerning commutation and parole April 29, 2014 to prevent judicialcorruption, stipulating that six types of commutation and parole applications,including such applications submitted by offenders of occupational crime, shallbe tried in court. The SPC also stated that the court shall notify the public ofits upcoming trial of commutation and parole cases and later publish verdicts online. 

Full article in Chinese: http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2014-07-14/114329332.html

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