Of any country, the justice system is the instrument which upholds the rule of law. It applies laws in a fair and rational manner as well as resolves disputes. The courts are an impartial convention and judges are free to apply the law without regard to the government’s wishes or the weight of public opinion. In simple words, the main purpose of a judicial system is to protect and serve justice and punish those who contradict the law. The most important aspect of an independent judiciary system is its application of the rule of law. The rule of law is the principle that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to law that is fairly applied and enforced.
To answer the question on whether the rule of law is applied in China’s judiciary, that would be a no. In China, everyone is subject to the law. According to the Constitution law of China, China does not adopt the “separation of power” system as in modern democratic countries. The People’s court does not enjoy a separate and independent power. From labourers to presidents. The law is the same for everyone. To expedite this they make its judiciary independent of government. Judges are appointed for a secure term. The courts illustrate the law independently of the other arms of government and those other arms must obey the law as illustrated by the judiciary. This is the supremacy of law. This is what China consider as ‘rule of law’. China doesn’t have an independent judiciary, it is simply just another arm of government. The judiciary is however, accountable to the National People’s Congress (NPC). The NPC is the foremost parliamentary body in the Chinese political system. So the Courts are answerable to this legislature. However, the judiciary is still independant.
According to the World Justice Project 2017-2018, China has been given the global rank of 75th out of 113 countries. In comparison to the WJP 2016, China’s rank has gone up by 5 ranks. Compared to other East Asia and Pacific countries, China has a weaker adherence to the rule of law. China is below the median for improving the rule of law however it is ranked 47th for the absence of corruption in governments (improper influence by public or private interests, and misappropriation of public funds or other resources). In terms of fundamental rights, China is ranked 108th globally.
Since 2012, China has made some key changes to enhance its judicial system. A few examples of this are : In 2015, the Supreme People’s Court set up its first and second circuit courts (court systems in several law jurisdictions including drug, family, abuse etc.) in Shenzhen and Shenyang for major cross-regional administrative, civil and commercial cases. That year, the courts handled 1774 cases and concluded 1653 cases within its time limit ; The Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Justice jointly released a regulation on the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence in criminal cases ; According to the regulation, confessions, witness testimony and depositions of victims obtained by force will no longer be accepted as evidence ; On May 1, 2015, a case-filing register system began operating. People’s courts should accept and register all cases of litigation, handle all those that meet the conditions of admissibility and prosecution, ensure that all cases are entered and properly handled, and that litigious rights are exercised without obstruction. These are a few of the key changes made.