China’s legal system needs to be fairer

China’s legal system needs to be fairer

Independent judiciary vital if China is to remain a respected force in international politics and become an ‘advanced society’

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Pro-democracy activists hold a banner with an image of missing bookseller Lee Bo during a protest in Hong Kong. The case highlighted glaring flaws in the legal system on the mainland.
Photo: AP

China’s legal system isn’t the best. With the country being a key player in global affairs, it is a little embarrassing that the system isn’t quite as robust as that of our regional competitors. It’s an area Beijing needs to fix, if they are to remain a respected force in international politics.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of China’s judicial system is the fact that suspects can be detained without being formally arrested. During last year’s anti-corruption crackdown, 11 high-ranking executives from companies such as Fosun, Citic Securities and the Agricultural Bank of China disappeared – and reappeared – without any explanation.

While the central government’s efforts to end corruption are commendable, the manner in which investigations are conducted are simply appalling. Under a modern judicial system, suspects ought to know what they’re being charged for, and the public should be given clear information as to the whereabouts of those who have “disappeared”.

Another concern is the frequent use of televised confessions, where defendants are seemingly coerced into admitting their alleged crimes in public. This happens even before the trial has started. Needless to say, this practice would not be tolerated in a fair judicial system and shouldn’t be allowed to continue if China is to become an “advanced society”.


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The case of the missing booksellers managed to bring these glaring flaws to the attention of Hongkongers. Though there may be some truth to the story that the booksellers actually committed a crime on the mainland by attempting to smuggle books across the border, their (initially) unexplained disappearances and Orwellian televised confessions didn’t help China earn anyone’s trust.

Hong Kong is my home, and I intend to stay here even after it loses its status as a SAR. I don’t oppose the Communist Party, nor do I have any reason to be afraid of it. I’m a law-abiding citizen and I respect law enforcement. But no matter how loyal and law-abiding one might be, there is always the worry that there might be something to be afraid of someday, and that’s why the system needs to change.

Hongkongers, no matter which political group they support, need reassurance that the rule of law will remain after 2047.

There is no doubt that Hong Kong’s current British-based legal system will change to be more in line with that of the mainland, but we need to know that the people will be treated fairly, and that there will always be an independent judiciary that will work to protect our rights. Without these reassurances, no one can ever feel safe, even in the city that we’ve lived in all our lives.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Beijing’s legal system needs to be fairer

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