December 2, 2014 / 11:25 AM / in 4 years

China to adopt circuit courts to reduce interference: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a news conference with U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing November 12, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has adopted pilot programs for circuit courts and courts with jurisdiction across different regions designed to reduce local officials’ interference in the judiciary, state media reported on Tuesday.

Legal reforms are a key platform for President Xi Jinping’s government to restore popular faith in the ruling Communist Party and judicial system amid simmering public discontent over miscarriages of justice often caused by officials’ abuse of power.

The party had flagged the decision to establish circuit courts and courts that would span administrative regions at a party meeting, or plenum, in October.

Exploring administrative divisions that would go across the courts and the prosecutors would “help eliminate interference in judicial and procuratorial work to ensure that the courts and prosecutors are independent and impartial”, Xinhua news agency said, at the conclusion of the seventh meeting of the Leading Group for Overall Reform, chaired by Xi.

The circuit courts would help parties “settle disputes on the spot and make it convenient for them”, Xinhua said.

The report did not say when the pilot programs would be launched.

In June, state media said provincial governments would pick judges and prosecutors and fix the budgets of local courts and procuratorates. The system currently gives local governments greater sway in appointments.

Since he took office in March 2013, Xi has called for judicial independence under the party. But at the same time, his administration has detained hundreds of dissidents in what some activists say is the worst suppression of human rights in two decades.

Despite the legal reforms, Xi has shown no interest in political change. It is uncertain how much of an impact the plenum’s policies will have. Laws are often not enforced and can be abused by the police.

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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