China's top judge warns courts on judicial independence

A Chinese policeman stands guard outside Beijing's No.1 Intermediate People's Court July 25, 2002. REUTERS/Guang Niu

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s courts must firmly resist the western idea of judicial independence and other ideologies which threaten the leadership of the ruling Communist Party, the country’s top judge was reported as saying by state-run Chinese News Service.

People’s Courts at all levels must disregard erroneous western notions, including constitutional democracy and separation of powers, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang was reported by the news agency as saying at a Supreme People’s Court meeting on Saturday.

China has in recent years unveiled legal reforms such as those aimed at giving judges more independence and limiting local official’s influence over courts, but courts are not independent and ultimately answer to the party leadership.

Since he took office in March 2013, President Xi Jinping, who has a doctorate in law, has vowed to put “power within the cage of regulations” and called for judicial independence under the party.

Zhou’s comments on Saturday come after the country’s anti-graft watchdog said that a mechanism independent of the Communist Party to keep officials in check cannot exist in China.

At an annual meeting earlier this month, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) pledged to create a national supervisory commission and a corresponding national law, as part of a move to reform the oversight system for thousands of party officials.

But the reforms would stop short of placing power outside the party, CCDI officials said at a briefing on Jan. 9.

Reporting by Nicholas Heath and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong