World News

China moves to protect courts, police from mob rule

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has moved to bolster the authority of its courts, issuing a directive re-emphasising that attacks on law enforcement offices are against the law, following a string of mob-driven assaults on state property and personnel.

Court orders are often resisted in China, from inflamed residents clashing with police over eviction notices to cash-strapped local governments flouting orders to pay contractors for infrastructure projects.

The notice, issued by China’s Supreme People’s Court, top prosecutor’s office and police ministry, would criminalise harassment of “enforcement personnel”, according to a report posted on Chinacourt, an official judicial newspaper Web site.

The list of proscribed behaviour included “mass attacks and disturbances at enforcement scenes, obstructing, detaining and beating enforcement personnel ... the theft and damage of case materials, enforcement vehicles, equipment, clothing and credentials”, the notice said.

China is grappling with popular unrest as official corruption, pollution and often seemingly innocuous incidents serve as flashpoints for protests and riots.

Across China’s vast hinterland, mobs numbering in the thousands regularly attack government offices and police despatched to control them, in response to perceived miscarriages of justice.

But its courts are also undermined by local officials and companies, who often hire thugs to discourage court-appointed police from enforcing rulings.

In a nod to illegal land grabs that have triggered riots from aggrieved residents, the order also turned on “enforcement” personnel themselves, forbidding them from “concealing, transferring and deliberately damaging property”, and other behaviour that would obstruct law enforcement, the notice said.

Chinese court authorities last year found that authorities had failed to enforce more than 2 million civil court rulings by their due dates, and nearly half of those remained outstanding.