World News

China tightens graft rules for court officials

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has tightened its rules governing law court officials after a former senior judge received a life sentence for corruption, warning staff not to leave the country without approval or have sex with litigants.

Huang Songyou was dismissed as a vice president of the Supreme People’s Court in 2008 on suspicion of taking bribes and embezzlement, and was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this month, the most senior judge ever convicted on graft charges.

Chinese courts come under the control of the Communist Party, and critics have said that judicial corruption is undermining public confidence in the law.

China last year warned judges and other court employees they could lose their jobs and face criminal charges if they accept gifts from people involved in their cases.

Now China’s Supreme People’s Court has issued new regulations expanding the list of unacceptable behaviour, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“The regulation stipulates that judiciary staff will be punished if they are found meddling and intervening in court cases, giving bribes to law enforcement personnel, beating or verbally abusing petitioners and over-running timetables to enforce court rulings,” Xinhua said.

Court staff cannot leave mainland China, obtain foreign citizenship or get permanent residency abroad without first seeking permission, the report added.

“Judiciary staff will be punished if they commit adultery or have sexual relations with litigants or relatives of litigants,” it said.

“They are also banned from intentionally prolonging, or refusing to enforce court rulings, and forcing litigants to withdraw lawsuits, receiving intermediation or reconciliation terms that would hurt litigants’ interests.”

Punishments will range from demerits on their records to dismissal, Xinhua added.

The Communist Party was warned that its rule may be threatened if it does not stifle official graft, which has grown since China began market economic reforms in the late 1970s.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani