The Practical Experience of Chinese Courts in Promoting Judicial Integrity

By: Chunmei Chen, People's Republic of China

Chunmei Chen is an Integrity Inspector of the Disciplinary Supervision Department of the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China. All opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author as an external expert and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNODC.



Since ancient times, China has always advocated for a culture of integrity. The famous philosopher Confucius once said, "An intellectual who inspires himself in the pursuit of truth, but is ashamed of old clothes and coarse food, is not worth consulting." Attaching great importance to judicial integrity, China's Chief Justice Zhou Qiang clearly points out that "Judicial corruption should be resolutely punished with a zero-tolerance attitude." The Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China and the Judges Law of the People's Republic of China have made provisions for the corrupt behaviour of judges, such as the perversion of justice for bribes and abuse of power. In the past five years, the number of people who have been investigated for criminal responsibility for crimes related to their duties in the court system across the country has accounted for a very low percentage of the total number of public servants involved in such crime. 

Firstly, judicial integrity education has been strengthened, to ensure the integrity of judges. Chinese courts attach importance to educational activities focused on the concept of rule of law and moral ethics, for the purpose of improving their ideological level and professional quality. Both positive role models and typical negative cases serve as warnings and are used to guide judges to handle cases according to the law and develop a sense of honesty and self-discipline. Great attention has been paid to the construction of integrity culture, to stimulate judges to establish the values of "pride in honesty, shame in corruption". Each year, the Supreme People's Court organizes trainings for more than 23,000 judges in the National Judges' College for more than 159 sessions. Through the combination of regular education and centralized education, anti-corruption education has been extended to the work, learning and daily lives of the judges, thus constituting a comprehensive integrity education system.  

Secondly, system prevention and control measures have been improved, to ensure the integrity of the courts. We have always adhered to the strict rules of courts and have formulated such rigorous rules and prohibitions as the Code of Judicial Ethics for Judges, the Code of Conduct for Judges and the Disciplinary Regulations for Staff Members of People's Courts. It has been clearly stipulated that a judge shall not accept a party's hospitality and gifts, shall not have improper contact with a lawyer in violation of the regulations and shall not interfere in cases handled by others, etc. Courts at all levels actively accept public supervision and implement a series of judicial disclosure measures, such as trial procedure, trial activities, judgment documents, execution information disclosure, etc., which force judges to be fair and honest. Thus far, a total of 89.07 million judicial documents have been disclosed on the internet and have received pageviews from 42.04 billion users, from a user base covering more than 210 countries and regions.  

Finally, supervision and restriction mechanisms have been improved, to ensure judicial integrity. The discipline supervision departments of the courts at all levels have publicized the complaint telephone number and mailbox to the public and carefully checked the tips provided by the public. To strengthen judicial inspection and trial supervision, people's courts have regularly carried out on-the-spot investigations and unannounced visits to the lower courts, reported and given feedback on the problems found in violation of disciplinary regulations, and pressed for their rectification. The dishonest behaviour of some judges has been seriously investigated and dealt with. A 'smart court' artificial intelligence system has been built to facilitate online real-time dynamic supervision, which has effectively led to the timely warning and correction of irregular behaviour. In 2009, the courts at all levels set up integrity inspectors, who are responsible for the daily supervision of the implementation of the integrity system and the compliance with disciplinary regulations in handling cases of the personnel in their departments. The sanction of judges is expedited, and the judges in violation of judicial duties are punished.   

As the ancient Chinese saying goes, "Fairness fosters discernment and integrity creates authority." No matter how time progresses, as the cornerstone of fairness and justice, judicial integrity will always be a common goal of the judicial professional community around the globe.