BEIJING: Leaders of China’s ruling Communist Party opened a highly-anticipated meeting Monday, as state media emphasised the need to tighten control over the country’s legal system.
The meeting, known as the Fourth Plenum, brings together the party’s 205-strong Central Committee and around 170 reserve members, along with officials from bodies including its much-feared internal watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Authorities announced in July that the theme of the meeting would be “rule of law” — although experts caution that in China the phrase actually refers to a greater centralisation of control by the ruling party rather than a separation of powers.
“When the Chinese leaders talk about the rule of law, they almost always are talking about some kind of enhanced party control over officials,” University of Hong Kong law professor Michael Davis told Agence France-Presse.
“‘Rule by the party’ is kind of the ‘rule of law’,” he added. “What happens very often is that they define the terms of a law… in keeping with goals of the moment.”
The state-run China Daily newspaper wrote in a preview of the meeting Monday: “The session is expected to speed up the construction of governance by law from the top level and, by improving the system, to promote social justice for the country.”
In a separate editorial, the paper called for party leaders to crack down on the “abuse of power”, which it said “makes it impossible for fairness to prevail” in China’s economy.
“If the country is to achieve further reforms in various fields and establish and maintain a fair and just society, the power-worshipping mentality among government and Party officials must be eliminated,” the China Daily wrote. “This is a core goal of the leadership.”
The gathering, typically held at a Beijing hotel, is expected to take action against Zhou Yongkang, the powerful former domestic security tsar who fell to the anti-corruption campaign Xi launched with much fanfare after coming to power two years ago.
At the same time, China has seen a broad crackdown on dissent, and the meeting comes as authorities arrest an increasing number of lawyers.
The conclave “is widely expected to set the tone for the (Communist Party) to promote rule of law in China in an all-rounded manner under new circumstances”, China’s official Xinhua news agency wrote.