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China's Legal Reform

The United States is committed to helping China create legal institutions that protect its citizens’ rights, says Gretchen Birkle, U.S. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. In an effort to help the Chinese people take an active role in shaping the future of China, the U.S. State Department is supporting programs to promote the rule of law and civil society.

Ms. Birkle told the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China: “Through our rule of law program, the U.S. is able to support reform-minded Chinese and their efforts to undertake structural reforms that promise increased fairness, transparency, and rights protection in the legal and political sphere.”

Chinese authorities seem more adept at using the law to rule and to defend the current political system. Human rights defenders, democracy activists, religious believers, and those expressing views that challenge Chinese Communist party control are often jailed on false charges.

Citing several violent labor protests and land disputes, Ms. Birkle said China needs legal reform. She said: “China has experienced tremendous economic progress over the past twenty years, but in order to achieve sustainable internal development and integration into the international community, we encourage China to develop a legal system that protects property rights, and that Chinese citizens trust and utilize to resolve disputes.”

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Birkle pointed out some current Chinese government practices that preclude due process of law. These include coerced confessions, lack of adequate legal representation, same-day executions that do not allow for appeals, presumption of guilt, and extra-judicial influences on the courts.

“The rule of law means more than laws on the books and open courthouses,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Birkle said. “It requires independent institutions capable of dispensing justice fairly, transparently, and consistently, and it requires political rulers willing to submit themselves and their authority to the law.”

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.