05/22/2004, 00.00
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Beijing rules out constitutional court to protect human rights and private property

Beijing  (AsiaNews/SCMP) -  Chinese officials yesterday ruled out the possibility of setting up a constitutional court, reinforcing fears that recent charter amendments will be largely symbolic.

In March, the National People's Congress approved constitutional amendments that included clauses allowing for the protection of private property and human rights.

While the Communist Party touted the amendments as a great advancement for individual rights, critics said the changes would be ineffective unless there was a mechanism to review whether legislation or a government or court decision was in line with the constitution.

Zhang Chunsheng  , from the Law Committee of the 10th National People's Congress, said yesterday that despite the concerns, a constitutional court was not under consideration.

"The system in China is different from that in America or European countries," he said.

"They have the division of three powers - constitutional, legislative and executive - so their constitutional courts have the right to supervise the executive and legislative bodies."

But on the mainland, only the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee had the legal entitlement to supervise the implementation of the constitution.

"So we cannot put in place a constitutional court or supreme court to supervise the implementation of the law," he said.

With no access to legal recourse, some experts say the constitutional amendments are little more than window dressing.

"Many of the complaints on the mainland regarding the violation of individual rights are against the Communist Party," a Beijing-based legal expert said.

"But then you have the party examining whether the party is behaving in accordance with the law. With no independent judiciary, no separation of powers, it will not give much confidence to the ordinary people."

Mr Zhang said if people felt their rights were violated, they could bring a case to an ordinary court.

"Each year there are about 150,000 cases of ordinary people suing the government and about one-third of these are won by the citizens," he said.

Xin Chunying , who also sits on the Law Committee, said the fact that human rights were included in the constitution at all was an important step forward.

"The fact the rights clause has been added to the constitution shows the government is keen to protect human rights. This is the major significance," she said.

The constitutional amendments also incorporated former president Jiang Zemin's Theory of the Three Represents into the preamble, putting it alongside Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory. All these thories stress the absolute power of the Chinese Communist Party.


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