China punishes five officials for influencing courts

China punishes five officials for influencing courts

BEIJING - Five Chinese officials have been sacked or punished for interfering in court cases, state media reported on Friday, in the first enforcement of regulations that aim to purge corruption and undue influence from the judiciary.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been driving a sweeping crackdown on deep-rooted graft since taking over the leadership of the Communist Party in late 2012. Since then dozens of senior officials have been investigated or jailed.

The regulations were adopted in March after an announcement last October following a key meeting of ruling Communist Party leaders, aim to make it tougher for local officials to influence courts.

But China's courts are not independent, and ultimately answer to the party leadership. Critics say it is impossible for the country to make serious progress toward judicial reform without an independent court system.

Chen Hai'ou, a former presiding judge of the Beijing Higher People's Court, was sacked from his post after seeking several favours for associates through court personnel, the official Xinhua news agency said.

It cited the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, which reports to the party's elite Central Committee.

In another case, anti-graft authorities investigated a party boss after he asked for a lighter sentence for a friend facing charges over a traffic accident.

Xinhua did not give details of the cases involving the other three officials.

Xi's campaign against corruption has won the support of many ordinary people, particularly his vow to "put power within the cage of regulations".

But despite legal reforms, including abolition of a system of labour camps and a call for greater judicial independence, his administration has stepped up suppression of dissidents critical of the party.

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