Bitching Brew

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Judging in China. And burning preambles...

There was an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday focussing on a young judge in China. It's four pages long, but it's quite enlightening.

Today, China's court system is far from an independent entity that can curb government power. Often, the courts remain a pliable tool to reinforce that power. Many judges are poorly educated in the law and corrupt. Judges often must answer to government officials as much as to the law. Political pressure is common, and private trial committees often dictate rulings.

There are also signs of change. One of the busiest courts in Beijing announced in November that it would stop punishing judges if a ruling was later deemed politically or legally "wrong." A budding idealism about the law, and its potential to transform Chinese society, is evident not only in the number of new lawyers but also in the emerging civic belief that ordinary people have "legal rights."

It shows the kind of beast that the Chinese system still is, even though it's rapidly evolving. There, the judiciary is a completely subservient organ of the State. But this judge, Li Huijuan, sounded quite idealistic. She ran into some problems - having had the audacity to rule a local law invalid, for conflicting with national law. Never before under the Communist system had such a thing happened. It wasn't the fact that national law was superior that was controversial - rather, it was that a judge dared to challenge a law.

Crazy stuff. It really is a different legal environment. And haha, I know it's a bloody different actual environment too. But anyway, go read. How lucky most of us are to live under limited governments, with (generally) independent judiciaries. Hey, I'd love to rewrite the entire Irish constitution, but I'm still glad I live within a framework which (for the most part) sets limits to State power and promotes the individual. I say 'for the most part' because it's a very flawed constitution, which isn't nearly as liberty-friendly as the US constitution, and has far too many kow-tows to family, nation, church and the like, when individuals should be the primary focus. Not to mention the unsavoury restrictions on liberty contained within. Having said all that, it's a few ranks above much of the world.

But.... I really want to burn this putrid preamble:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,

And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,

Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

Ugh. That's rancid.

Anyway, to conclude: defend the separation of powers, the separation of church and state, and... you go, Li.

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