BEIJING (AFP) – Leaders of China’s ruling Communist Party opened a highly-anticipated meeting Monday as state media emphasised the need to strengthen 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 AFP.
“’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.”