Saturday, December 12, 2015

Backstory on establishing Chinese military legal institutions

Professor Zhang Jiantian, featured in a blogpost earlier this year, had an article (re)published on one of the Chinese Ministry of Defense's websites, with a bit of the backstory on the establishment of some of China's military legal institutions. A rough translation follows: 
In June 1982, I graduated from the Southwest Institute of Politics and Law [now the Southwest University of Political Science and Law]. In accordance with the [job] assignment policy of "all troops report back to their original place," I returned to the basic level. I did feel very flat: before going to the university [that post-Cultural Revolution year was one of the most difficult years for Chinese students to find a university place] I had been a soldier in grass-roots companies for many years, then a squad leader, and cadre. After four years of being a poor student, why was I sent "back to the forge"? Moreover, the military judiciary was just being restored, and lacked staff and resources, so why wasn't this group of law graduates being made use of? 
In early 1983, I put some of these thoughts together in a draft that I sent to Liberation Army Daily. It proposed changing the job assignment policy. I never expected that shortly thereafter Liberation Army Daily would publish a full page with reactions from many on this issue. On February 28, 1983 the newspaper published my letter, "I firmly believe that the troops still need us." Then headquarters made changes to the policies, and from the fall of 1983, allowed army graduates from civilian universities, depending upon circumstances, to be directly assigned to military or government departments. I did not expect that my letter had caught the attention of leaders of the PLA Military Court. Soon thereafter I was transferred from a grass-roots company on the southeast coast to the PLA Military Court [in Beijing].
Because of this bond, after I was transferred to the PLA military court, I had more contact with the army newspaper's internal reference service. [This article explains Chinese newspapers' internal reference service.] Starting in 1983, I published many articles on military legal work in the internal reference service and in April 1986 I was hired as an army newspaper internal reference service correspondent.
During my military judiciary work, I increasingly felt the urgent need for the establishment of a specialized legal agency of the army in charge of the overall planning, organization and coordination. To this end, on July 23, 1986, after repeated study and reflection, I co-wrote with other comrades, "recommendation for the establishment of the Central Military Commission legal affairs agency." In December 1987, I issued an appeal again for the establishment of a legal department of the Central Military Commission. After the army newspaper internal reference service published it, it caught the attention of the Central Military Commission and the leaders of headquarters. As approved by the leaders, I was fortunate to participate directly in the feasibility studies and preparatory work for the legal bureau of the Central Military Commission. In May 1988, the legal bureau of the Central Military Commission was formally established, and I was transferred to it.
I was born in 1956, and in a sense "share a common destiny" with the Liberation Army Daily. Over the years, I have had a soft spot for the army newspaper, and have a special friendship with its internal reference service. After retiring in 2011, I was still able to continue to reflect the situation in the reference service. I sincerely hope it does better and better, to tell the truth for the state and army building reform, to tell the truth, and be able to provide more and better opinions and suggestions for Central Military Commission decisions.

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