Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What more do we know about Chinese military court reform?

This blog was the first to report on the Chinese government's plans for military court reform. As signalled in the previous blogpost, the details are starting to emerge on the reform of the Chinese military courts.  Those developments include:
  • the publication of the structure chart below (published in the Chinese press, as part of a graphic on understanding the PLA reforms), that signals the new place of military courts in the revamped military structure; and 
  • the issuance of a document relating to the military court reforms by the PLA Military Court. 
Establish a new Central Military Commission Political-
Legal Committee--adjust the military justice system
    This chart relates to new monitoring institutions and the establishment of a Central Military Commission (CMC) Disciplinary Commission and Political-Legal Committee, with the military courts, procuratorate, legal and security authorities, a counterpart to the civilian Central Political-Legal Committee (see further information here). As mentioned in an earlier blogpost, the military courts are to be established geographically, in strategic zones and joint operation command systems. 
    Policy document on implementing legal reforms
    On November 27, the PLA Military Court issued a policy document: "Opinion on Providing Sufficient Judicial Protection in Fully Developing Military Legal Work Capacity for National Defense and Military Reform (关于充分发挥军法工作职能作用为国防和军队改革提供有力司法保障的意见). As is usual with Chinese military legal documents, the full text was not released.

    According to the summary, the policy document called for the following measures, some of which relate to court functions and others to legal functions generally. It appears that it is an "all hands on deck approach" to dealing with PLA legal issues:

    • Promote the military reforms among officers and soldiers (with 300,000 military staff to lose their positions, there are likely to be many unhappy people. 
    • Because the military reforms will involve the transfer of large amounts of funds, property and other assets and complex legal relationships, there should be proactive coordination to resolve all sorts of legal problems encountered by the military. 
    • Pay close attention to the following issues that may cause conflicts related to the termination of employment: resettlement of employees (finding new jobs for them); settlement of wages, demobilization and placement of military staff, particularly the transfer of injured, disabled and sick, the construction, allocation and sale of housing; fairly and efficiently resolve legal issues that officers and soldiers have. 
    • Strictly punish according to law all types of crime, maintain security and stability of the military forces, educate and warn the troops, engage in effective crime prevention. 
    • Adhere to the high standards of military courts to reform and improve service, provide more high quality and efficient judicial services for the troops and officers. 

    It is clear that the PLA is concerned that the downsizing may lead to unrest in the ranks and that disabled service members may lose out in particular. Employment discrimination against the disabled is wide-spread in China. Further, it is also clear that allocation of military housing is also an issue for staff.  It appears that the PLA needs to recruit more legal personnel to deal with the complex civil law issues that the institution as well as its personnel will face in the forthcoming reforms.  Will the PLA recruit more international lawyers, also, to deal with the international law aspects of its operations?  

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