Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Military related disputes in the Chinese courts

On March 12, Supreme People's Court (SPC) President Zhou Qiang gave his report on the work of the people's courts to China's legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC).  For the first time (in at least several years), he reported on the number of certain military-related cases. The single sentence (in Chinese) requires some decoding for readers outside of the Chinese legal profession:
Deeply developed military rights related work. Vigorously promoted the Xinyang model and the East Henan and Anhui models, vigorously promoted the construction of civilian/military coordination mechanisms to protect military related rights in each military area. Military courts and civilian courts tried 1678 cases of destruction of military facilities, leaking of military secrets, destruction of military marriage etc., effectively protected the legal rights and interests of national defense security and military personnel and dependents. (深入开展涉军维权工作。大力推广涉军维权工作“信阳模式”“鄂豫皖模式”,积极推进各战区涉军维权军地协作机制建设,军事法院和地方法院依法审理破坏军事设施、泄露军事秘密、破坏军婚等案件1678件,切实维护国防安全和军人军属合法权益.)
A bit of amateur decoding of this sentence follows:
  • The Chinese military courts, unlike the civilian courts, do not publish regular reports on the cases that they hear. Therefore we cannot not know how many of which type of cases were tried.  We do know that Chinese military legal academics would like to see more transparency. 
    • This observer surmises that most of the cases were in the "etc." category, i.e., involved civil disputes over the termination of paid services by the military.  Some of these cases have been previously reported on this blog.  The Tianjin courts dealt with 418 (81% settled)   and searches of reports in local courts reveal dozens of cases, with articles stressing giving these cases priority, settling them and avoiding confrontation with disgruntled civilians.A report on the accomplishments of a Beijing court in supporting the military reveals an example of the type of case that end up in court--a real estate development project involving a military party in which the developers had not issued ownership certificate to owners, making 100 purchasers very angry. The Beijing court, which designated a group of judges to deal with military related cases, resolved the dispute successfully.
  • On cases of destruction of military facilities, a search of one of the Chinese judgment databases revealed 11 cases in 2016, including a case in which a teenaged boy stole electric cable from a military installation (he was given a suspended sentence and another one in which a man used a slingshot to damage a military guardpost).
  • No cases involving the crime of the destruction of military marriage could be found in any of the judgment databases, but the Shanghai-based English-language outlet Sixthtone published this report on a Beijing case reported in the press. Research by this observer on this issue revealed a 2001 document issued by the General Political Department of the People's Liberation Army on Marriage Law questions restricting who, how, and when officers and soldiers can marry, and forbidding cohabitation before marriage. FAQ on the document found here--"are you dating? Make a report! Are you planning to get married, make a report! So you want to get divorced? You don't make the final decision.
  • The only cases involving the leaking of military secrets found in the judgments databases were a few rulings on applications for parole or sentence reduction of persons previously convicted of leaking military secrets.
  • The Xinyang and East Henan and Anhui models appear to be models to involve the local military/Party/government authorities to prioritize and resolve favorably military/civilian disputes.  
In January, 2017, the SPC issued a policy document on providing judicial protection to the termination of paid services by the military/armed police. As is usual with military-related legal documents, the full text has not been released. The summary contains few specific details, and primarily stresses that the courts should support the military and armed police in terminating paid services and should work with local authorities in doing so.

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