The People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily published a press release of an interview with a "responsible person" of the People's Liberation Military Court in late April of this year about studying and implementing a policy document issued by the Political-Legal Commission of the People's Liberation Army and the Central Political- Legal Commission in February. The document is entitled "Opinion On Protecting the Interests of Military Personnel and Those Linked to the Military in the New Era (关于新时代维护国防利益和军人军属合法权益的意见)." The text of the policy document was previously reported in state media but the full text has not been released. This practice is normal for military and national defense-related policies. The two institutions that issued that document are in charge of administering Chinese Communist Party (Party) legal policy in the military and civilian spheres. Opinions such as this one are, as explained by a German think tank concerning opinions issued by a higher Party institution, "types of policy documents that delineate general targets and set the official line for policy making and implementation across specialized departments and local governments." Therefore this Opinion is intended to set out general targets and new or updated policies across a broad range of institutions to be implemented. These types of Party opinions guide the military courts as well as many other institutions. The article states that it was published to assist PLA officers and soldiers to understand the spirit of the document. That phrase means that it was issued to explain the purposes of the document so those reading it will understand what was intended so that it will be implemented properly. Who is the "responsible person" of the PLA Military Court, why is that person explaining this document, and what spirit does the document convey?
Responsible persons and why they provide explanations
Generally, the "responsible person" is the person in charge or alternatively, a deputy, in a state or Party institution, which means that the person is either the court president or one of the vice presidents. From the responsible person's summary, the policy document is intended to implement two laws issued last year, one on the protection of military facilities and the other on improving the treatment of military personnel. It appears to relate to other Party and SPC documents issued earlier and described in my book chapter relating to the Supreme People's Court (SPC) and its services and guarantees to improve the protection of the interests of military personnel and those linked to the military. The military personnel covered by the Opinion include the following: Military personnel includes those in the PLA and Armed Police; officers and soldiers; serving personnel and those attending military schools and academies; spouses of military personnel, parents and others supported by military personnel; minor children; adult children of military personnel who cannot live independently; martyrs, survivors of those who died in service or died of illness [presumably linked to service]. In addition, the policies apply by reference to civilian personnel working for the military, reservists, and those about to retire.
The spirit conveyed by the document
The responsible person reminded readers that the document was issued to deal with recent policy changes generally, and particularly those linked to improving the status of military personnel and their families and other related policies promoted by Xi Jinping and the Party leadership to modernize the PLA. One of the major issues mentioned is that with social and policy developments, legal issues related to military personnel and their families are more numerous and varied.
The article mentions that the military courts at all levels are serving to coordinate issues related to the protection of the rights of military personnel and those linked to the military. This coordination role has its counterpart in the civilian courts.
Military courts at all levels are to handle military-related disputes and cases according to the following procedures:
First, register matters in a timely manner. For the law-related issues reported by the troops and servicemembers' family members, the courts will review the issues raised by them and provide advice. The second step is to register the matter, review the facts, and determine what is needed. If the issue raised is not actually a legal issue or the issue raised is unreasonable, court personnel are required to provide explanations to the military personnel or family member. The civilian courts have counterpart functions, as part of their litigation service centers. These are part of Xi Jinping-era reforms to petitioning procedures and petitioning related to litigation. Third, if the issue involves matters outside the military courts, the military courts are to coordinate with other authorities and follow up with the authority handling the matter. The military courts are required to provide feedback to military personnel and their families on progress. The military courts are required to classify and upload data concerning these disputes to a newly established platform.
The responsible person mentioned that matters within their remit include coordinating with civilian authorities concerning crimes such as sabotage of military facilities, theft of military supplies, military-related forgery, and fraudulently posing as a soldier, with civil matters varying from land use disputes to family disputes.
The Opinion proposes a Party-led military-civilian cooperation mechanism, which seems to be a revised version of an entity that this author wrote about earlier. The document also more clearly allocates the responsibilities of civilian and military departments for implementing this new policy.