Fine law for good governance
Updated: 2014-10-30 07:21
Top leader Xi Jinping has quoted from Francis Bacon's essay, Of Judicature, for the second time: "One foul sentence doth more hurt, than many foul examples. For these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth the fountain." Like the last time, he quoted Bacon this time too to emphasize the significance of a fair and just judiciary, elaborating the Party's version of rule of law.
Like Xi reiterated, a credible and trusted judiciary is the last line of defense for fairness and justice in society.
The credibility crisis of the country's judicial officials and institutions is the outcome of the accumulation of their misdeeds, however small the proportion be. A judiciary that has no respect for the law is in itself a threat to justice.
So whether or not the Party's latest decision to govern in accordance with law can bear the anticipated fruit in the real world rests ultimately on whether or not it can build a government which is in awe of the law.
The Fourth Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has come up with plenty of worthy technicalities that, once put into practice, may make many a difference. On the conceptual level, it may take a lot of trials to "carry out the CPC's leadership throughout the entire process and every aspect of governing the country in accordance with the law", and reconcile the Party's leadership in the rule of law and the National People's Congress' dominant role in lawmaking.
But the idea to prohibit the government from making policies that curb legitimate civil rights and interests, or increase civil obligations without authorization by the law is a true gem buried deep in the lengthy text. Confining government powers within the boundaries of law is a crucial step toward curtailing abuse.
Despite all the past swearing and posturing, regulating the government has remained a challenging mission, because by and large government agencies themselves have drawn the boundaries of their powers. Compiling transparent lists demarcating the powers and functions of government offices is indeed conducive to ending the rent-seeking phenomenon in public offices. But this, too, hinges on well-thought-out laws.
As the plenum document says, fine laws are a precondition to good governance. To produce fine laws, however, the national legislature must demonstrate greater competence and determination to cage government powers, starting from nationwide observance of the Constitution.
Like Bacon said, government misconduct has far more harmful potential than that of average citizens.