Court cases in China, such as those involving Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu, have drawn Australian attention to the various actors in the Chinese court system, including procurators. Chinese authorities have worked to improve the ethical quality of all the courts, and one way is through the development of professional Codes of Ethics. This note introduces the Code for procurators.
####1. The office of Procurator in China####
Procurators have become part of the legal system of communist China from the civil law system, via the model of the former USSR. Their duties are wider than those of prosecutors in common law countries such as Australia, and include:
(1) supervising the enforcement of laws according to law;
(2) making public prosecution on behalf of the State; and (3) investigating criminal cases directly accepted by the People‘s Procuratorates as provided by law.
The People‘s Procuratorate enjoys constitutional standing equivalent to the courts, and the Supreme Procurator ranks constitutionally with the Chief Justice.
####2. The profession of Procurator####
In recent years, there have been attempts to improve the academic and professional quality of procurators. Training programmes have been instituted, and minimum qualifications for entry level procurators have been established. Now entry to the Procuratorate is via the Unified Judicial Examination, which covers the four professions of judge, procurator, lawyer, and notary. The most recent figures available are now some years old, but suggest that there are about 200,000 judges, 140,000 procurators, 150,000 lawyers, and 20,000 notaries. All procurators are salaried state officials: there are no private procurators.
####3. The ethics of Procurators####
There have been notable breaches of ethics across the four legal professions. Procurators are not exempt. Problems include corruption, for which hundreds of procuratorial staff are disciplined each year. Another problem is the use of false evidence, especially evidence gained through torture. In June 2009, Deputy Procurators General Hu Kehui and Wang Zhenchuan were dismissed from office, without explanation. In the practice of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, such removal usually suggests corruption problems. Interestingly, Wang Zhenchuan was a member of the Standing Committee of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
####4. The Procurators‘ Code of Ethics####
One of the Chinese government‘s responses to corruption has been to provide detailed Codes of Ethics for use by legal professionals. Lengthy codes are in place for judges (2001, 50 clauses), for notaries (2002, 31 clauses) and for lawyers (2002, 49 clauses; then 2004, 190 clauses).
Until recently, procurators had a very short code, with just a few slogans, to govern their ethical conduct. In September 2009, the Supreme People‘s Procuratorate issued a comparatively lengthy (48 articles) Procurators Professional Ethical Basic Standards (Provisional). These professional ethics apply not only during procuratorial activities, but also to the procurators‘ private lives. (The current Procurators Disciplinary Regulations (Provisional) have been in place since 2004. These do not directly cover ethical lapses, though some of the topics for discipline were also ethical issues.)
The short older code had four headings: loyal, just, honest, and cultured. These headings are retained in the new code, but each is spelt out with eight to ten clauses. There are no provisions for enforcement of the code, and for its application to lapses by procurators. Perhaps it is intended that breaches should be dealt with under the disciplinary regulations, though they do not mention ethics and are really concerned with other topics. The interpretation of the code belongs to the Supreme People‘s Procuratorate, and not to the Chinese Association of Public Prosecutors.