Vietnam Academy Of Social Sciences

Comparing Judicial Reforms in Vietnam and China


Bui Thi Thu Hien*


Abstract: Vietnam and China are two neighbouring countries with many similarities  in economic, political and cultural affairs. In the context that the open door renovation/reform in both  countries  are  underway,  the  two  countries  encounter  many  common  issues  which  are suggestive to each side. Judicial reforms in the two countries have similarities and dissimilarities due to their population sizes and development. Based on the judicial reform context in each country, this paper compares the similarities and dissimilarities of the current judicial reforms in Vietnam and China.

Keywords:  Reform, institution, justice, China, Vietnam. 

Subject classification: International studies


1. Introduction

Vietnam and China are among the few socialist countries which have implemented renovative reforms and transformations from planned economies to market-based economies quite successfully. In those transformation processes, institutional reforms are a crucial factor in ensuring the reform’s success. Together with institutional reforms in legislation and execution, judicial institutional reforms are also among the important tasks of the two countries. Due to numerous similarities in the  political institutions,  the judicial institutional  reforms of  each  country also have many things in common. However, the judicial  institutional  reforms  in  the  two countries have some dissimilarities because of   the   different   population   size   and develo pment in each state. Researching and comparing these judicial institutional reforms in Vietnam and China will offer us useful lessons and experience for the reform process of each country.

2. Contexts of judicial institutional reforms in Vietnam and China

Judicial reforms are components in the state apparatus having a close relationship with administrative reforms and are integral parts in the development of a  rule-of-law (defined by Vietnam) or rule-by-law (defined by China) socialist state. In addition,  a  judicial  reform  needs  to  be implemented profoundly and comprehensively to  meet  the  requirement  that the  state power is unified with the allotment, collaboration and control among state agencies in their implementation of legislative, executive and judicial powers [9].  Therefore,  judicial  reforms  cannot stray from the development of a   state of the  people,  by  the  people  and  for  the people [11]. Judicial reforms are also tasked with realising regulations, institutions and mechanisms of power control  [10] in the reform at present and in the  following  years.  In  the  context  that Vietnam  sets  the  target  of  a wealthy people,  strong, democratic,  equitable  and civilised  country [5] and China outlines the target of   comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society [35], based on a market economy and the equitable justice [20], the judicial reforms in both countries, in conclusion, need to be   very cautious and selective to every single issue to match the socio-economic development in each country’s development phase  [36].

In Vietnam,  after  nearly 10 years of implementing the renovation process, Resolution  No.49-NQ/TW  dated  2  June 2005 by the Politburo on the judicial reform strategy  to  2020  clearly  determined  the motto Judicial reform must originate from the requirement of socio-economic development and strong national defence in close  linkage to the legislative work  and administrative reform. The Communist Party of Vietnam set clear requirements for the  connection  between  the  three  power branches  and  synchronous  reforms  in  all those three branches. Legislative reform will not be effective without the accompaniment of executive and judicial reforms. Flying higher on the previous Congresses views on judicial reform, the 12th  National Congress of the Party (or the 12th  Congress) clearly pointed out that the judicial reform in Vietnam remained slow with instances of harassment, negative phenomena, injustice, misjudgement and untrialed crime   [2]. The Congress also found the reasons for such downsides, specifically Building the rule- of-law socialist state is a new issue of our country. The dichotomy between the Party s leadership role and the state s management role still has some ambiguous points and is not in line with the rule-of-law state principle. The working of compliance with law and socialist legislation remains insufficiently serious [2]. Hence, it is necessary to continuously promote and implement the judicial reform strategy; develop a pure, strong, democratic, strict and gradually-modern justice sector; protect the law, justice, human  rights, citizen rights, socialist regime, state’s interest and legitimate rights of agencies, organisations and individuals and delineate administrative management authorities and judicial liabilities as well as rights in the organisation and operation of judicial organs  [2].

The judicial reform in China is tabled for discussions from the 15th Congress (1997), which concluded that it was necessary to promote the judicial reform and ensure the independent jurisdiction and prosecution of judicial bodies  [37]. Since 1999, the Supreme  People s  Court  has  issued the fundamentals of the five-year reform   three times. However, not until 2004 did China launch its judicial reform in a large scale with the unity in planning and implementation, starting from decisive points,  which  are  prominent  issues  with strong  reactions  from  Chinese  people  and impacts on the equitable justice sector, finalising the structuring and planning of the management  function  and  mechanism  of judicial bodies based on the sector s features and  strengthening  the  judicial  mechanism with clear responsibilities, collaboration, mutual control and effective operation  [20].

As of 2008, China continued to start a new judicial reform phase with the priority to deep, focused and systematic judicial reforms.The reform needs to originate from the requirements for the justice sector of the people;   prioritise   the   people s   common interests; target primarily the promotion of a harmonised society; focus on strengthening the  power  control  and  supervision;  grasp thoroughly key factors which can affect the equitable  justice  sector  and  impede  the judicial capacity and address institutional, mechanical and assured obstacles. It is also crucial to  enhance the  judicial contingent and ensure the judicial expenditure  [21].

On 20 October 2014, the 4th plenary session of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was summoned with the topic   comprehensively promoting the  development  of  a  rule-by-law  state . Based on the 3rd plenary session of the 18th National Congress, China continued to carry  out  intensive  reforms  to  ensure  an equitable justice sector with such specific tasks as the Supreme People’s Court established  circuit courts (巡回法院), setting  up  people s  courts  and  people s procuracies across different administrative divisions  (跨行政区划的人民法院和人民检察 院),  exploring and  formulating  the  public litigation  mechanism  of  procuracies  (公益诉讼制), promoting the reform towards an jurisdiction-centred   litigation mechanism, etc. Hence, it can be understood that the judicial  reform  in  China  after  the  18th Congress continued to be deepened with a wide range of specific measures and models applied for the first time.

Researching further the judicial reform in China, one can conclude that the three main factors impacting the equitable justice in   China   are The   interference from external factors, the internal intervention of judicial  bodies  and  individual  binds  of judicial officials   [38]. Accordingly, external factors are associated with the localism in the   justice   system,   while   the   internal intervention of judicial bodies has a relation to the internal red tape in judicial bodies. The personal binds of judicial officials are closely linked to the finalisation of external monitoring mechanisms such as the Party s monitoring of judicial bodies or the supervision committee’s monitoring of judicial  bodies  [38].  Therefore,  the  most important  target  of the  judicial reform  in China  is  to  eliminate  the  localism  and bureaucracy  in judicial bodies and continuously enhance the independent monitoring  system.  In  short,  the  judicial reforms in Vietnam and China both started after the two countries have conducted their open reforms for ten years. Obviously, after transforming  from centrally planned economies to market ones, both countries face  many institutional  issues.  Hence,  in addition to legislative and executive institutional reforms, the judicial reform is implemented to create synchronicity in the political system reform.

3. Comparing judicial reforms in Vietnam and China at present

The more we learn about the judicial reforms in Vietnam and China, the more similarities we  can  find  in  their  targets,  contents  and methods. However, due to the differences in population size and development level, some aspects of the judicial reforms in Vietnam and China are different.

3.1. Reform targets

Vietnam  and  China  have  similar  political systems, in which the Communist Party leads both countries and forms the socialist rule-of- law  model  (for  Vietnam)  and  the  socialist rule-by-law model (for China). Regarding the state  apparatus,  the  two  countries  do  not recognise the Western state model of separation with  three  independent  bodies, legislative,  executive  and  judicial  agencies, which   check   and   balance   one   another. Therefore, in reforming political institutions to meet the requirement of building a market economy, both countries must work out the most appropriate model to promote economic development, continuously expand the people’s  rights  as  masters  in  all  spheres, avoid   drifting   away   from   the   socialist orientations   and   persist   with  the   Party’s unified leadership. In the institutional political reform  in  general  and  judicial  reform  in particular,  the  two  countries  have  set  the following target of building a clean, strong and  democratic  justice  system.  In  order  to fulfil this target, it is necessary to strengthen the  external  monitoring  body continuously. Overarching targets of the judicial reforms in Vietnam and China are thus the same and both aim to build a democratic justice sector, which   protects   justice   and   continuously improves the justice system to better protect human rights for the people. Specific targets of the reform are listed as follows:

-  In  Vietnam:  during  judicial reform periods in Vietnam, it can be seen that the main target of the judicial reform in Vietnam is to build a clean, strong, democratic  justice  sector  which  protects justice” [17]. In addition, it aims to gradually  build  a  modern  justice  sector, which  moves  towards  better  serving  the people and the socialist development.

- In China, six main targets are identified as  followings:  building  and  consolidating the independent jurisdiction and procuracy system; optimising the functions of judicial bodies by strengthening police departments, procuracies, courts and judicial administrative agencies; promoting a strict justice sector based on the development of a judicial assessment mechanism and a system of criteria for case adjudication; persistently building a justice sector for the people and by the people to promote judicial equitability based on the consolidated people’s jury system and public judicial mechanism; continuously ensuring judicial human rights to secure the right to know, report and defend in the course of litigation and   strengthening the judicial activity supervision on the basis of finalising the legal system of monitoring bodies [39].

3.2. Reform contents

For Vietnam, Resolution No.49-NQ/TW on the  judicial  reform  strategy  to  2020  has emphasised the reform mandates of judicial agency system such as courts, procuracies, investigation  agencies or  judicial  support organs [13]. Similarly, the judicial reform in China has also witnessed these issues with relatively specific  contents to create synchronicity  in  the  reform process  [40]. This is also the tendency of judicial reforms in other countries around the world with a view to establishing a system of independent and effective judicial bodies [18]. However, when reviewing the judicial reforms’ contents of Vietnam and China, the judicial reform in Vietnam has been conducted in quite a synchronous manner with legislative and executive reforms. In terms of legislation, Vietnam has made a wide range of amendments to its constitution (revising constitutional principles on the functions of a  court  and  procuracy),  followed  by  the amendment of specialised laws. Meanwhile, for China, the functions of judicial bodies such as courts and procuracies are specified in  the  People s  Court  Organisation  Law [22] and the People s Procuracy Organisation Law [23]. China has  recently revised the Chief Prosecutor Law and the Chief Judge Law in 2017 and 2018 towards increasing the liability and independence in the jurisdiction of these positions in the judicial agency system. In addition, there have been important adjustments in the system of agencies involved in judicial activities such as investigation agencies and judicial support organs (lawyers and notaries) [24]. In the court system, China has initially built a number of specialised court models such as  circuit  courts or administrative courts across different administrative divisions2. These efforts are aimed at reducing the administrative burden on the judicial agency system such as courts. The contents of  reforms in Vietnam and China are specified as follows:

- In Vietnam:

For the court, “fully specifying the constitutional principles on  functions and tasks of the People s Court and adjudication activities, organising the courts based on their jurisdictions, ensuring the principle of independence  and  adversarial  litigation  in adjudication and securing the right to defence of the accused, defendants and litigants” [6].

For the People s Procuracy, this reform has been implemented to confirm the legal status of the People s Procuracy in the state apparatus with a dual role:  The People s Procuracy exercises its prosecution power in judicial activities and is organised in consistency with the court’s organisational system and strengthens the prosecutor’s responsibility in investigation activities” [7].

For investigation agencies, stressing the task of consolidating  the  organisation  of investigation agencies with clearly delineated functions, tasks and powers of each agency and improved the quality and efficiency of investigation agencies” [12]. Accordingly,  the  system  of  investigation agencies needs to be organised in accordance with the investigation assignment, empowerment, decentralisation and authority. First  of  all,  the  investigation  authority  is distributed by administrative divisions, which means that an investigation agency at the locality where a crime occurs shall deal with  the  case;  secondly,  by  the  criminal areas;  thirdly,  by  the  types  of  crime  and finally, by the offenders  [8]. The investigation  department  of  the  Supreme People s Procuracy generally carries out its authority in all fields, while the investigation bodies of the people s public security force have a clearer decentralisation [16]. However, the assignment and decentralisation are sometimes implemented differently.

For activities of lawyers and other judicial support organs, two fundamental factors are emphasised, namely improving the quality and efficiency of lawyers and other judicial support organs [3] and continuing to mobilise resources of social strata for some eligible judicial and judicial support activities  [4].

- In China:

For   the   court   sector,   establishing   a judicial management system that is separate from the administrative sector; setting up an adjudication-centered litigation system; optimising the  internal functions and authorities of people s courts; consolidating the  jurisdiction operating mechanism; finalising  the  open  and  transparent  judicial mechanism to create favourable conditions for the people; promoting the professionalisation, professionalism  and  specialisation  of  the courts’ personnel and ensuring the impartial and  independent  jurisdiction  of  people’s courts based on the laws [41].

For  people’s procuracies,  finalising  the institutional mechanism to ensure the independent prosecution right based on the laws; formulating the procurator management system in line with their functions and tasks; consolidating the mechanism for exercising the prosecution right; strengthening the monitoring mechanism of anti-corruption law to improve the rule by law in the prevention and control of crimes in which one abuses his/her working positions; enhancing the legal supervision function and completing the legal system  in  order  to ensure  the  procuracy’s supervision  right;  strengthening  the  legal supervision  of  criminal, civil and administrative  proceedings  and  enhancing the  cross  supervision  of  the  prosecution right operating mechanism [25].

With regard to the reform in public security agencies,  there  are  seven  areas  that  need reforms and more than 100 reform implementing measures to strengthen the working mechanism of public security forces, creating a mechanism for managing the public order and security, comprehensively reforming the administrative management mechanism of public security forces, consolidating   the mechanism for exercising the law-enforcement power,  finalising  the  mechanism  of  public security agency management,  perfecting  the mechanism  of  people’s  police  management and legally managing the people detention by the police [26].

3.3. Gained results

First, through certain times of judicial reform,  Vietnam  and  China  have  gained some initial achievements.  The two countries have initially set up a system of judicial bodies with a relatively independent role  in  the  state  apparatus.  Functions  and tasks  of  these  judicial  agencies  are  clearly stipulated. In Vietnam, the judicial reform has been implemented in a relatively synchronous manner from the legislation to administrative reform in judicial bodies.

For  Vietnam,  its  judicial  reform in the previous period has yielded remarkable and synchronous results such as revisions of the constitution and some provisions in the Law on  Organisation  of  People’s  Courts  and People s Procuracies. The 2013 Constitution defines  tasks of the people s courts as protecting justice, human rights, civil rights, the  socialist  system,  state’s  interests  and legitimate  rights and interests of organisations  and  individuals.  In  terms  of judicial power exercising methods, the 2013 Constitution   contains   new   provisions   in comparison   with   the   1992   Constitution (revised in 2001). While Article 132 in the 1992  Constitution  states   The  right  of  the defendant to be defended is guaranteed. The defendant can either conduct his own defence or  ask  someone  else  to  do  it ,  the  2013 Constitution  further  stipulates  the  right  to defend  of  the  internee:   The  right  of  the accused or defendants to a defence, and the right  of  involved  parties  to  protect  their lawful interests, shall be guaranteed  (Clause 7 of Article   103). In addition to the procedural  principles  set  out  in  the  1992 Constitution  such  as The  People's  Courts shall hold their hearings in public, except in cases  determined  by  law,  Trials  before People's  Courts  with  the  participation  of people's  assessors  shall  be  conducted  in conformity with the provisions of the law, During a trial, the judges and assessors are independent and shall obey only the law, The  People's  Courts  shall  try  their  cases collegially,  and  their  decisions  shall  be  in conformity with the will of the majority , the 2013 Constitution additionally defines   The adversarial principle shall be guaranteed in trials   (Clause 5 of Article 103) and   The first-instance  and  appellate  hearing  system shall  be  guaranteed   (Clause  6  of  Article 103).   In   order   to   ensure   the   Court’s independence, the 2013 Constitution does not stipulate that the chief judge of a local court shall be responsible for reporting the court’s work before the People s Council regulated in the 1992 Constitution. Implementing the policy of jurisdiction-based court organisation and  concretising  provisions  of  the  2013 Constitution, the 2014 Law on Organisation of People’s Courts has established Superior People s Courts in the system  of People's Courts.  Superrior People’s Courts are authorised to retry judgements of provincial People’s Courts under their  territorial jurisdictions which have not yet taken legal effect and were protested  and  appealed against. In addition, they will conduct cassations and retrials for legally enforceable judgements  of the People's  Courts  of provinces, centrally-run cities, districts, cities under provinces and equivalent levels within the jurisdictions of protested territorial units in   compliance   with   provisions of the procedural law. Due to the establishment of Superior   People’s Courts,  the Supreme People’s  Court  will  no  longer  have  the jurisdiction to review judgements of provincial People s Courts, which are also no longer  competent  to  conduct  the  cassation and  retrial  for  judgements  of  the People’s Courts  of  districts,  towns  or  cities  under provinces. The authorities mentioned above under  the  2014  Law  on  Organisation  of People’s Courts are transferred to Superior People s Courts. In order to strengthen the protection of human rights and citizen rights, especially ones of women and children, the law has further established the Family and Juvenile  Courts  under  provincial  People’s Courts and Superior Courts   and   may establish this kind of court under the People’s Courts   of   districts,   towns or provincial cities. In order to enhance the occupational independence  and  stability  of  judges,  the 2014 Law on Organisation of People’s Courts has also extended the duration from the second term of a judge onwards from five to ten years (Article 74 of the 2014 Law on Organisation of People s Court).

Corresponding to the People’s Court system  organisation, the 2014 Law on Organisation  of  People’s Procuracies  has established Superior People’s Procuracies in the  organisational  system  of  the  People’s Procuracy. The procuracy’s organisation will continue  to  be  strengthened  to  match  the court   organisation   system   for   a   better implementation  of  judicially  prosecutorial functions which have already been recognised  by  the  constitution.  Moreover, the procuracy has also increased prosecution responsibilities during  the investigation period, such as the investigating information, denunciations  of  crimes  and  prosecution requests  of  investigation  agencies,  which requires officials and procurators to actively and  proactively  bring  into  full  play  their roles  and  responsibilities  when  exercising the prosecution right. In  each case, procurators must promptly and proactively request   to   help   investigators   orient   the Supreme People s Court  has  set  up  circuit courts. This is similar to the U.S model [42], which differs from the other ordinary courts in the fact that the judge of a circuit court is not  fixed  and  does  not  work  regularly  at court. The mobility of judges in this model is relatively considerable to ensure the fairness of circuit courts and remove the orientation in case hearing [42]. A circuit court, which does not have the chief judge and is only heard by judges, has  abolished the administrative nature of  a court. Judges are more independent and far less influenced by the Party  and  local  authority  than  the  local people s court system [42]. So far, China has built up a system of circuit courts under the Supreme People s Court in major cities such as  Shenzhen  (Guangdong),  which  mainly covers  the  following  areas:  Guangdong, investigation  of  each  case  to  ensure  the Guangxi,  Hainan; and Shenyang quality  and  efficiency  of  the  investigation (Liaoning), which mainly covers the and its supervision. Besides, to enhance the following areas:  Liaoning, Jilin, sense of responsibility and raise the awareness of each official or procurator in supervising the  investigation  and  case  file development  to  detect  timely cases  where the   investigation   agency   misses   crimes, documents or evidence to avoid the situation that the evidence collected by investigation agencies during their investigations does not ensure objectivity; so that no  offenders can shun punishment,  and  no wrongful judgement is made against innocent people. 

Since the 18th Congress up to now, China has enacted a wide range of reforms to ensure that judicial agencies and judicial personnel exercise their functions equitably and impartially  according  to  the  laws.  This  is demonstrated  through  the  establishment  of several new models which are applied for the first  time  in  China.  Specifically,  (1)  the Heilongjiang. It is expected that six circuit courts   will   be   established   to   cover   the following areas: Hua Dong (East China), Hua Zhong  (Central  China),  Hua  Nan  (South China), Bei Xi (Northwest China), Nan Xi (Southwest   China)   and   Hua   Bei   (North China) [42]. (2) China has also established a system  of  People s  Courts  and  People s Procuracies  across  different  administrative divisions (interregional). This is one of the important  measures  to  reform  the  judicial management  institution  adopted  in  the  4th plenary session of the 18th National Congress. China has decided to pilot the establishment of the People s Court and People s Procuracy across different administrative divisions in the two  largest  cities  of  China,  Beijing  and Shanghai.  The  establishment  of  a  judicial agency system across different administrative divisions is to mainly deal with administrative cases across different administrative divisions and  key  cases.  Since  its  establishment  in April  2004,  the  4th   Intermediate  People s Court in Beijing has handled 458 cases, of which 286 cases have been related to  people taking legal actions against officials   (only administrative  cases).  In  2014,  at  Beijing People s Court, the number of cases in which the   accused   are the district governments, did  not  exceed  216.  However,  just  four months ago, the number of cases accepted by this  court  exceeded  the  total  number  of administrative cases in 2014, reflecting this court’s significance in terms of administrative intervention  after  it  got  out  of  the  local auspice. By the end of December 2015, the 4th Intermediate People s Court in Beijing had dealt with 1,892 cases, among which there were 1,396 administrative lawsuits (73.8%), 379  commercial  civil  cases  (20%)  and  30 criminal  cases  (1.6%)  [27].  By the end  of 2015, the 3rd  Intermediate People s Court in Shanghai had accepted 1,370 cases, including 610 administrative cases [28]. (3) China has Central Committee of the Communist Party of China passed the  Measure to pilot reforms on positions and titles of chief judges and chief procurators”. Accordingly, cities would pilot the classification of court and procuracy personnel. For example, Shanghai classified its  court  personnel  into  three  categories, including judges, judge assistants and judicial administration personnel with the respective proportions of 33%, 52% and 15%. After the reclassification, the proportion of judges fell from 49% to 33%. Procuratorates of the cities were also rearranged  towards consolidating the  classification  of  personnel  [30].  (5)  In terms of strengthening the judicial interference prevention, in March 2015, the Party Central Committee's Office, the General Office of the State Council and the Political   and   Legal   Commission   of   the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued   the Regulations   on   disciplinary actions against officials and     leaders interfering in judicial  activities and participating  in  specific  cases,  prosecuting their offences and informing units that they established  Intellectual  Property  Courts, a are working   for Regulations   on reform  task  initiated  since  the  3rd   plenary sessions of the 18th National Congress. Since November  2014,  the  Intellectual  Property Courts  have  been  established  in  Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou [43]. Despite their short time of establishment, the Intellectual Property  Courts  established  in  these  three cities have operated efficiently. In one year of operation, the Intellectual Property Court of Beijing   has   addressed   7,918   cases   and sentenced 3,250 cases [29]. (4) In terms of improving   the   management of   judicial personnel  classification,  on  15  September 2015, the 16th working session of the Steering Committee on Comprehensive Reform of the prosecuting  and  taking  disciplinary  actions against staff in judicial agencies involved too deeply in cases   to ensure the independent and fair exercise of judicial rights according to the laws [31].

Second, China has stepped up its reform in the judicial right exercising mechanism. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China  up  to  now,  reforms  in  the judicial  right  exercising  mechanism  have been   quite  effective,  shown  through   the following points: (1) Improving the judicial accountability  mechanism  for  the  People s Courts and People s Procuracies. In August 2015, the 15th working session of the Steering Committee on Comprehensive Reform of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of   China   passed   Some   comments   on completing the judicial liability system of the People s Courts   and   Some comments on completing the judicial liability system of the People s Procuracies”. These two documents were developed to clarify that  The jurisdiction shall be undertaken by competent individuals   and   who accept the case shall be  responsible  for  its jurisdiction  and  who make decisions shall take the responsibility.

(2) Actively promoting public justice, especially the publicity of hearing procedures. In  China,  there  are  currently  25  provinces having a unified system of publicising hearing   procedures.  In  addition, it is necessary to promote the judgement publicisation continuously. In November 2013, the Supreme People s Court of China launched  a  network  that  contains public information about judgements of courts throughoutthe  country. In addition, China has continued to promote public information on judgement enforcement through the provision of a unified network of judgement enforcement information across the country. By November 2015,  there had  been  50.68 million pieces of information in total on the enforcement of judgements, provided to more than 33 million people [32]. (3) Improving the  people s  jury  and  people s  supervision systems. By 2015, the people’s jury staff had participated in more than two million cases [32]. (4) Procuracies pilot the public procedure  reform,  thereby  promoting  law- based administrative affairs, strictly complying with the laws and protecting the respectfulness of the constitution and laws. 

For Vietnam, reform has also been particularly emphasised and promoted in the operation of judicial bodies such as courts to increase the accountability of their judges.  In addition,  “the  adversarial litigation has been boosted. Some proceeding procedures have been renovated. Many wrongfully-convicted cases have been vindicated,  and  the legitimate rights and interests of citizens have been restored. Judicial  work  has  made  contributions  to handling big cases being criticised, denounced  and reflected by the public at large and underpinned the trust of people and voters in the justice system...” [14].

Third, China has achieved positive results in terms of ensuring human rights in judicial activities. That  human rights are thoroughly respected and guaranteed   is one of the key goals in deepening the reform and building a moderately  prosperous  society  [33].  Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China,  this issue has indicated positive changes in some aspects:

(1) Strengthening the system of wrongfully- convicted case prevention and control and slapping charges in such cases. In 2013 and 2014, the Court declared 1,603 defendants innocent [44]. (2) Ensuring the professional interests of lawyers in accordance with the laws.  On 15 September  2015,  the  16th working session of the Steering Committee on  Comprehensive  Reform  of  the  Central Committee of the Communist Party of China passed the  Comments on the lawyer system reform , then the Supreme People s Court and the Supreme People s Procuracy issued the Regulations on  securing the professional  interest  of  lawyers [34].  (3) Reducing  the  death  penalty  step  by  step, China has abolished the  death penalty for crimes  such  as  weapon  and  ammunition trafficking,   nuclear   material   trafficking, counterfeit money trade, counterfeit money production, fraud, prostitution arrangement and hindering persons carrying out military tasks. At present, 46 crimes can be charged with death penalty in China. (4) Developing the standard judicial procedure in handling assets of a case. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China passed the Comment on increasingly standardising the asset handling in criminal procedure cases to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of  litigants  and  the  principle  of  unified judicial procedure in case handling [45].

For Vietnam,  the compensation for wrongfully-convicted  cases has recently attracted  public  attention.  According  to  a report  by  the  Standing  Committee  of  the National Assembly,  from 1 October 2011 to 30 September 2014,  the  procedure - conducting bodies prosecuted and investigated 219,506 cases with 338,379 defendants and left 71 wrongfully-convicted cases (0.02%) [19]. According to the report of reviewing the six-year implementation of the Law on the State Compensation Liability issued by the Ministry of Justice, since the law came into force on 31 December 2015, the courts at all levels   have accepted and dealt with 38 cases, successfully addressed 32 cases,   with the compensation of VND 37,772,742,000 [19]. Therefore, together with  activities  to  promote  judicial  reform, Vietnam  has  also  paid  special  attention  to holding judicial bodies accountable, which is especially important in the context of judicial reform   and   in   order   to   create   people s confidence in the Party and state.

Fourth, China has enacted reform measures which   aim   at   creating   a  favourable  and beneficial  justice  system  for  the  people.  In order to fully grasp the principle of justice for the people, protecting the people’s legitimate rights  and  interests,  from  the  18th   National Congress up to now, China has implemented many reform policies such as promoting the reform in the case registration system, consolidating  the  legal  support  system  and improving the state judicial assistance system [46]. In addition, China has also made efforts to apply information technology to the operation of the justice system’s administrative apparatus in order to create favourable conditions  for  people  to  access  information about courts, legal foundations...

For   Vietnam, one of the top 10 achievements in the people s court system in 2017 is the release of court judgements and decisions  on  their  web  portals  [15].  This shows that Vietnam is also trying to apply information technology to the justice system reform process in order to create favourable conditions for people as well as make concerted efforts to enhance the transparency in  trial  activities.  Recently,  some  mass media have also directly accessed   to adversarial litigation activities such as the case where Miss Phuong Nga was sued for asset appropriation. In this case, for the first time,  the  defendant  was  entitled  to  keep silence. This case has attracted great public interest  in  Vietnam  and  shows  a  reform tendency  of  courts  in  Vietnam  which  is applying  information  technology  and  the freedom  of  press  to  monitor  the  court’s hearing in order to ensure the fairness for procedure participants [1].

4. Conclusion

Institutional reform and refinement, as well as judicial reform, are important tasks in the reform  process  of  Vietnam  and  China. Judicial reforms in Vietnam and China are similar in terms of their targets and contents. Although the reform results achieved in each country are different, it is obvious  that  the  judicial  reforms in both countries  are  not  smooth  processes  but progressive efforts to explore and develop appropriate  judicial agency models.

Through  comparative  studies  of  judicial reforms in Vietnam and China, the following lessons can be drawn:

First,  the  judicial  reforms  should  be carried out by high political will from the central to local levels. The judicial reform process  needs  to  be  linked  to  a  unified leadership  and  stewardship  of  the  Party. This is also the reform  method that both Vietnam and China have applied.

Second,  the  judicial reform  needs  to proceed with cautions as it involves  in regulating  the  structure  of  interests  among different   groups  in  society. Experimental models should be conducted in some conditionally feasible localities. From these models, lessons can be drawn for widespread application throughout the country. Vietnam and China have implemented judicial reforms in the context that they are  countries with economies in transitional periods and follow the leadership of the Communist Party (the only ruling party). It is thus impossible for them   to   apply   the   Western   model   of separation  of  powers .  Nevertheless,  they are still required to establish an independent justice system under the Communist Party’s leadership.  While  the  institution  is  being transformed to fit the reality, it is crucial to sum  up  the  practice  or  exchange  lessons learned between the two countries.

Third, Vietnam can study China s experience in setting up circuit courts with increased jurisdiction and judicial independence due to the absence of a chief judge  in  this  court  model. Currently, Vietnam  is  also  working  on  a  model  of courts across different administrative divisions. Vietnam can also studyand review what the more experienced countries like  China  has  done  and  encountered  to apply where possible.



* Institute of Chinese Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences.

1 The paper was published in Vietnamese in: Nghiên cứu Trung Quốc, số 2, 2018. Translated by Vu Xuan Nuoc, edited by Etienne Mahler.

2 In October 2014, the report of the 4th plenary session of the 18th  National Congress pointed out that it was necessary  to  optimise  the  arrangement  of  judicial functions and authorities to promote the institutional reform  piloting  of,  which  separated  the  executive authority from the adjudication authority, the Supreme People’s Court established circuit courts (巡回法院), setting  up  people’s  courts  and  people’s  procuracies across different administrative divisions (跨行政区划的人民法院和人民检察院), exploring and formulating the public litigation mechanism of procuracies (公益诉讼制),  promoting  the  reform  towards  an adjudication-centered litigation mechanism, etc.



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