September 24, 2003
U.S. Ambassador to China Addresses Workshop on Chinese Legal Reform
U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China Clark T. Randt Jr. addressed the Workshop on Chinese Legal Reform, a program of the China Law Center at Yale Law School, about "U.S.-China Relations and Rule of Law Developments," on Wednesday, September 17.
Randt is at the center of not only the negotiations between two nations but also issues of concern to the whole world--whether it's the recently concluded six-nation talks about the status of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, or a dispute over the value of China's currency, or concern for China's human rights record.
He also brings a wealth of experience to issues of Chinese law and policy. He is a lawyer himself, is fluent in Chinese Mandarin, and has lived in Asia for nearly twenty years. He has served as first secretary and commercial attach?t the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and as a partner and head of the China practice in the law firm Shearman & Sterling, among other positions.
In assessing China's legal environment, Randt said, "We're in a phase now where... many things that seemed impossible now are possible. At the same time, so much needs to be done."
Randt identified four areas in which progress has been made in advancing the rule of law in China:
1- Randt called the elimination of China's "notorious" custody and repatriation system of administrative detention a positive step. Randt was particularly encouraged that the government's action had come about in response to public outcry, after one highly publicized case, and that it seemed to have energized the legal reform movement.
2- Randt noted that the Chinese constitution contains many excellent provisions. "Despite those lofty sentiments, no one paid much attention to the provisions of the constitution." But he noted that there has been a recent increase in attention to the constitution, including efforts to amend it and include the notion of private property in it.
3- When China joined the WTO in 2001, it agreed to strict standards of transparency, consistency, and fairness in its legal system. Randt noted that China has revised or abolished over 2,000 laws and 1,200 judicial decisions since then. "We've also seen steps toward improved transparency," he added. But he pointed out a few areas in which the United States would like to see further improvements, such as the lax enforcement of intellectual property laws. "The spirit of the WTO has had a profound effect on rule of law in China."
4- Randt said that China has instituted uniform standards and raised the education requirements for people who serve as judges in China. However, he said, "the judicial system in China is still broken." He noted that many judges are appointed locally and have conflicts of interest. In addition, defendants in criminal trials need greater rights to cross-examine witnesses and call their own witnesses. The U.S. is still pressing China to eliminate forms of administrative detention and provide better oversight of the police power of detention.