China's courts to diversify jury pool

14:42, May 17, 2010      

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Outspoken, honest, and trustworthy -- these are among a list of criteria as lower courts around China started to pick a new five-year-term jurors this year. In addition, more will not be Communist Party or government officials.

In a bid to improve the jury system, which is in its fifth year of reform, China will implement stricter juror selection rules and continue to diversify the jury pool, the country's senior court officials said.

About 54,000 people will be selected for a "pool" of juror candidates this month, in a process that has taken place every three years since 2005. After the retiring batch replaced, China will have roughly 80,000 jurors, taking part in criminal and civil cases at lower courts.

"We need jurors who can speak out for justice. And we need jurors of different ages, ethnicities, and from different sectors," Zhou Zemin, head of the political department of the Supreme People's Court, told Xinhua at a judicial seminar in the southeastern Fujian Province over the weekend.

China started to widen the use of jury trials five years ago. Under the current system, jurors can sit on a panel of three with professional judges and exercise almost equal power.

Unlike their British and American counterparts who decide matters of fact only, Chinese jurors decide on both factual and legal issues. But in practice, inexperienced jurors commonly take a back seat and stay silent while professional judges arbitrate cases.

Officials say the jury reform has made strides, but imminent problems need to be solved, juror pools being one.

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(Editor:赵晨雁)

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