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Railway loses judiciary as its courts are transferred

By Du Liya (Global Times)

11:08, October 31, 2012

The Ministry of Railways has lost some of its extraordinary powers now that its independent courts have been completely transferred to the local judicial system, marking the completion of the transition to civilian rule of railway's police, courts and prosecutor's offices.

First established in 1954, the railway's 58 intermediate and 17 lower courts had the right to handle economic disputes and cases relating to crimes committed on railway property.

The integration into the civilian judicial system has seen 75 percent of the railway court's estimated 3,700 staffers transferred to the civil service, reported the Xinhua News Agency Tuesday.

Xinhua reported in July that the railway court's assets and property worth 700 billion yuan ($112 million) had been handed over to local judiciary.

"The railway authorities used their powers and privilege of jurisdiction and prosecution to protect their own interests," Wang Zhenyu, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.

A widely-reported, infamous case of the railway court's mishandling of justice involves the case of Fan Hong, a resident from Shenyang, Liaoning Province, who was hit by a train in 2007. The local railway court provided the family with only 400 yuan compensation.

After the family sued in a local intermediate people's court, they were awarded 200,000 yuan in compensation.

"Stripping the railway operator of its judicial power helps protect the public's rights. The transition is consistent with the country's efforts to improve the legal system," Chang Lu, lawyer from the Beijing Guozhen Law Firm, told the Global Times.

The central government initiated the handover in 2004.

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