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Beijing embraces 'rule of law with Chinese characteristics'

[BEIJING] China's Communist rulers declared on Thursday that the country would embrace the "rule of law with Chinese characteristics", official media reported after a key party meeting touted as heralding legal reform.

More than 360 full and reserve members of the party's Central Committee gathered in Beijing this week for the highly-anticipated meeting, known as the Fourth Plenum.

China's ruling party had cast the conclave as a pivotal moment for reform of the country's legal system, and announced in July that the theme of the meeting would be "rule of law".

But experts caution that in China the phrase refers to a greater centralisation of control by the ruling party rather than a separation of powers, and had predicted the meeting would tighten the authorities' grip.

The communique issued at the gathering's close described the party's intent as a legal system serving "the socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics", the official news agency Xinhua said.

China will ensure the Communist Party's leadership is achieving the goal, it added, saying the meeting had "set a blueprint for rule of law in the world's second-largest economy".

The gathering also expelled from the party five high-ranking officials, several of them senior allies of fallen former security chief Zhou Yongkang, and a People's Liberation Army general, Xinhua said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed rows of cadres seated inside a hall decorated with large Chinese flags, and the Communist anthem the Internationale played, state broadcaster China Central Television's evening news broadcast showed.