Railway ministry loses powers

By Li Xiang Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-4 1:55:02

The Ministry of Railways has lost jurisdiction over its formerly independent prosecutor's offices that have now been put under the jurisdiction of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP), the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

Established in the 1950s, the railway ministry's branch prosecutor's offices, which had the right to prosecute crimes, worked under the supervision of the provincial prosecutor's office.

Legal issues, including personnel and financial management, were under the jurisdiction of the country's 18 railway bureaus.

Despite the railway prosecutors' contribution to the security of the country's railways, the offices are not consistent with the country's efforts to improve its legal system, Xinhua reported.

"The railway's unique judicial powers allowed the ministry to flex its own muscle and emboldened it through a separate judicial system," said Yu Lingyun, an administrative law professor at Tsinghua University.

"The key point of this transition lies in a shift from concentrated powers to protecting public rights as stipulated by China's Constitution," Yu added.

The central government first suggested in 2004 that the railway's police, courts and prosecutor's office should be put under the State's unified judicial system.

Details of the transition were finally hammered out in December 2010.

China's Procurator-General, Cao Jianming, told the National People's Congress in March that the transition of the railway prosecutor's office had been approved by the central government and was proceeding.

"The transfer of railway's judicial powers complies with the trend of separating government function from enterprise management," Li Hongchang, a professor with the School of Economics and Management at Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times.

"This conforms to international norms in terms of administrative management," Li added.

The Shanghai Railway Bureau confirmed to the Global Times Tuesday that the bureau had transferred all 12 courts and prosecutor's offices located in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Xuzhou and Bengbu to local authorities by June 11, becoming the country's first railway bureau to complete the transition.

According to an earlier news report by the China National Radio in March, all railway courts and prosecutor's offices would have to complete the transition by the end of June.

The spokesperson of the Supreme People's Procuratorate could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"This completion of the transition of judicial powers marks a milestone in the reform on the railway prosecutor's office," a SPP official told Xinhua.

Employees of the railway court and prosecutor's office worry their seniority might be weakened by the transition.

"Our administrative level, as well as our income, could be affected to some extent," an official with the Shanghai Railway Intermediate Court, who asked not to be named, told the Global Times Tuesday.

According to a news report by the Beijing-based Legal Daily Tuesday, judges at the Xi'an Railway Transport Intermediate Procuratorate are likely to see the pay drop by 2,000 yuan ($314.8) a month.

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