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China: Code of Ethics for Judges Revised

(Dec. 28, 2010) On December 15, 2010, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) of China published on its website the revised Basic Norms of Professional Ethics of Judges and Code of Conduct for Judges. The two revised documents took effect immediately. (Faguan Zhiye Daode Jiben Zhunze, Fa Fa [2010] No. 53 (Basic Norms) & Faguan Xinwei Guifan, Fa Fa [2010] No. 54 (Code of Conduct) [in Chinese] SPC website (Dec. 15, 2010),

The revised Basic Norms and Code of Conduct replace earlier versions of each document passed by the SPC in 2001and 2005, respectively. The number of articles of the Basic Norms has been reduced from 50 to 30. The first chapter of the old version, “To Guarantee Judicial Justice,” is now preceded by a new chapter, “Loyalty to the Cause of the Judiciary.” The first article under this new chapter requires the judges “[t]o firmly establish the socialist rule of law concept; to be loyal to the Party, loyal to the State, loyal to the people, and loyal to the laws; and to be builders and defenders of socialism with Chinese characteristics” (Basic Norms, art. 4).

The new Code of Conduct contains 96 articles, which standardize judges' activities in relation to every step of judicial procedure, including acceptance of cases, trial, judicial mediation, preparation of judicial documents, execution and handling of letters and visits. The Code prohibits judges from smoking, chatting, napping, or answering phone calls during hearings (Code of Conduct, art. 30). It calls for better drafting of court decisions (id. art. 46). Judges are required to be patient and timely in handling letters and visits, in particular in their manner towards senior, disabled, or pregnant complainers (id. arts. 71 & 72).

The Code of Conduct also sets up restrictions on judges' out-of-court activities, including receipt of gifts, acceptance of invitations to symposia and social events, and interviews granted to the media (id. arts. 81, 82, & 84). Judges are prohibited from showing up on entertainment premises in police cars or in court uniforms (id. art. 87). Retired judges are also required to comply with the Code of Conduct (id. art. 94).