It is the question which comes to mind when one reads the latest decision of the Xi Jinping's 'Administration'.
In the article of The South China Morning Post posted below, Meng Jianzhu, the newly Security in-charge in the Standing Committee of the Politburo criticized "excessive interference by officials in court proceedings."
Meng, who is Secretary of the Central Politics and Legal Affairs Committee objected to the "passing of paper slips" to the judges in order to dictate their decisions.
Further, according to Xinhua, the Chinese government wants to bring reforms for its highly controversial "re-education through labor" system.
Xinhua explains: "The system allows police to detain people for up to four years without an open trial, leading experts to argue that it contradicts high-level laws, including China's constitution."
According to the Bureau of Re-education Through Labor under the Ministry of Justice, 160,000 people were imprisoned in 350 re-education through labor centers nationwide as of the end of 2008."
Another sign of the change of wind (if it is confirmed!) is the handling of the Hong Kong Affairs.
The Epoch Times, the Falun Gong group publication reports that: "While protests were taking place against the current chief of Hong Kong recently, five members of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party visited the city to observe the events, according to a source familiar with the matter."
What is interesting and new is that according to the same publication: "The group bypassed the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, the United Front Work Department, the Liaison Office, and other relevant departments, and instead traveled to Hong Kong under non-official statuses. In addition to observing the New Year protest parade, they also met with inner Party members in Hong Kong and listened to reports on Hong Kong’s current situation. The General Office is in charge of the daily affairs of the Party and is handpicked and closely loyal to the incumbent leadership."
Can you imagine the General Office bypassing the United Front Department on the issue of Tibet?
It would be a radical change.
But, it is not the anti-reform group is sleeping.
Reuters, the usually well-informed agency affirms that "retired leaders in China’s Communist Party used a last-minute straw poll to block two pro-reform candidates from joining the policymaking standing committee, including one who had alienated party elders."
Reuters' sources (with ties to the leadership) explain that "the influential retirees flexed their muscles in landmark informal polls taken before last week’s 18th party congress, where the seven-member standing committee, the apex of China’s power structure, was unveiled."
The 'retirees' are Jiang Zemin and Li Peng.
Reuters says: "Two of the candidates voted out of the standing committee were widely viewed as reformers: Wang Yang, the party chief of export powerhouse Guangdong province in the south, and Li Yuanchao, minister of the party’s organisation or personnel department."
Apparently, the electoral 'college' for the new Standing Committee comprised the outgoing 24 Politburo members and some 10 'Party Elders'.
The group is said to have had more than 10 rounds of deliberations, including at least two informal polls and this, over several months.
The power struggle is certainly not finished and Xi Jinping will probably have to do many more compromises with the other rival factions and cliques.
Will there be any 'reforms' left after compromises are reached is the crucial question.
Security tsar Meng Jianzhu criticises interference in court proceedings
South China Morning Post
Meng Jianzhu hits out at party officials' practice of handing notes to judges during proceedings
Security tsar Meng Jianzhu has criticised excessive interference by officials in court proceedings - a practice so rampant that judges frequently receive notes at the bench telling them how to rule.
Meng, the newly appointed secretary of the Central Politics and Legal Affairs Committee, attacked the "passing of paper slips" at a video conference with top law-and-order officials on Monday, sources said.
Such notes are usually passed by members of lower-level politics and legal affairs committees based in the courts.
"Meng criticised the old system in which the party's committee always gives concrete instructions to the courts to tell them how to rule on individual cases," said one participant who declined to be named.
The source had often witnessed committee members passing notes to judges.
The remarks, in which Meng also announced an eventual end to the "re-education through forced labour" system, were not reported by state media.
The committees have been condemned by legal experts as a source of obstruction of justice, especially in regard to political lawsuits. The committees, which have overriding authority in courts, exist in all jurisdictions.
"The existence of the committees is a violation of the constitution by damaging judicial independence," said Hu Jinguang, a constitutional law professor at Renmin University.
"Laws are only as good as the party authorities who allow them to be enforced."
Professor Tong Zhiwei, of the East China University of Politics, said intervention by the committees increased in the last five years under Meng's predecessor, Zhou Yongkang . "Meng's comments show the new generation of leadership is willing to reflect on and reform the existence of the committee system, which goes against the legal system and undermines the law," said Tong, who advocates the abolition of lower-level committees.
The status of the Central Politics and Legal Affairs Committee was diminished with Zhou's retirement last month. While Zhou was a member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, Meng sits on the lesser 25-member Politburo. Experts believe that ending the passing of slips and re-education through labour would accomplish little.
Hu said it was almost impossible for the committee to give up its influence on court verdicts as it had become a well-established practice and was one of the easiest ways for party authorities to retain control. "To weaken the power of the committees doesn't mean to weaken the influence of the party on court and political decisions," he said.