China to abolish arrest, conviction rate targets: state media

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ruling Communist Party will abolish targets for arrests, prosecutions and convictions, state media said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of legal reforms at a time of widening public discontent. Taking action on what the party called "unreasonable items for assessment" is part of its efforts to "govern the country by law" - the focus of a key party meeting last year. The Political and Legal Committee, a secretive body overseeing the legal and security services, said on Tuesday that its units and law enforcement authorities "must resolutely cancel targets for criminal detention, arrests, prosecutions, convictions, settlements and other unreasonable targets for assessment", state news agency Xinhua said on its microblog. Convictions are nearly certain in Chinese courts, which are controlled by the party. China's Supreme Court said last year that China has a 99.9 percent conviction rate. The party would also explore the establishment of a public interest litigation system set up by the prosecution and put forward a program for a leniency system in criminal proceedings for people who plead guilty, Xinhua said. It would also study separating judicial and implementation powers, and research establishing a system that would prohibit legal professionals to carry out their work in their lifetime if they violate the law, Xinhua said. Legal scholars are skeptical about significant change under one-party rule. For sensitive cases, such as high-level corruption or for prominent dissidents, the party will remain in charge. Despite the legal reforms, Chinese President Xi Jinping's administration has shown no interest in political change. The government has arrested many human rights lawyers and has proposed changes to the law that would criminalize such acts as "insulting, defaming, or threatening a judicial officer". (Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)