From 04 to 10 November 2019, a ten-person delegation of Chines judges visited Northern Rhine-Westphalia. The delegation included representatives of both the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China and the Higher and Intermediate People’s Courts of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and of Gansu Province. The visit represented a deepening of the existing partnership between the two Chinese province and the judiciary of Northern Rhine-Westphalia that has now existed since 2011.
At the start of the trip, the delegation was welcomed to the Northern Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Justice by the head of Department II, Dr Andreas Christians. Here the judges were introduced to the justice system and the training of legal professionals in Germany. Questions addressed in the discussion included the role of judges within society.
At the heart of the delegation’s trip was the specialist exchange with German fellow judges at the Cologne District Court and the Regional Court in Essen, as well as with prosecutors of Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Hamm. In a number of workshops, questions on the everyday business of courts and the legal profession in various areas of the law were addressed and enthusiastically discussed. Some of the German participants had already gained experience of Chinese legal culture through previous judges’ study trips.
The first main topic of the workshops concerned legal aid and public liability in the area of foreclosure. While the legal foundations of both legal spheres exhibited many similarities, the procedures in both states are also marked by clear differences.
At the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Hamm, the delegation became familiar with the central organizing office for asset recovery in Northern Rhine-Westphalia, a unique institution at the time of its founding. The recovery of assets acquired by criminal means is of central importance in the combatting of organized crime in particular. With the introduction of a legal reform that has been valid since 2017, the German legislature created a wide-ranging scope for action for investigating authorities and courts that goes beyond the possibilities afforded by Chinese law.
On the following day, the question of new hearings in civil law and the resulting tension between legal security and material truth was at the heart of the discussion at the District Court in Essen. The delegation then took the opportunity to visit a civil law hearing.
The conclusion of the visit was another visit at the Northern-Rhine Westphalia Ministry of Justice. There the delegation was greeted by the State Secretary Dirk Wedel. This was then followed by a workshop on questions of international legal aid in criminal matters, in particular in the case of extradition.
Throughout the trip, the delegates also had the opportunity to become more familiar with the history and culture of the region, for example, by visiting Cologne Cathedral and the Villa Hügel in Essen.