Justice Jingmin Zhai compares U.S. and China, enjoys his stay

Analicia Haynes, Administration Editor

Smiles and laughter engulfed the hall outside of the Lumpkin Hall Auditorium Monday night as Jingmin Zhai, the former vice president of the Beijing Supreme Court, made a lasting impression with audience members after his forum on the Rule of Law in America.

Conversing with students, faculty and staff, Zhai expressed his satisfaction about his stay in Illinois and highlighted key points discussed in his forum such as the comparison between American Rule of Law and the Chinese judicial establishment.

Serving nearly 30 years on the Chinese Supreme Court, which is the highest of three level courts in China, Zhai welcomed the interest from participants with open arms.

According to an press release, the last time Zhai was in Illinois was in 2004, when he visited the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Law.

Zhai, who spent the last week in Illinois, spoke through a translator and said he had a very good stay and enjoyed his time in Charleston.

Zhai said the best part of his stay was the warm welcome he received from his American friends, as well as the beautiful impression he had about Eastern and the University of Illinois including the students, faculty and staff who attend the universities.

“Like tonight, all the people that came because they’re willing to understand Chinese people and Chinese law, this encouraged me to do a better job,” Zhai said.

Currently, Zhai is the president of the Beijing Legal Association for Multi-aspect Mediation and said one purpose of his trip was to learn about the Alternate Dispute Resolution.

Zhai said the ADR is one source to helping people solve legal problems by resorting to mediation instead of instantly going to court.

Despite the language barrier, Zhai happily waved, shook hands and talked with participants, smiling the entire time.

Participants also circled the former Justice, introducing themselves and giving him a warm welcome.

Zhai also went into detail as he described the differences and similarities between the American court system and the Chinese court system after his forum.

“Right now China follows something similar to the continental law system and the United States follows common law or the British law system,” Zhai said. “Therefore we have some differences such as the jury system. We don’t have a jury during the first trial.”

Zhai said there are several points that harbor similarities between the two nations, including a Court of Appeals, where both countries do not have a jury.

“In a civil case, we all want an equal and fair (trial) and (to) protect both the parties,” Zhai said. “In a criminal case we have a strict policy to punish the bad guy.”

Zhai said the punishment for an individual who was involved in a criminal case is based on the crime they commit, much like the United States.

“Even if you did the crime you are still a human being, and at a certain point even the bad guy has their own rights,” Zhai said. “At this point we are similar to the United States. Even if they did something bad they are still a human being.”

Zhai said it does not matter when bringing two nations together which nation an individual lives in when it comes to the law because sometimes the law is not perfect.

“That’s why we have so many regulations and (we) amend them to improve them and therefore not one law is a perfect law,” Zhai said. “We are always trying to improve the law.”


Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]