The First Circuit Court of China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) was inaugurated in the southern city of Shenzhen on Wednesday, marking a significant step toward serving judicial justice in the country.
The move is part of the legal reforms ushered in in October 2014, which are aimed at providing legal support to the greater goal of deepening broader reforms across society.
Setting up circuit courts is a groundbreaking move as it decouples local courts from specific administrative regions.
The jurisdiction of China's local courts is largely consistent with administrative divisions and the promotion of judges and finance of courts are influenced by local administrations.
There have been concerns that local governments may interfere in court rulings by leveraging their power, jeopardizing judicial justice and spawning corruption.
However, the Shenzhen-based circuit court will handle cases filed from Guangdong and Hainan provinces as well as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.Such a cross-regional institution will help minimize interference from local governments, so that judicial power can be exercised independently.
At the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee in 2013, the Party proposed to build a judicial jurisdiction system which is "relatively separate" from the administrative division.
The trial of circuit courts translated this vision into concrete action.
Moreover, the circuit court will save people the time and resources it takes to travel to Beijing for court cases, and help SPC headquarters concentrate on more policy-oriented work.
The SPC circuit courts are also expected to act as a testing ground for judicial reform, propelling more changes to come.
Remarkably, it took just a few months for the first circuit court to be established after it was conceptualized in October. The speed has demonstrated the central authorities' resolution in carrying on judicial reform and in realizing justice.
Judicial independence, the objective championed by circuit courts, has also been highlighted by President Xi Jinping, who ordered Party departments to support judges and prosecutors to exercise their duties independently, when instructing the central conference on political and legal work last week.
With such momentum, the circuit court in Shenzhen will be just a curtain raiser, albeit a significant one, and best practices drawn from the court will prompt more in-depth overhauls and greater justice.