Zhang Yong, 38, is a common judge in the people's court of Fengtai district, Beijing. She is strict and impartial, and enjoys high prestige among the public.
"Judicial decisions are a matter of life or death," Zhang said. "As a judge, I handle thousands of cases in my life, but it's not possible for one man to step into the court room for a second time. If unfairly treated, they will be deeply hurt. I must have a clear conscience."
In 2009, Ma Tao invited some friends to a dinner. During the dinner, Ma started arguing with one of them, at whom Ma threw a glass bottle. Unfortunately, the man netted one piece of the broken glass in his left eye and was left blinded.
Ma was charged with crime of willful and malicious injury by the local procuratorate, for which he would spend at least three years behind bars. Zhang Yong, after careful examinations, confirmed that Ma's crime should be classified as a crime of negligence causing serious injury, justifying a lesser sentence. In May 2010, the day he was set free from prison, Ma came to thank Zhang for her efforts to reduce his sentence.
"In criminal proceedings, it's usually impossible to overthrow the prosecutors' decision." Zhang said. However, she did not flinch. Ultimately Zhang prevailed, and Ma's sentence was reduced to six months.
In another case, Zhang Guosheng and Bao Yuming were buyer and the seller. During a dispute, the two quarreled and exchanged blows. Afterwards Zhang ganged up with others and physically injured Bao. Bao later filed for a compensation of 50,000 yuan. Zhang denied and claimed that his conduct did not constitute a crime.
It was Zhang Yong who explained the knowledge of law to the defendant. After several summons, Zhang Guosheng pleaded guilty in the trial, and paid Bao the compensation. Zhang Yong successfully eased the strained relations between the two parties.
Being just, in Zhang's view, is not exuding coldness and mercilessness. In the court room, Zhang never interrupts any party's statements but listens attentively and patiently. "Zhang Yong is a prestigious judge." the clerk of the court said. "When the suspected offenders find out Zhang Yong will handle the case, they believed that the verdict will be fair and impartial."
Zhang's work also includes post-adjudication education for criminals. Long-imprisoned defendants were also permitted to talk to their relatives for a few minutes. "This may encourage good behavior, and is an effective way to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders." Zhang Yong said.
In October, 2004, the 31-year-old Zhang Yong was diagnosed breast cancer. During the chemotherapy period, her hair fell out, but she still remained devoted to her work. While in the hospital, she would constantly ask for updates on cases from her colleagues who came to visit her.
After her discharge, Zhang was arranged to a light post for the sake of her health. "During those days, I felt a hole inside my heart. I got embarrassed and I lost my wits." Zhang recalled.
In May, 2007, Zhang Yong finally made a full recovery, and returned to her former post. She cherished the opportunity more than ever. She remained totally bound to her work and won admiration and respect from the community.
Up to her ears in work, Zhang could hardly spare time to look after her daughter, Lele, so she often took Lele to the office with her. It is commonplace to see Zhang working in the court room with Lele beside her doing her homework.
Despite her former illness, in her daily life, Zhang remains confident and energetic. "I know how it feels to lose something, so I cherish what I have today," she said.