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Supreme Court Upgrades Judges College

Professional training for China's judges entered a new stage yesterday when the part-time National Judges College in Beijing officially went full-time.

The Supreme People's Court decided to make the college a full-time professional institution.

Over the past 16 years, the institution helped more than 170,000 judges study for a law degree after work.

At a Beijing forum on professional training for judges organized by the Supreme People's Court, Xiao Yang -- the court's president -- said yesterday: "Training for judges is undergoing a shift from training that aims to meet an urgent need to training that is systematic and of a set standard, from training that focuses on general training for judges to more professional training that cultivates elite judges.

"This is a historic and strategic shift," added Xiao.

The part-time college for judges was established in 1985, at a time when the nation's court system -- virtually defunct during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976) -- had just started developing normally again. Most judges then were demobilized military men with limited legal knowledge.

The situation has changed in recent years as more and more courts require new judges to be law-school graduates. Starting next year, anyone who wants to become a judge must pass a standard national test for law professionals, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers.

Professional training for judges has been given unprecedented attention lately as part of the ongoing court reforms, particularly with China's accession to the World Trade Organization. Judges face the challenge of new types of cases and increasingly complex cases.

Legal experts have said that judges with knowledge of foreign languages and expertise in new technology will be in great demand in China.

Cao Jianming, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, said: "There is an increasingly clear tendency that cases now involve specific knowledge of various kinds, which has given rise to the importance of professional training stressing the proficiency and ability of judges."

According to Cao, who is also head of the National Judges College, the college will put more effort next year into setting up a more scientific curriculum, strengthening the contingent of teachers and expanding training to cover more judges.

Xiao Yang yesterday said training should not involve merely professional knowledge. He called for the nurturing of a modern judicial concept that would stress neutrality, equality, transparency, openness, efficiency and independence among judges.

"Judges must win the trust of the public by respecting their professional ethics and guarantee judicial authority," said Xiao.

(China Daily December 29, 2001)

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