China's law officials have voiced approval of the weekend national judicial examination, saying it will bring about an improvement in the overall quality of the nation's legal professionals and promote integrity in law enforcement.
"The national judicial examination will provide a route for talented people of high-quality to become judges, prosecutors or lawyers," said Liu Yang, vice-minister of justice over the weekend. "These professions are based on the same legal principles and share the same general legal structure. This will be conducive to the integrity of China's legal system, strengthen the authority of law, and help improve the work of judges, prosecutors and lawyers."
"The key to the achievement of these kinds of changes will be the improving quality of the professionals in the field," added Liu.
"The national judicial examination is an important step in the development of the modern judicial system in China," echoed Zhu Mingshan, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court.
The weekend test was the first in what is to be an annual event. It has replaced the former separate qualification examinations for judges, prosecutors and lawyers.
Statistics from the Ministry of Justice indicate that more than 360,000 people entered their names for the two-day test, the majority of them being graduates from law schools.
Candidates were tested on their knowledge on the Constitution, legal theory, economic law, international law, international private law and international economic law as well as ethics. Apart from textbook knowledge, application of the law to actual cases also made up an important part of the examination.
"The national judicial examination has changed the past situation when anyone could become a judge or prosecutor," said Zhu. "There is now a basis for achieving judicial fairness, with the quality of judges guaranteed."
To make up for the shortage of law professionals following the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) during which China's judicial system was virtually wiped out, the nation's courts and procuratorates had to hire non-professionals with limited understanding of the law and then provided them with training in the 1980s.
Perhaps no one feels the pressure of change better than Xiao Suling and her colleagues.
"I am feeling a little nervous," said Xiao, who works with the human resources department in Beijing People's Procuratorate, shortly before the test. "If I do not pass the test, I cannot be assigned as a prosecutor."
But even if she passes the test, it will only be the first step in Xiao's dream of becoming a prosecutor. Both the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate have said that candidates who have passed the national judicial examination still need to get more training tailored to their particular positions and prove their competence in follow-up tests given by the court and the procuratorate to get appointed.
(China Daily April 1, 2002)