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Courts to Guarantee Fair Trials
The Supreme People's Court has vowed to further promote judicial reform and guarantee fair trials in the years ahead following a positive appraisal of its first five-year reform program.

Improving the system to ensure judges are not unduly influenced is one of the priorities, said Cao Jianming, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court.

Local protectionism has been an issue bothering China's judges, particularly in the enforcement of court verdicts, he told a three-day national conference which concluded yesterday in Beijing.

Improvements have been made in weeding out interference with the courts' work. Greater stress has been placed on the self-discipline of judges as well as pledges by local governments not to meddle in court affairs.

However, it is widely believed that more efforts are still needed, especially in improving the court system.

According to Cao, his court will study ways of reforming the litigation procedure to guarantee judicial fairness and the rights of the litigants, including improvement in mediation in courts and the regulation on evidence in criminal cases.

The Supreme People's Court introduced a five-year reform program in 1999, aiming to ensure fairness and efficiency in trials.

The fundamental target of reform is to guarantee fairness and justice in society, Cao said.

Measures include issuing the rules governing evidence in civil and administrative cases and the reform of court layout to conform with international practice.

Sources with Cao's court said the 39 items on the reform list have all been launched, with most of them completed.

Consistent efforts have been made over past years to improve the proficiency of the nation's 220,000 judges.

Statistics from the Supreme People's Court indicate that more than 200,000 judges have received professional training in the past five years.

Cao pledged that these efforts will continue and the courts will study ways to establish a just and open system so only those with proficiency and high ethic standards can become judges.

Proficiency and ethical standards of judges have been issues arousing public concern in the late 1990s, sparking claims of unfair trials.

"A lack of courtroom experience is not the only reason behind the proficiency problem," said Li Ke, president of Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court.

Apart from an ethics code for judges issued last year, Chinese courts have also lifted their criteria for candidates seeking to become judges. From this year, anyone wishing to become a judge needs to pass a national judicial examination before taking more specific training.

(China Daily December 25, 2002)

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