Judge Ma Laike's professional career is one full of mounting challenges these days.
As a judge dealing with intellectual property right cases with the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court, Ma's days in the courtroom are filled with ground-breaking cases, the result of a new breed of crime in China.
"The new types of cases are difficult to handle because of loopholes in existing laws and because of our insufficient knowledge on specific subject matters," said Ma.
More than two decades after China restored its legal system, Ma, together with thousands of other Chinese judges, is being confronted with an increasing number of cases that have never appeared on their desks before.
According to sources with the Supreme People's Court, such cases include civil compensation cases involving fraudulent information disclosure on the securities market and crimes committed via computers and system networks.
Disputes over the ownership of software and biotechnology, improper registration of domain names, anti-dumping and countervailing crimes have also been on the rise.
To tackle these challenges, the Supreme People's Court has set itself a goal to arm judges with a wealth of expertise on a variety of legal matters and a wide range of other matters, including the basics of economics and finance and foreign language skills.
"Judges must have a broad range of knowledge," said Zheng Chengliang, deputy president of the National Judges College, "a judge equipped with legal knowledge alone cannot be a good judge."
Zheng's college, responsible for in-service training of the nation's judges, has taken note of the changes and paid close attention to lecturing judges to ensure they have an expanded knowledge of all things pertaining to modern law.
According to Wang Juan, deputy head of the college's department in charge of training, lectures and seminars have been arranged in the past few years on highly discussed economic and financial issues as well as on intellectual property rights protection concerning software products.
Apart from its own professors, the college also invites guest speakers from other universities, governmental departments and foreign countries to give lectures.
The college has also put a special focus on teaching judges to analyze and understand the philosophy of laws, a necessary skill in a time when judges are faced with an increasing number of new cases that are not specifically stipulated in existing laws.
Compared with the courts in the western regions of China, economically advanced coastal regions are more prone to seeing new types of cases emerge.
A high number of judges in these regions must now turn to specialists for advice in handling these types of cases.
(China Daily February 18, 2003)