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Music Eases Stress in Beijing Court
The People's Court of Beijing's eastern Chaoyang District, one of the busiest and most efficient courts in the Chinese capital, has found a brand-new way of easing the normally nerve-wracking ordeal of the legal system -- music.

Around 10 o'clock in the morning, the traditional, vivid strains of Chinese folk music -- "Tinkling Fountain in Towering Mountains', "Returning Home", "the Starlit Sky" and other lively melodies -- are often heard lingering in the registration hall of the court.

People stream in and out and the usual noise and clamor of the passed days seems greatly reduced.

"The magic of music has been such a surprise -- the hall has become much more orderly and peaceful than before," said Cao Zhigang, a presiding judge of the registration court.

"Most of the people who come to the court do not have a light heart, but music appeases their anger and distress to varying extent," said Cao.

As the busiest court in the capital city, the People's Court of Chaoyang District dealt with a total of some 35,000 cases and received over 88,000 visitors last year alone.

"Each court worker receives an average of 41 visitors per work day," added Cao.

But in the past, the registration hall, with an area of less than 70 square meters was often crowded with people burning with impatience.

"If they had waited longer than they expected, a confusion of voices and even quarrels are hard to avoid," Cao said.

"So on one hand, our workers have to check whether or not the indictment materials comply with the standards for investigation and prosecution and, on the other, sometimes they have to stop work to keep order."

Things had changed when the registration court was installed with a stereo system two months ago. And the court has also settled the problem of legal issue of copyright of the music it plays.

"Now, only a very few people speak in a loud voice in the hall. When they hear the music, they can't help lowering their tone and some sit down for a glass of water while waiting," Cao said.

Traditionally, courts are very serious places and ordinary people hesitate and are even reluctant to go, because it means being involved in knotty troubles which cannot be resolved in a better way, said Prof. Wang Fengxian, a noted sociologist with the Beijing Municipal Academy of Social Science.

Playing light-hearted music in the court is both helpful and appreciable to create a sound, harmonious atmosphere not only for the parties involved in a case but also for the judges, said Wang.

"It is a caring practice and it reflects much progress made by China's judicial departments on further improving its service while China steps up the reform of its legal system," she said.

The Chinese judicial departments have paid an increasingly greater attention to "adding a sense of love into their daily service", said Wang Yisheng, an experienced judge of the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court.

In March, 10 suspects were the first ever in the city of Beijing to have their faces covered with masks on their way to trial in a bid to protect their privacy and it was regarded as a new move in the judicial history of the Chinese capital.

"As for its function, namely, to protect the people's legal rights, court is a solemn place. But as a service-provider, it should also be unassuming and approachable, making the people coming for help feel at ease and comfortable," said Cao Zhigang.

Cui Gang, 42, is a local resident who went to the People's court of Chaoyang District for a dispute with his family members.

"It was the first time that I ever went to court and I was in bad mood," said Cui. "But when I stepped into the hall and heard the piece of lovely music named "Returning Home", I was reminded of the deep affection of my own family. And now, no matter what the verdict of the court might reach, I will accept it without any complaint," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency July 2, 2003)

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