Xinhua Insight: New salary system to improve judicial independence

BEIJING, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- China will calculate salaries for judges and prosecutors differently from other public servants, a step hoped to promote the nation's judicial independence.

The plan was unveiled after Tuesday's 16th meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform, presided over by President Xi Jinping.

The meeting also approved other "special policies" for the group, including better salaries and an independent promotion system.

Currently salaries for judges and prosecutors are on the same scale as other civil servants, and are mainly paid by local governments. The central authorities intend to reduce the local governments' rights to feed and manage judicial staff, but no exact date or measures have been released for the system to be put in place.

The Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform has held 16 meetings since its inception in late 2013. Of them, 11 have discussed judical reform.


The move is echoing China's efforts to unify the management of judical staff and property by provincial authorities, which has been pushed since late 2013 in a bid to reduce meddling of local officials in judicial cases.

The attempt tries to isolate part of the finances of courts and procuratorates from local governments, and will give judicial staff basic confidence to practice independently, with less interference from local authorities, said Hong Daode, professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.

"In that case, they will no longer be completely dependent on the local government for their living," Hong said.

An assistant judge in a county-level court in southwest China's Chongqing municipality who asked to remain anonymous, told Xinhua that he earned about 4,000 yuan (628 U.S. dollars) a month. Waiting staff in Beijing restaurants are paid between 3,500 and 6,000 yuan.

Our informant generally deals with around 200 cases per month, but the number of cases handled does not have any impact on his salary. "Salaries are composed of two parts: a fixed payment and an allowance of around 2,000 yuan. They are different according to administrative ranks, but as far as I know the difference is quite small, generally less than 1,000 yuan," he said.

His income is nothing compared with his friends who are lawyers or other staff at legal firms, but he admitted there is "comparatively" less work pressure.

In many areas, local governments give considerable bonuses to judges and prosecutors in view of their mean income, raising questions of judical independence. The system will be adjusted to reflect the professional nature of their work.

The salaries will be increased for front-line staff who handle cases daily and will be performance based, meaning a judge can earn more by seeing more cases and dealing with them better.

"I feel cheered by the new system. It is a sound economic guarantee for our staff and encourages them to work harder and do a better job," said a member of a court in Linyi City, east China's Shandong Province, who also wished to remain anonymous.

He said his salary, like most judical staff, was a little bit more than 5,000 yuan after a small increase at the beginning of this year.

The mechanism recognizes hard work and may help retain staff at lower level courts and procuratorates, while encouraging them to handle cases properly and avoid unsafe rulings or convictions, according to law professor Hong.


Tuesday's meeting promised a new independent ranking system for the judiciary to nurture a more professional team of judges and prosecutors.

The judicial officials are usually ranked according to the administrative promotion system of public servants rather than their professionalism or experience, according to Zhang Wanhong of Wuhan University law school.

"Sometimes an official without any legal background or experience is appointed head of a court and then becomes a judge, instead he/she should be a judge first and then become court head," Zhang said.

This detachment of ranking from the civil service promotion system will reduce administrative interference and make judges and prosecutors more professional and neutral, said Zhang. Enditem


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