China / Politics

Top court vows to raise judges' pay

By Cao Yin in Jinan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-09 07:25

China's top court said it will increase the incomes of judges and provide better job protection as part of an ongoing judicial reform.

Better conditions for judges, especially at the grassroots level, is a significant part of China's judicial reform, which began in November, Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court, said on Tuesday.

About 23,000 judges work in courts at the district, county and village level in China, making up roughly 10 percent of the country's judiciary. From 2006 to 2013, these judges settled almost 20 million disputes, according to the top court.

"The judges have handled one-fourth of the cases in China over the past few years," Zhou said.

Some young judges resigned because of the immense work pressure without adequate job protection or benefits.

In a resignation letter submitted in July, a judge at a Beijing suburban court wrote, "I can no longer tolerate endless overtime work, a low salary and litigants' misunderstanding".

The judge, who presided over civil disputes and identified himself as Chang Wei, wrote: "I had to write judicial documents almost every weekend and I had no time for my family. Some residents shouted at me during trials, and an old man even broke my gavel because his opinion wasn't accepted."

The 39-year-old added, "Although my parents provided an apartment for me, my income, about 5,500 yuan ($880) a month, does not allow me to pay for my child's increasing school fees in Beijing. I want dignity in a job."

He wrote that at least one judge had resigned from the Beijing suburban court every month this year.

To prevent more judges from leaving, Zhou said the central government must improve the benefits of the judges at the grassroots level, and it must ensure that their salaries are increased, that they have vacations and physical examinations every year, and that they have access to psychological counseling.

Bao Jinyan, a grassroots judge from Tianjin, agreed, saying that better economic protection will allow more judges to devote themselves to their work.

Bao said she and her five colleagues together handle about 1,000 disputes a year, often driving to remote areas to hear trials.

"The treatment of a judge should be different from a civil servant," she said.

Zhang Yongjian, chief judge at the civil department under the top court, said making judges more professional and giving them better benefits have been on the judicial reform agenda, but improving the situation "needs time and may not be accomplished soon".

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