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Judge tempers justice with understanding
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-04 09:25

Song Yushui still remembers the days in her childhood when she sat in the fields or in her home, watching her mother weave lace, or listening to the grown-ups chatting.

A lot of it was gossip, but what struck her was the grievances her mother and other people expressed over injustice and wrongs in the village, a remote one in Penglai County, in East China's Shandong Province.

The stories concerned everyday occurrences, like one family getting less firewood from the village than others, or a daughter-in-law being bullied by her in-laws.

She began to dream of becoming a modern "Bao Gong" when she grew up.

Bao Gong, or Bao Zheng, (999-1062), a high-ranking court official in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), is remembered as a man who upheld justice and was incorruptible.

Song wanted to follow in Bao's steps and help eliminate injustice in the world around her.

Now 37, Song has realized her dream, winning renown as one of the top 10 judges in China, named by the Supreme People's Court on January 19.


In pursuing her dream, Song worked hard and excelled in her academic studies when she was a teenager. She chose to study law when she entered the prestigious Renmin University of China in Beijing, and graduated in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in law. Later, she furthered her studies at her alma mater, earning a Master's degree in law.

Then she started her work as a judge with the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing, where she handles business disputes.

"Everyone's education level and background is different, but people's desire for equality and fairness is the same," she said. "Promoting and upholding justice is a judge's sacred responsibility."

Beijing's Haidian District has many of the city's universities and high-tech businesses; so, not unnaturally, the district has a great many legal cases involving businesses.

Song delves deep down into every case that comes to her to collect evidence and proof. Her investigations often take her across the length and breadth of the country.

More than once in her investigations, she had to confront business people with threatening bodyguards.

She became known for her courage. She has said, "I have to fulfil the work of the court, and I mustn't let anything deter me from performing my official duties."

But as she unraveled the evidence behind the cases she covered, she found that business disputes were by no means always clear-cut black-and-white issues.

It was her duty to uphold justice but fairness also had to be taken into consideration, she said.

She recalled a case involving imports and exports.

The plaintiff, an import-export company, was a large State-owned enterprise in Beijing, and the defendant was a city where the local people's living standard was below the poverty line.

The city was in debt to the big company, and it was unable to payoff the debt as a result of the inefficiency of the city government.

With the interests of both parties at heart, Song worked hard and finally persuaded them to settle the dispute out of court.

The plaintiff got most of the money owed to it, and the defendant was relieved of a part of its heavy debt.

She cannot remember how many such cases she has helped settle out of court, but because of her work she has become known among her colleagues and in local legal circles as a kind judge.

Song says she is frequently asked whether her stress on kindness and equality weakens the authority and solemnity of the law. Her answer: "Sternness and solemnity are a judge's external image. But a judge's heart should be full of kindness and sympathy as well as a passion for justice."

She said a judge should try to promote a close relationship between her- or himself and the parties involved in any case, so that they can communicate more readily with the judge and accept the judges' decisions or ruling.

In Chinese society with its centuries' old tradition of seeking help from those whom you know, Song Yushui at times encounters difficulties in her work.

It is common for plaintiffs as well as defendants and their lawyers to try and find someone among Song's circle of friends and relations, who will speak to Song on their behalf.

These people might even include her teachers and classmates. Sometimes money is involved.

She declines all such lobbying and bribery. "Corruption and bribery subject me to indignity," she said.

The judge admitted some of her friends and relatives have grudges against her because she ruled against them or their friends in some of their lawsuits.

But "I believe most of them understand me," she said. "I believe the judge who adheres to her or his principles should be able to win people's respect."

Since she joined the Haidian court, Song has presided about 1,000 business cases.

As a woman and a professional, Song naturally has been asked frequently how she balances her career with her family.

She said she doesn't find it difficult at all. "I am a judge and I have the skill to deal with such problems," she said.

However, she does regret that she doesn't have as much time as she would like to be with her son, who is 11 years old.

In fact, when her son was still a toddler, she had to leave him with her parents in Shandong.

She said she is lucky to have an understanding husband and son, whose support has made it all the more easy for her to achieve the balance she seeks in her work.

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