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Shanghai pioneers quality approach to judicial reform

Zhou Wenting
Updated: Jul 24,2015 8:16 AM     China Daily

China’s first judge and first prosecutor to be selected from a new pool of seasoned legal professionals were appointed in Shanghai on July 23 as part of a reform aimed at building a highly capable and professional judicial team.

Shang Jiangang, a veteran lawyer, was appointed as senior judge at Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People’s Court, and Bai Jiang, associate professor at Fudan University Law School, was named senior prosecutor at Shanghai No 2 People’s Procuratorate, at a meeting of the standing committee of the Shanghai People’s Congress.

The two were selected from 21 applicants after the city’s top prosecuting agency and high court published notices in April seeking high-performance legal professionals. The selections represent a key step in implementing the city’s judicial reforms, which started in July last year.

“This is an attempt to break the boundary of having prosecutors and judges promoted only from within. Their participation at the front line of judicial practice will further elevate the quality of the team and guarantee impartiality and justice, “Wang Jiaosheng, deputy secretary of the Party Commission for Political and Legal Affairs in Shanghai, told members of the media at a briefing on Tuesday.

“As a pioneer of the country’s judicial reforms, Shanghai will draw experience from this attempt and make the practice applicable in other areas,” he said.

Shang Jiangang stepped down from his post as a senior partner in a law firm and walked away from his high-profile work as an intellectual property rights lawyer with an annual income of 8 million yuan ($1.29 million).

He said it is not only his own ultimate career goal but also the goal of many in the legal profession to become a judge, which counts as an honor and acknowledgment of excellence.

“After all these years of fighting as a lawyer, I have, to some extent, an understanding and vision of a society ruled by law. A selection system has become a reality in China, so I want to have a try,” said Shang, who turns 39 on July 18.

Shang is bucking the trend in many Chinese cities, where some judges are leaving their positions. More than 500 court workers in Beijing resigned from 2000 to 2004, according to Beijing High People’s Court.

Intense workload and disproportionate income are the main reasons for quitting, insiders said.

Judge Yan Caiyan from Hunan province quit last year to become a lawyer. The 40-year-old told Xiaoxiang Morning Post that her monthly salary was around 3,000 yuan ($480)-below the average for the province-during her six years as a high court judge in Hunan.

In Shanghai, roughly 90 court workers resigned in 2013, and 72 quit in 2014, according to the Party commission in the city.

“It shows that judicial reform is highly anticipated,” said Wang, the deputy secretary.

Q&A

Shang Jiangang, a veteran lawyer, has been appointed senior judge at Shanghai No 2 Intermediate People’s Court.

How do you feel now, as you are to begin the new job?

I will treat the career of a judge as my lifelong career. I aim to realize my personal value in pursuit of a greater social value. However, I feel anxious about how to convert the experience of a lawyer into making myself a qualified judge, and about how to get along with new colleagues.

How do you regard the gap between your future income and that of the past?

Frankly, I’ve thought little about this. I’ve canceled a credit card with an annual minimum spending requirement, and I’m preparing to apply for a new card with a lower limit. Living expenses can be reduced if I adopt a simpler lifestyle.

What do your peers think of your decision? Why don’t they join the judicial team as well?

I exchanged ideas with many colleagues and heard many dissenting opinions about my decision. But most foreign lawyers favored it. I believe the principal barriers for many lawyers are practical concerns.

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