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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 11:35 GMT
China to introduce trial by jury
China is to introduce jury trials next year as part of reforms to its legal system, state media has reported.

Jurors will be elected to serve a five-year term and must have at least two years of university education, court officials were quoted as saying.

Under the current system, judges are the sole arbiters in China's courts, which have been widely criticised for their lack of independence.

The number of judges will also be increased by 10%, the reports said.

According to the China Daily, the candidates will be chosen through elections in January and February, and will then be trained in March and April.

It is unclear how the elections will be carried out.

The new jurors will have powers equal to a judge, the reports said.

At the moment, China has about 24,000 "people's jurors", but these are not elected, have a low level of education, and serve purely as "figureheads", the paper said.

The move to establish a jury system was one of nine tasks China's Supreme People's Court decided on at a meeting on Friday for next year, it said.

Xiao Yang, the court's president, told the meeting that as the country became wealthier, it needed to strengthen its judiciary, and pinpointed fraud, intellectual property infringement, official corruption and human rights violations in the judiciary as specific areas of concern.

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