Judges in Beijing court take extra half-day off

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 May, 2009, 12:00am

A court in Beijing closed yesterday as judges and court officials decided to take an extra half-day off ahead of the Labour Day holiday which starts today.

The decision triggered protests by dozens of lawyers and parties involved in cases, a lawyer who protested outside the Haidian District Court told the South China Morning Post.

'I called a court employee this morning and asked him whether they would work in the afternoon, and he said yes. But when I arrived here before 1pm, it was closed,' lawyer Chen Jihua said.

'I've had similar unhappy experiences before, but I never expected they would lie to me this time.'

The central government scrapped the May 1 'golden week' national holiday last year and replaced it with several shorter breaks spread throughout the year, including the Ching Ming festival in April, the Dragon Boat Festival in June and the Mid-Autumn Festival, to stimulate domestic consumption. 'All government offices are supposed to take a holiday on Friday plus days off on Saturday and Sunday. As a government department, Haidian court officials shouldn't make unilateral decisions to take a day off whenever they like,' Mr Chen said.

'Courts are not private enterprises but government offices that must serve the people.'

A Hunan resident said: 'I received a notice from local authorities to file a suit in the Haidian court today, but now it's closed. The court staff didn't alert us at all beforehand. It's very annoying. I have to return home and come here again next week. It wastes my time and money.'

However, Mr Chen said the decision was common in judicial departments. 'It is not only immoral, but also a serious problem in our legal system.' He said a petition aimed at sacking the court president would be presented to the Standing Committee of the Haidian District People's Congress, the court watchdog, on Monday.