Chinese judges told 'cook your own meals at work' to avoid banquet bribes
Culinary know-how should be 'a must' in judges' work evaluation, says Henan justice chief
Impartiality, efficiency and intelligence are all required of a competent judge, but according to one court chief from Henan, good culinary abilities should also be on the list.
The ability to prepare good food will not only increase productivity, but preclude court officials from being wined and dined by individuals who have a conflict of interest in court cases, according to Zhang Liyong, chief of the Henan Higher People’s Court.
“A chief judge of the court must learn to cook some dishes. This should be embedded in the [performance] evaluation system,” Zhang was quoted as saying during an inspection of county courts in Henan.
“If people involved in the case are buying [the meal], chances are that judges will go to the lunch. It has to do with the image of the court and the [potential for] corruption,” Zhang said.
Zhang said lunches were also important in ensuring good performance in the afternoon as they give energy. Otherwise, “staff will not stick to their posts”, he said.
His comments, which seemed to suggest chief judges should be able to cook for themselves and court staff in between their heavy workloads, became a hot topic on the mainland blogosphere.
“What kind of requirement is that?” some internet users said.
One blogger remarked sarcastically: “I recommend the judges learn to cook and get a certificate first before applying for the job.”
The Henan Higher People’s Court today clarified on its Weibo page that Zhang simply made a “demand [for] court police to have a nice lunch and a recommendation for chief judges to learn how to cook to prevent judges from accepting banquet [invitations] from the parties involved in a case”.
It said the existing evaluation system “of grass-roots-level courts do not include whether the judge can cook”.
On March 31, Zhang went on an inspection tour of five grass-roots-level courts, according to the Henan Legal News.
The higher people’s court said in a statement that Zhang visited every kitchen in each court, where he “uncovered pots, went through cardboard boxes and checked the refrigerator”, and inspected cooking tools and food stocks.
Zhang’s brief lecture on cooking prompted one local judge to invite the Henan court official back to the county for a taste test.
The lower courts have responded warmly to Zhang’s advice, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily.
A judge told the newspaper that the Henan court system started a campaign to build a canteen, dormitory, garden, library and recreation room to improve the work environment of judges and court guards.
The unnamed judge praised the campaign for promoting an “atmosphere of eating” at court rather than dining out with people who could potentially bribe or influence magistrates.
The Nanyang Intermediate People’s Court reportedly ordered officials from lower-level courthouses to “have a meal and inspect how well the judge cooks”, and added culinary skills to the criteria for the “outstanding judge” title announced at the end of the year.
A court in Nanzhao county, under the Henan capital city of Nanyang, said judges would receive one-month training and judges who could not cook “would be transferred”.
In Neixiang county, also under Nanyang, culinary prowess was made a requirement for good marks in the year-end performance evaluation.
Other courts earmarked funds for new kitchen equipment.