China plans to overhaul the notary system by cutting 18,000 notaries - officers authorised to certify legal documents - from the government payroll. National People's Congress vice-chairman Jiang Chunyun said this week notary offices would be cut from the bureaucracy to become independent economic entities. Under the plan, 18,000 notary positions would be slashed from the government payroll gradually, starting from this month, Xinhua said. 'But that by no means means the authority, seriousness, fairness and accuracy of notary papers will be compromised,' Mr Jiang said. Under the new system, notary offices will become public undertakings affiliated to the Government and authorised to issue notary papers recognised by the authorities. Mr Jiang said the move was part of efforts to prepare judiciary professionals to meet the requirements of the World Trade Organisation. Meanwhile, the authorities have decided to allow the public to sit for exams to qualify as notaries. In next month's national notary exam, more than three-quarters of the applicants will be from outside the public notarial service system, Xinhua said. The Government will also subsidise public notary agencies that wish to become commercial firms. There are 3,200 notary offices in China. Created in the early 1950s, China's public notary system was abolished in 1957 and then resumed in 1978. China is busy reforming its legal system and amending laws to prepare for the imminent entry of the WTO.