China's top judge vowed yesterday to accelerate judicial reform in a bid to enhance independent court trials. Speaking at the opening ceremony of a national conference for senior judges in Beijing, Supreme Court President Xiao Yang said all levels of courts should independently and impartially conduct court trials, the China News Servicereported. Mr Xiao's remark came after Beijing on Monday announced a series of measures - most of which will come into affect on January 1 - to improve the professional standards of judges. The reforms include an amended Judge Law that stipulates the minimum education and work experience required for all levels of prosecutors and judges. According to one of the amendments, a candidate for higher court judge must have a masters in legal studies and have been practising for three years. A regulation requiring all potential judges to pass an exam before they are appointed will also be implemented in the new year. The Supreme Court last month also introduced a regulation stipulating the procedures required to sack incompetent or corrupt judges. The reforms come a week after China was officially admitted to the World Trade Organisation, which requires all members to adopt open, consistent and impartial court proceedings. But many mainland judges were not yet accustomed to the requirements of the WTO, Mr Xiao said. Some had not accepted that court trials should be independent and that a judge was supposed to be neutral in his or her stance, he admitted. Nepotism and bias were common - especially at many regional courts - and this had seriously harmed people's confidence in the judicial system. According to the latest issue of China News Service's weekly Xinwenzhoukan, a survey conducted recently showed that 40 per cent of respondents had a negative impression of mainland judges. Mr Xiao's comments were echoed by his deputy, Supreme Court vice-president Zhu Mingshan, who at the same meeting urged judges to fend off interference from local government officials and ministries. Mr Zhu told mainland judges to prepare for judicial reforms exploring ways to ensure independent and fair trials. The meeting held on Monday to improve the professional standards of mainland judges was followed yesterday by a national meeting of higher court judges.