Grassroots court employees complained yesterday at the NPC that a lack of financial and professional support was creating problems for the judiciary. Gu Zhaosheng, an official at Gaozhou city People's Court in Guangdong, said funding from the Government and the Supreme People's Court which was supposed to pay for better facilities was being held by the city Government. The resulting shortage of funds had hindered the daily operation of the court. Funding from Beijing contributes about 30 per cent to a local court's operational budget. 'We have to pay for work-related expenses such as medical fees and transport fees for business trips and this is not reimbursed for the next six months,' Mr Gu, a Guangdong NPC delegate, said at a group discussion. He said these kind of financial difficulties were often faced by local courts in remote and poor regions. 'The lack of funding has led to a manpower shortage, with only 93 judges and legal assistants working on all the cases,' he said, adding that many judges had to do administrative work as well as sit in court, resulting in long working hours. Besides funding problems, the lack of professional staff was another major difficulty faced by grassroots courts. 'Among the 93 judges and legal assistants, only eight are qualified in legal studies at university level, while others are officers transferred from other public bodies or from the military, as the Government is downsizing the armed forces, ' Mr Gu said. Another NPC delegate, Chen Ziyun, a lawyer, urged the Government to raise judges' salaries in a bid to boost their morality, minimise the attraction of corruption and prevent a brain drain. 'Some lawyers in remote grassroots district courts only get a few hundred yuan each month but have to work a lot of overtime and finish at least one case each day,' Ms Chen, head of Tianjue Law Firm in Guangdong said. A judge at a grassroots court in a less developed province normally receives about 600 yuan (HK$564) a month, a high court judge in Beijing might get about 2,000 yuan and those in coastal areas such as Shenzhen may get 7,000 yuan per month. Ms Chen said new anti-graft measures which required judges to be relocated after a certain period of service in a city might help stem corruption, although it could affect the efficiency in handling court cases, as newly appointed judges might not be able to effectively get to grips with cases during the transition period.