The Supreme People's Court has issued a document to reinforce the authority of judges and reduce interference in the judiciary. The document, which was published by the Legal Daily yesterday came after top judicial officials repeatedly defended the professional standards and independence of mainland judges. The latest document mirrored much of the provisions contained in the Judge Law but it also spelled out in more specific terms the authority and professional standards of Chinese judges. The Judge Law came into effect on January. The document states judges can be dismissed or demoted only if they have broken the Judge Law and the penalty must be approved following 'necessary legal procedures' - a reference to scrutiny by the local people's congress. '[We] must on the one hand raise the entry requirement for judges . . . but on the other hand make sure that once a person becomes a judge, he or she cannot . . . be dismissed, demoted or laid off without going through the necessary legal procedures,' the document said. Ni Shouming, deputy editor-in-chief of the Beijing-based People's Court Daily, said the document would give the profession a boost. The daily is published by the Supreme People's Court. 'The document serves as a supplementary explanation to the Judge Law, and this would help raise the professional standard of judges,' Ni said. The quality and standards of mainland judges have come under the spotlight following China's accession to the World Trade Organisation in December. Under WTO regulations, the mainland must build a professional and independent judiciary. This month, the president of the Supreme People's Court, Xiao Yang, called on judges to stand up for judicial independence and resist 'outside interference'. Mainland judges are often criticised for lacking independence. Critics have said that many judges are not professionally trained and are prone to influence by local government and Communist Party officials who pay their wages. They also said many 'judges' in provinces were decommissioned soldiers and retired policemen who entered the profession through their connections with local leaders. But the document repeated that all judges must pass national qualification examinations before they can sit on the bench. In addition, it made clear that judges should be promoted from within the ranks of the judiciary and their appointments must be approved by the Supreme People's Court. The stipulation appeared to be aimed at protecting the judiciary from the nepotism of local officials. The document allows some courts to experiment with a trial system of 'judge assistants' to groom potential candidates as future judges.