People convicted of minor offences will be sentenced to community service orders under a trial scheme launched in parts of Beijing, according to Xinhua. The pilot scheme, under way in 47 communities in the capital, was spearheaded by the Ministry of Justice as part of judicial reform efforts, it said. Local communities will be responsible for the conduct of offenders while they carry out community service under the supervision of civic groups or government agencies. According to Ji Lin, a Beijing municipal official in charge of legal affairs, mainland criminal law allows for community service as a rehabilitation measure, but courts have a long-standing practice of handing out prison sentences. 'The judicial authorities should abandon obsolete concepts that punishment equals imprisonment, that stability stems from harsh punishment and that prisons are responsible for reforming criminals,' Xinhua quoted Mr Ji as saying. Vice-Minister of Justice, Duan Zhengkun, was quoted as saying that Beijing was chosen to launch the trial in the hope that the capital's experience would set a precedent for other parts of China. Liu Chongshun, a sociologist with the Wuhan Academy of Social Sciences in Hubei province, said community service was an ideal rehabilitation measure for minor offenders. 'When compared with imprisonment, community service can better help minor offenders in ... socialisation,' said Dr Liu. 'Besides, the cost of community service is usually cheaper than imprisonment and this helps ensure more effective use of government resources.'