Courts in Shenzhen have been forced to extend their opening hours into the evening to cope with a sharp increase in lawsuits. Shenzhen Intermediate Court yesterday asked its judges and court police to work extra shifts every Tuesday and Thursday night. Other district courts have also extended their working hours. The number of lawsuits received by the court reached 17,389 in the first eight months of the year, up 41.2 per cent over the same period last year. Many trials have been postponed because there have not been enough judges. 'Delays have become a very serious problem,' said Liu Zilong, a Shenzhen lawyer. 'Some cases have dragged on for years without a solution. The waiting time for a verdict is also just too long.' Mr Liu said the problem had been caused because the central government had not assigned enough judges to Shenzhen. 'Under the old planning, the number of judges assigned to a city was based on the permanent population of that city. Shenzhen has only 2 million permanent residents but its actual population is close to 10 million,' Mr Liu said. 'There are simply too few judges in Shenzhen. They have to serve a population which is several times bigger than what is planned.' Another lawyer, Wang Minli, attributed the sharp increase to the government's anti-crime campaign and a crackdown on illegal buildings. 'The Shenzhen government has launched several crime crackdowns since the beginning of this year,' Mr Wang said. 'The number of arrests has increased a lot. Incidentally, the campaign to demolish illegal buildings has also created many legal disputes.' He urged the government to hire more judges. 'If a case is held up for too long, it will be costly for both the plaintiff and the defendant,' he said. Lowu District Court judge Pei Hongquan said the court would not force its staff to work extra shifts. He said the evening court would be held only if all involved parties agreed.