HONG KONG experts have urged Beijing to speed up legal reform to boost the confidence of foreign investors caught up in civil suits. The Supreme People's Court of China has called on all local courts to adopt internationally accepted methods of gathering evidence. But only a few regions, such as Shanxi, have adopted the new system, under which all parties to a dispute are responsible for presenting evidence themselves. The court is only expected to gather evidence when the parties concerned cannot. This is different from the traditional system, under which evidence was supposed to be gathered by the court. Under the new system, the court will be open to the public and the times of cases announced. Xinhua (the New China News Agency) said the old system lagged far behind China's economic development and left many loopholes for corruption. Associate Professor of Law at the People's University in Beijing, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, said the old system was open to abuse. 'The immense power vested in the judge would leave him vulnerable to bribes,' she said. Professor Leung, who also lectures at Hong Kong's City Polytechnic, said reform would boost investors' confidence as there was an increasing number of Hong Kong people becoming involved in mainland civil lawsuits, such as contractual disputes. The new system would prevent mainland judges favouring the public prosecutor or state enterprises, she said. Legislator and deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Henry Tang Ying-yen, agreed reform was important as he believed the number of Hong Kong people involved in the mainland's civil lawsuits would continue to rise. 'As Hong Kong businessmen invest in more diverse areas in the mainland, the likelihood of legal disputes also escalates,' Mr Tang said. Ma Yuan, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court of Shanxi, said the new system had cut the average time spent on a case and the number of appeals. Under the new system, a collegiate bench will be set up as soon as a civil case is filed. After checking the charges and the defence, the bench will give both parties advice and a time frame for producing evidence.