Chinese courts go digital (China Daily)

Wu Bin, vice president of Shanghai Media Group, demonstrates the app for China’s Supreme Court in Beijing on Feb 27, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING – Observing a case live on your iPad, filing a lawsuit online and paying legal fees via mobile phone… The Internet has made Chinese courts more accessible, transparent and even cool.

Most courts are establishing or have established online service platforms.

If you are located in Shanghai and want to file a lawsuit, you can just log onto the website of the Shanghai Higher People’s Court, enter the lawsuit service page and choose a court in your administrative district.

Following the prompts, you fill in the personal information of all parties and the appeal, upload the plaintiff’s identification and evidence, then submit it for the court’s review. Applicants are promised a reply, and they can track the process of the review.

China plans to digitalize all its courts by the end of 2017, to give all people access to them via computer and mobile phone anytime, anywhere.

Northeast China’s Jilin was the first to operate a provincial e-court, in June. Before its trial run, provincial higher court chief Wang Changsong went to the Republic of Korea (ROK) to learn from similar systems being used there.

The ROK’s online court set-up impressed Wang much. A local court there spent 10 minutes receiving, registering and reviewing a case through the system, a process which could take a Chinese counterpart a whole day. It took just another hour to try the case. Wang learned that over half of the ROK’s civil cases are handled online.

People in Jilin can now go through all legal procedures, except court trial, via the province’s own e-court.

It saves time and cost in filing cases, which will motivate more people to seek legal weapons in protecting rights, according Wang.

The digital platform of Guangdong Higher People’s Court allows interaction between the public and legal staff. Users can raise questions with judges.

In case of emergency, the platform also enables lawyers to quickly get in contact with judges, raising work efficiency, said Liu Tao, supervisor of the Guangdong lawyers’ association.

The province is rolling the digital services out to its 157 courts.

As China promotes integration of the Internet into industry and business, technology should be used to improve court work and help meet people’s demands, said He Rong, deputy head of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC).

Digital infrastructure also helps with releases of information.

All Chinese non-military courts have been linked to a central database to which they are encouraged to upload information on trials, verdicts and the implementation of court decisions.

The project, launched in June 2014, will make information more accessible to the public, while ensuring data is better managed, according to the SPC.

It also links the courts with government branches and banks, facilitating enquiries and the freezing of accounts that belong to those who default on court decisions.

Moreover, 3,261 courts now have accounts on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. The SPC’s account has 13 million followers.

The SPC has also registered in popular messaging app WeChat and even launched its own mobile app to publish legal news and broadcast court trials.

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