China / Society

Database to help handle cross-border cases

By Cao Yin (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-08 07:52

New rule also being developed under which foreigners can hear cases in Chinese courts

A database for searching foreign laws is being developed along with a new rule under which foreigners can visit Chinese courts, the Supreme People's Court announced on Tuesday.

The moves represent the latest effort to improve access to China's legal system as the country pushes its Belt and Road Initiative, the court said.

The database will cover foreign laws, international conventions and contracts, and will be shared through China's court network for judges to search and study.

Under international conventions, litigants have a right to choose which law they prefer to apply in a commercial dispute, and the ongoing trade initiative may bring a wave of such cases, said Luo Dongchuan, chief judge of the foreign-related tribunal at the top court.

If the database can be built up, it will help courts improve efficiency and accuracy when hearing cross-border cases, especially commercial and maritime cases.

In addition, it will help to ensure that litigants receive legal services in a timely manner, Luo said.

Ten Chinese maritime tribunals handled 21,548 marine cases in 2013, and cases are increasing at an annual rate of about 10 percent a year, Luo said.

"The quick search of foreign laws and their accurate application will help to polish our courts' image throughout the world and effectively boost our judicial credibility," he said.

As the trade initiative rolls out, covering more than 60 countries and intended to promote common development and regional integrity, Chinese courts should play a key role in providing legal structure, he said.

Currently, the top court is negotiating with China University of Political Science and Law to design the database, which it hopes to make available in both Chinese and English, he said.

In another development, a rule governing foreigners' visits to Chinese courts to hear cases is also being studied, he said, adding that the move is designed for judicial transparency and for convenience.

Luo confirmed that some related explorations about the rule have been in the process for some time, saying a German law researcher was allowed to sit in the top court to hear a commercial case involving a Singapore company in June last year.

Both Chinese and foreign litigants should be treated equally, he said, noting that it's the highlight of the guideline.

"We'd like to make more contracts on mutual legal assistance with the countries that have joined the Belt and Road Initiative," he said.

In addition, Chinese courts are required to take up criminal cases that arise internationally, including drug trafficking, money laundering and telecom fraud, the guideline said.

Zhang Wenguang, deputy director of the Institute of International Law of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that such a "legal escort" is needed to ensure that the initiative develops smoothly.

The guideline also sends a signal that problems in the initiative should be resolved through an orderly legal process, and Chinese courts will have the confidence to hear foreign-related cases, Zhang said.

Hot Topics