Creating a Higher Level of Digital Justice and Serving the High-quality Development of Digital

( Updated : 2022-06-02

Creating a Higher Level of Digital Justice and Serving the High-quality Development of Digital Economy

Keynote Speech at the Forum on Rule of Law in Digital Economy

Zhou Qiang, Chief Justice, President of the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China

(May 26, 2022)

Distinguished delegates and honorable guests,

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

In the present era, with a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation having been accelerating, digital economy, as the main economic form following the agricultural economy and industrial economy, is now becoming a key force in reorganizing global production factors and resources, reshaping the global economic structure and changing the pattern of global competition. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, China has attached great importance to the development of digital economy, implemented the national cyber development strategy and the national big data strategy, advanced the development of a digital China and a smart society, and accelerated digital industrialization and industrial digitalization. By 2021, China is home to 1.032 billion internet users and 842 million online shoppers. China has ranked the first globally in online retail sales for nine consecutive years, with the utilization rate of online payment reaching nearly 90%, while the scale of its digital economy has ranked second across the globe for many years in a row. Especially since the outbreak of COVID-19, the digital technology and the digital economy have played an essential role in fighting against the pandemic and restoring normal production and life. Chinese courts have closely kept pace with the development of the times, followed the rule of law and strengthened institutional innovation. Efforts will be taken to vigorously promote the building of Internet-based justice and smart courts, promote all-round judicial reform, and explore new models of governance in the digital society, thus serving the high-quality development of the digital economy with higher level of digital justice.

1. Responding to the Development Needs of the Digital Economy and Building a New Judicial Model in the Digital Era

Relying on modern information technology, Chinese courts have reshaped the traditional adjudication model and litigation process, established and improved an internet-based system of judicial rules, and pushed for changes in the quality, efficiency and dynamics of judicial adjudication, in an effort to promote the modernization of the adjudicatory system and capability.

First, we have implemented an online trial mechanism to enable the whole judicial process online. Since 2017, three Internet courts have been set up successively in Hangzhou, Beijing, and Guangzhou, thus taking the lead in exploring the "online case proceedings" mechanism, which has been gradually expanded and popularized among the courts nationwide. The whole judicial process, beginning from case-filing, adjudication, service, to enforcement, can be completed online. In 2021, a total of 11.439 million cases have been filed online and accepted by the courts across the country, reaching an online case-filing rate of 30.9%. 1.275 million online trials were held. The scale, quality, effectiveness and efficiency of online litigations have continued to improve and a parallel online and offline litigation model has basically taken shape. In particular, since the outbreak of the COVID-19, online litigation has been accelerated and widely applied to make sure that various cases are heard in a fair and efficient way, in an aim to ensure that trial and enforcement are carried out without interruption, with undisturbed fairness and justice.

Second, we have improved online judicial rules and promoted the transformation and upgrading of the litigation system. The Supreme People's Court of China is in the forefront of the world to introduce the "Three Major Rules" of online litigation, online mediation, and online operation of people's courts. The "Three Major Rules", with clear scope of respective responsibilities yet closely aligned with each other, fully cover all judicial activities involved and run through the entire trial and enforcement process, which render the legal basis to carry out all kinds of online judicial activities in a legitimate and compliant manner, and mark the preliminary formation of an online judicial rules system with Chinese characteristics. The Civil Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China, revised at the end of 2021, has extensively absorbed the relevant achievements and experience of the people’s courts in online judicial affairs, clarified the legal effects of online litigation in legislation, and vigorously promoted the advancement of the litigation legal system in the digital age.

Third, we have deepened the integration of technology with justice and constantly enhanced quality and efficiency of trials. Modern technologies such as 5G, big data, cloud computing, blockchain and artificial intelligence are widely applied in litigation services, pre-litigation mediation, case trials, trial management and other areas. The Online Service Platform of the People's Court has been established to offer access to more than 3,500 courts nationwide. Its diversified, whole-chain, one-stop online litigation services have drawn over 2.362 billion accumulated visits since opening to the public. Various intelligent platforms for automatic sorting according to cases' complexity, text recognition of electronic files, voice recognition and transcription, intelligent case portraits, automatic verification of evidence, accurate push of laws and similar cases, etc., have been developed to improve the quality and efficiency of trials to a great extent, and reduce workload of judges and judicial staff. For example, the Unified Judicial Blockchain Platform of the People's Court has completed the online documentation and storage of more than 2.2 billion pieces of data and evidence, thus effectively solving the previously difficult problems of evidence storage, collection, and certification in litigation. Prior to this forum, the Supreme People’s Court of China already took the lead in issuing the Opinions on Promoting the Widespread Application of Blockchain in the Judicial Field.

2. Giving Full Play to the Role of Judicial Adjudication Functions and Serving the Solid Development of the Digital Economy

Chinese courts have thoroughly grasped the development trend and internal rules of the digital economy, accurately identified the integration point and breakthrough point of judicial services, and guided new technologies, new industries, new business forms and new models to develop in a regulated and solid manner on the track of the rule of law through impartial adjudication and reform and innovation, in an aim to promote the digital rule of law and realize the modernization of the social governance system and capacity.

First, we formulated judicial interpretations to improve judicial protection. Focusing on the judicial needs around the development of the digital economy, the Supreme People's Court of China has formulated judicial interpretations on face recognition, online consumption, anti-unfair competition, and online-related intellectual property infringement. By clarifying the judgment standards, and strengthening the rules and guidelines, the Supreme People's Court aims to ensure that various new Internet business models are operated in a regulated and solid way, and to create a solid legal environment for the development of the digital economy. Efforts have also been made to actively participate in the formulation and revision of the Cybersecurity Law, the Data Security Law, the Anti-monopoly Law, the E-commerce Law, the Personal Information Protection Law and other laws, hoping to promote the continuous improvement of the digital economy legal system and supervision system.

Second, we enhanced the guidance of rules of adjudication to build up a sound digital ecology. Courts in China have been vigorously promoting the professionalism of online trials, by setting up Internet courts, specialized chambers, collegial benches or judge teams. We have also built up a well-matched supporting mechanism. Through fair and efficient trials of a series of digital-economy–related cases according to law, with significance of rules setting, we hopes to further unleash the leading potential of judicial adjudication. For example, the trial for the first “big data ownership case” in China draws a specific line between data utilization and personal information ownership, strengthening the protection of digital rights and interests. The hearing for the “click-farming advertisement case” clearly defines the boundaries of Internet business model innovation, with severe punishment for the behavior of online brushing and credit manipulation and identity theft. The proceeding for the “online game copyright case” clarifies attributes, protection scope and accountability mechanism of new types of intellectual property rights on the Internet. The trials for foreign-related cases such as the “Peppa Pig copyright infringement case” prove extensive engagement in global cyberspace governance, with equal and legitimized protection of legal rights of both Chinese and foreign parties.

Third, we expanded judicial service functions to promote the improvement of the digital economy governance system. We work to enhance governance through judicial case handing. Regular release of typical online cases gives play to their role as models and as a firm support for healthy development of digital economy. We stick to deep integration of judicial work with social governance, with one-stop diversified dispute resolution and litigation service system in place in support of governments’ administrative enforcement in the digital economy according to law, and the prevention and resolution of roots of contradictions and disputes. We are committed to judicial big-data–based social governance. Judicial big data center enables effective collection, classification, verification, and application of all kinds of judicial data, with over 220 big data reports on economic and social operation having been generated so far. Through thorough analysis of the potential contradictions and disputes in economic and social operation, China strives to set up a good example in its endeavors to promote digital economy, social governance, and a safe China.

Fourth, we intensified research on issues relevant to the rule of law in the digital economy to further the development of the digital rule of law. The advances in digital technology and the digital economy have brought about a series of issues urgently to be studied and addressed, such as the nature and ownership of the digital assets, the legal status of robots, legal liability of unmanned driving, the legal and ethical boundaries of gene-editing technology, etc. The Supreme People’s Court of the People's Republic of China is cooperating with relevant research institutes and universities to conduct in-depth research to address these issues, facilitating and ensuring the advances of digital technology and the digital economy so as to promote the development of digital rule of law.

3. Practicing True Multilateralism and Serving the Formulation of a New Pattern of Digital Cooperation

On January 17, 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out at the 2022 World Economic Forum that China will continue to expand its high-level opening up to the outside world, and proposed to create generally-accepted and effective rules for artificial intelligence and the digital economy. From proposing a Global Initiative on Data Security to advancing its accession to the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA), China has always been dedicated to expanding opening up, meeting high-level international rules and standards, and promoting the development of the global digital governance system in a more just and reasonable direction. Chinese courts are willing to work with judicial organs from all over the world to carry out in-depth exchanges and cooperation on the digital rule of law, serve the construction of a digital cooperation pattern, and jointly maintain and improve the multilateral digital economic governance mechanism, so that digital civilization can better benefit the people of all countries.

First, we will adhere to equality and mutual benefit. The rapid development of the digital economy has a profound impact on global scientific and technological innovation, industrial restructuring, and socioeconomic development, but also it brings "data hegemony", "digital divide" and other risks and challenges. Jointly upholding the principles of fairness, justice, openness and inclusiveness, Chinese courts are willing to work with judicial organs globally to protect the legitimate rights and interests of various market entities both at home and abroad in an all-round, law-based and equal manner. Besides, we will properly handle cases concerning new forms of digital economy in accordance with the law, and work together to build an open, fair and non-discriminatory digital business environment for mutual benefit and win-win results.

Second, we will pursue safe and orderly environment for development. The solid development of the digital economy is closely related to the well-being of the general public, the protection of rights and interests, and even the social stability and national security, which cannot be achieved without the guarantee of the rule of law. Chinese courts are willing to work with judicial organs across the globe to fully build up the concept of digital thinking, transform the model of judicial governance and give full play to the role of judicial functions. Measures will also be taken to severely punish all types of crimes involving network information, data security, intellectual property, etc. in accordance with the law. In addition, we will support the construction of digital infrastructure, promote the improvement of digital security system, and build a strong digital security barrier, in an effort to facilitate the standardized and solid development of the digital economy.

Third, we will continue to work together to achieve extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. The global digital economy is open and interconnected as a whole, while win-win cooperation serves as the only correct path. Jointly upholding the global governance concept of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, Chinese courts are willing to work with judicial organs around the world to continuously deepen judicial exchanges, improve cooperation mechanisms such as case sharing, legal exchanges, judicial assistance and training of judges. Furthermore, efforts will be made to jointly improve a new type of cooperation platform, integrate judicial resources and enhance information exchange, in an aim to achieve more efficient judicial participation and jointly get on a fast track amid the development of Internet and digital economy. We will make joint efforts to achieve common development, safeguard security, participate in co-governance and share the benefits.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

It is a common task faced by the judicial organs of all countries to give full play to the role of the judiciary, create a higher level of digital justice and serve the high-quality development of the digital economy. Chinese courts are ready to join hands with judicial organs across the globe to further deepen exchanges and cooperation, share experience and practices, and work together to optimize the digital social environment and build the digital cooperation pattern. In pursuing digital civilization, we will better benefit the people of all countries and renew our great contributions to the building of a community of shared future in cyberspace and a community of shared future for mankind! Thank you!