Judicial Transparency of Chinese Courts
II. Disclosure of Trial Process
Disclosure of trial process is an important means to provide convenience for the general public to participate in litigation, protect the litigation rights of the case parties and satisfy and safeguard the needs and right to information of the general public. It is also a powerful measure to construct the open, dynamic, transparent and convenient sunshine judicial mechanism. From case acceptance and registration to service of judgments and verdicts and reconciliation statements, the trial activities of a people’s court shall be operated in the sunshine.
Information Disclosure of Trial Process On November 13, 2014, China’s first website on disclosure of information on trial process (http://www.court.gov.cn/zgsplcxxgkw/, hereinafter referred to as the “China Trial Process Information Disclosure Website”) has been officially launched after commissioning for three months. The Supreme People’s Court therefore becomes the first court in China to disclose information on trial process based the said Website. The case parties and their agents ad litem may at any time log on the said website to inquire, search and download relevant process information and materials, with their ID cards, mobile phone numbers and the inquiry codes and passwords provided by the Supreme People’s Court from the date of acceptance and registration of the case, in order to timely understand and supervise the progress of the case. The court trial records and the electronic service of procedural litigation documents and instruments of the cases tried by the Supreme People’s Court can all be consulted and completed on the China Trial Process Information Disclosure Website.
Since the launch for commissioning of the trial process information disclosure platform of the Supreme People’s Court on August 1, 2014, by the end of 2014, the number of notices of trial published on this platform has reached 429 in total, and there are 36,276 trial information disclosure items, and during this period, the traffic of China Trial Process Information Disclosure Website has exceeded 766,000. From August of to December of 2014, the trial process information of the 2,109 cases newly accepted by the Supreme People’s Court has been disclosed to the case parties and their agents ad litem, and the number of information disclosure items reaches 41,071, with 6,248 text messages successfully sent.
At present, in addition to the Supreme People’s Court, 22 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under central government including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, Shandong, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Chongqing, Sichuan, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia, have basically built up a provincial uniform trial process information disclosure platform linked with the China Trial Process Information Disclosure Website. The operation of the local trial process information disclosure platforms has basically satisfied the needs of the case parties and their agents ad litem in inquiring about the trial process information. Beijing court trial information website and mobile APPs allow visitors and users to inquire about the case progress in real time. Since July 1, 2014, the case parties can inquire about information on five categories (93 items in total), namely case acceptance and registration, case trail, case enforcement, trial period and close of case on Beijing court trial information website. By the end of 2014, over 1,005,000 trial process information has been published on Beijing court trial information website. Courts in Shanghai focus on the whole process disclosure and provide information disclosure services for the case parties from acceptance of case to close of case, and the information on trial process disclosed by the end of 2014 has exceeded 4,554,000 on a cumulative basis. China Trial Process Information Disclosure Website is planning to realize the linking with the court process information disclosure platforms of all higher people’s courts in China in the future, aiming to facilitate the case parties and their agents ad litem to inquire and follow up the case progress and update on the same platform.
Disclosure of Case Registration
Disclosure of case registration is an important part of judicial transparency. People’s courts at all levels are proactively promoting the construction of litigation service center and equipping themselves with electronic touch screens and electronic bulletins, and are carrying out the setting-up of instrument sample inquiry counters and litigation guidance counters, provision of litigation guidance, litigation risk disclosure and other related materials, and arrangement of special personnel to provide guidance for any litigation issue raised by the general public. The case parties will be clearly informed of the case registration conditions, case registration procedures, litigation charging standards and other relevant information through 12368 litigation service hotline, mobile APPs, administrative affairs disclosure websites and other channels.
Many courts have already built up all-around, all-dimensional and one-stop litigation service platforms to realize the organic combination of judicial transparency and provision of judicial convenience to the masses. By the end of 2014, twelve regions (including Beijing and Shanghai) have deployed the 12368 litigation service system. One of the typical examples in this aspect is the 12368 litigation service platform established by courts in Shanghai, through which case parties can contact judges, inquire case information, consult about litigation, file complaints and petitions, express opinions and propose suggestions, obtain psychological consulting services, provide social comments, supervise and examine the works of the court by means of hotline, text message, internet, WeChat, Weibo, service windows and other means. By the end of 2014, the platform hotline has answered over 100,000 incoming calls and handled over 20,000 inquiries made through self-service voice messages, and the said network platform has sent out over 120,000 text messages on involvement in the case and litigation services. Guangdong Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court is one of the pioneer local people’s courts in opening up 12368 litigation service hotline in China, and all basic courts within its jurisdiction have now been covered by the hotlines. There are two modes of hotline services available to users, 24 hour self-service inquiry and manual service during work hours, and over 20,000 calls have been answered through manual service since its inception. Jiangsu Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court has launched the “Mobile App Online Litigation Service Platform”, which allows online case registration and service of legal documents and provides 13 litigation services including information inquiry, judge booking, receipt and transfer of materials, online petition, post judgment Q&A, commutation and parole, case inquiry and judgments, verdicts and reconciliation statements, and has innovated the ways for the masses to participate in the litigation and increased the transparency of case registration.
Court Trial Disclosure
Court trial is the core of the trial activities of a people’s court and the key of judicial transparency. The people’s courts at all levels have proactively made innovations on court trial disclosure means, and have carried out court trial disclosure via video, audio, graphic and text, Weibo and other methods and expanded the forms and scope of court trial disclosure.
All local people’s courts are strengthening the construction of technology court and digital court, carrying out entire synchronous audio and video recording of the court trial activities, and conducting centralized storage, regular backup and long-term preservation of such recording in digital form. The use of electronic litigation files has been promoted, and the case parties and their agents ad litem may inquire court recordings and electronic case files in accordance with relevant regulations, and some courts may even provide internet remote case files reading services. Courts in Shandong have established electronic case files for all cases, and all cases in trial will have entire synchronous audio and video recording. And all electronic case files and court trial recordings are available to case parties for consulting, and information on trial process from the date of acceptance of case will be disclosed to the case parties. Courts in Jiangsu have promoted the “three synchronous” practices, namely, synchronous audio and video recording, synchronous records and synchronous display of court trial records, and all 2,279 scientific trial courts in Jiangsu province have realized the “three synchronous” practices for court trial. 1,783 trial courts in Zhejiang province have been all built into digital courts and realized “recording every court trial”, and the audio and video records and materials have cumulated to ,, copies. By the end of 2014, there are 17,740 technology courts constructed in China.
The Supreme People’s Court has revised the Court Rules of People’s Courts (issuing soon) to establish and improve rules on orderly opening and effective management of the attendance of trials and court reporting, and to legally protect citizens’ right to attend court trial. The local people’s courts have proactively invited NPC members, CPPCC members, experts and scholars and members of the community to attend and observe court trial and consciously accept the supervision by the public. Many courts have launched measures such as attending court trial by ID cards or other valid identity proof and booking attendance to court trial online, and strived to provide convenience to citizens attending court trial.
On December 11, 2013, China Court’s Live Trial (http://ts.chinacourt.org/) has officially launched and citizens may watch live broadcasting and recording of court trial online. By the end of 2014, there are 519 live broadcasting of court trials through China Court’s Live Trial (http://ts.chinacourt.org/). In 2014, people’s courts at all levels have conducted live broadcasting for over 8, court trials. People’s courts at all levels have made full use of television, network, Weibo, WeChat and other media to legally carry out live broadcasting of significant cases of open court trial. On December 4, 2013, the Supreme People’s Court for the first time used television live broadcasting, radio connection, online live broadcasting and other omnimedia forms to broadcast live of “Qihoo 360 v. Tencent Antitrust Appeal Case”, with a court trial period of over 28 hours, a historical record of live broadcasting time of the Supreme People’s Court. From August 22-26, 2013, Shandong Jinan Intermediate People’s Court has carried out entire Weibo broadcast of the BO Xilai’s case on taking bribery, corruption and abuse of power, and over 150 Weibo messages with nearly 160,000 words have been sent during the five day court trial. Guangdong Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court has launched a “fulltime” court trial online broadcasting project, and since its inception of the new court trial online broadcasting platform on September 24, 2014, people’s courts of two tiers in Guangzhou have completed online broadcasting for 609 cases in one month, and a new normal court trial live broadcasting characterized as “Live Broadcasting Everyday and Live Broadcasting for each case” has been basically formed. Chongqing First Intermediate People’s Court has carried out “bi-network synchronous live broadcasting” by its official Weibo ID and official website, and the live broadcasting of the “Case of JDB v. Wong Lo Kat over Unfair Competition” tried by the Court has been viewed by more than 150,000 times. Many courts have introduced court trial live broadcasting into the electronic screen of the litigation service centers and city square LED screens, to directly show the court trial scenes to the general public.
Disclosure of Commutation, Parole and Serving Sentence outside Prison Temporarily
The Supreme People’s Court is making efforts to facilitate the justice of cases of commutation, parole and serving sentence outside prison temporarily through the open sunshine judicial mechanism. On April 23, the Supreme People’s Court has promulgated the Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Trial Procedures for Commutation and Parole Cases, to standardize the trial procedures for commutation and parole cases. The Supreme People’s Court is now making every effort to safeguard the disclosure and justice of cases of commutation, parole and serving sentence outside prison temporarily in accordance with the requirements of “five alls”. For all cases of commutation, parole and serving sentence outside prison temporarily, the commutation or parole recommendation or the application for serving sentence outside prison temporarily and other materials shall be legally disclosed to the general public after such cases are registered; for all cases of commutation or parole of criminals committed duty-related crimes, organized crimes related to gangs and financial crimes, such cases shall be legally heard in public; for all public hearing of cases of commutation or parole of criminals committed duty-related crimes, organized crimes related to gangs and financial crimes, NPC members, CPPCC members or relevant representatives shall be invited to attend the court trial; for all judgments, verdicts and reconciliation statements of the cases of commutation, parole or serving sentence outside prison temporarily, they shall be legally published on Judicial Opinions of China (http://www.court.gov.cn/zgcpwsw/); and for all personnel of the courts who have acted against discipline or laws, or even constituted a crime during his/her handling of the cases of commutation, parole and serving sentence outside prison temporarily, they shall be legally investigated liabilities and given heavier punishment for that.
All local people’s courts are proactively promoting the construction of the commutation and parole working mechanism to take digital courts within prison as their focuses, in order to enhance the trial transparency of commutation and parole cases. Hebei Hengshui Intermediate People’s Court has used technology court within the prison to greatly promote the disclosure and transparency of commutation and parole, and the parole case trial rate and the commutation case trial rate (for corruption and malfeasance cases with high social concerns) have both reached 100%. Jiangsu Xuzhou Intermediate People’s Court has established the working mechanism of “accompanying by judge, inspecting with records, making checks at all levels, social supervision and regular announcement” for cases of serving sentence outside prison temporarily, and invited the people’s procuratorate, NPC members and CPPCC members to carry out valid supervision over the cases of serving sentence outside prison temporarily, in order to enhance the transparency of the examination over severing sentence outside prison temporarily.