The Supreme People’s Court of China (SPC) has recently released Rules of Online Litigation of the People’s Court of China (Rules). The Rules are judicial interpretations formulated by the SPC binding on courts in Mainland China and will come into effect on 1 August 2021.
As the digital economy in China continues to grow, the Chinese courts are actively applying digital technology to their judicial practice. From online case filing and virtual hearings to establishing Internet courts and using blockchain to store evidence, the Chinese courts have been actively exploring different means to broaden the scope of digital technology.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled this development and prompted the Chinese courts to adopt online litigation as a medium for dispute resolution. According to a recent press conference of the SPC (as reported here), during the period from 1 January 2020 to 31 May 2021, approximately 13 million cases were filed online in Mainland China, amounting to 28.3% of the total number of cases filed in that period, and approximately 1.28 million online hearings were conducted. As for court-referred mediation cases, around 6.51 million of them were mediated online.
The SPC has enacted the Rules with reference to judicial practice of the Internet courts (in particular, the Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou Internet Courts) as well as experts’ advice. The Rules explain the basic principles, the applicable scope and conditions of online litigation, and provide guidance on various procedures including online case filing, hearings, announcement of judgments and enforcement.
The Rules help establish nationally unified standards for the conduct of litigation online in Mainland China. It is hoped that the Rules will enhance convenience and efficiency in litigation, and increase certainty in Mainland China.
Digitisation of judicial practice is snowballing in Mainland China and the new Rules are likely to act as a lynchpin in the continued rise of online litigation in the post-pandemic era in China.
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