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China Breakthroughs: Cyber Space Court ushers in 'digital justice'

Editor: Li Xiang 丨CCTV.com

07-11-2017 15:39 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

 China Breakthroughs: Cyber Space Court ushers in 'digital justice'

A new era of justice is emerging. China's courts are transforming into a hub for hi-tech innovations while the nation faces an increasing number of internet-related cases entering the judicial system.

Cybercrimes and lawsuits, which are linked to intellectual property rights and e-Commerce complaints, have overwhelmed courts nationwide.

To resolve the huge back-log of cases, China's Supreme People's Court has opened up a cyber space court in Hangzhou, capital city of  east China's Zhejiang Province to handle seven different types of cases that include online shopping and intellectual property rights.

The cyber space court started as a pilot project in 2015 and last June China's Central Government granted approval for the Hangzhou court to tackle all cyberspace cases in the country.

Growing need for cyber court

"Setting up this type of court is inevitable," China.org.cn quotes Wu Fei, an attorney specializing in online cases at the Zhongwen law firm in China, as saying.

Wu added, "The rapid development of the Internet has brought lots of legal problems, including copyright infringements and e-Commerce disputes."

The Hangzhou court is state-of-the-art, which has been upgraded with hi-tech devices that allow plaintiffs to file cases and upload evidence online. Court hearings are conducted via online video chats. Judges even use the Internet to deliver verdicts.

"This tryout paved the way for the cyber space court and it could end up helping create a justice system that harnesses the power of the Internet to improve legal efficiency and provide better services," said Wu.

Hangzhou as ideal city

No other city stands more suited to play host to China's Cyberspace Court than Hangzhou. The city is home to the world's largest e-Commerce retailer, Alibaba Group that operates Tabao and TMall online shopping sites.

A number of successful hi-tech firms have flocked to Hangzhou. Accordingly, it's ground zero in the nation for Internet litigation cases.

Alibaba receives about 4 million customer complaints annually and those cases that did not get resolved out-of-court are then taken to the judge for settlement.

Last year, the Hangzhou Cyber Space Court handled over 10,000 cases, compared to 600 cases nationwide in 2013.

Of course when big money transactions change hands, there's a greater likelihood for cybercrimes to occur. In recent years, there's been an explosion of cyber thieves and scammers defrauding many Chinese citizens and expats.

The Hangzhou Cyber Space Court is expected to tackle the surge of cyber crimes.

New wave of court cases

Wang Sixin, a law professor at Communication University of China, believes the Hangzhou Cyber Space Court can serve as a model for a new judicial system.

"It is not just a court for online disputes but a center to study new methods and legal solutions for the digital age," said Wang.

"Maybe one day we will be able to file lawsuits and contact judges on our smartphones and case hearings can be hear anyplace, anytime."

Nevertheless, the public should be warned of potential hazards. In cyber space court cases, some criminals may hack the online system to obtain confidential information, which can be used to intimidate witnesses testifying against the defendant or used as blackmail.

In court hearings that use video chat sessions, it's more difficult to identify correctly the defendant, plaintiff or witness; hence an actor could act as a replacement when giving testimony in order to deceive the judge.

Adapting to daily life

But despite the potential technical problems, we can anticipate digital justice to turn trendy, since the streamlined procedures and benefits will far outweigh the negative consequences.

"The founding of the Internet Court is aimed at better dealing with the changes in people's lives brought about by the Internet," Professor Xie Yongjiang at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications told CGTN.

Xie added, "The court makes full use of IT (information technologies) to break temporal and spatial constraints and improves the efficiency of rulings."

Additionally starting on June 1, China's first Cybersecurity Law had gone into effect that prohibits Internet Service Providers (ISP) from collecting and selling the users' personal information. The Law was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, on Nov 7, 2016.

The Hangzhou Cyber Space Court can handle the dramatic upswing of cases, since judges have been trained and are well-equipped to handle larger caseloads.

Digital justice for all

Ironically, the judicial courts continue to maintain long-held traditions and many courtrooms have failed to introduce hi-tech upgrades to adapt to changing times.

Meanwhile, cyber crimes and cyber lawsuits have gotten more widespread, but many courts all over the world have failed to utilize hi-tech devices to speed-up how individual cases are handled.

The Hangzhou Cyber Space Court can show the world how to use digital technologies for the benefit of all. You can file lawsuits online, attend hearings on video chats and wait for verdicts by email.

The legal process can become so much easier for judges, lawyers, defendants, plaintiffs and witnesses that we should feel certain a digital justice system - online courts - will be more routine in the years ahead.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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