Chinese Courts and Social Media

It’s a classic case of “whoever would have thunk it?”  The old axiom, “truth is stranger than fiction” holds true now within the Chinese legal system.  Social media is gradually finding a role to play in the Chinese People’s courts, cracking open a window into the heretofore hidden world of Chinese jurisprudence. The “people” want a more transparent legal system and the injection of social media into the court’s activities may signal a willingness by court officials to at least partially give the “people” what they want.  “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it” they say.

Yesterday, Oct. 16, 2013, the “China Daily” website posted an article entitled, “Courts Urged to Make Use of New Media”, written by Cao Yin of the “China Daily”. Reporter Yin reports as follows in part in his article today:

China’s top court asked each court to make full use of new media platforms, including microblogs, to update trial information in a timely manner and improve judicial transparency. However, legal experts and operators of court micro blogs said guidelines are needed to make such platforms work better.

Chinese courts should pay all attention to public opinion and are required to release trial information via newspapers, television and social media such as microblogs and WeChat, a popular messaging app, said Supreme People’s Court top judge Zhou Qiang.

Courts should improve credibility and reply to the public by making legal work transparent, Zhou added.

On Tuesday, the State Council said in a statement that all government departments should publish authorized information on new media and interact with the public online.  It should also ask them to establish systems to collect public opinion and arrange for professionals to give further explanations of hot issues.

When Jinan Intermediate People’s Court announced on-line on Aug. 18 that Bo Xilai, former Chongqing Party chief, would face trial within four days, its micro blog quickly came into the spot light. The court published 153 posts broadcasting the high-profile hearing live. Thirty posts and three photos of Bo’s sentencing were forwarded almost 200,000 times on Sept. 2.

By Sept 23, the court’s micro blog had attracted 430,000 followers, and the figure soared to 530,000 within two days as it posted two rulings online.

So far 790 courts in the country have registers Sina Weibo micro blog accounts, and the number is increasing, according to statistics provided by the Web giant.

But Zhao Yan, Beijing High People’s Court’s micro-blogger, said the job is still new to people like him and they need training and guidance.

“Weibo is good for judicial transparence, but it spreads information so fast that it also places high demands on us,” said Zhao.

Cheng Lei, a Renmin University of China associate law professor specializing in judicial reform, said the top court urgently needs to establish guidelines for court to follow.

“Such guidelines should stipulate what kind of information should be open to the public, and what should not, such as information that would hurt the interests of those involved in the cases.

Such guidelines should stipulate what kind of information should be open to the public and whatshould not, such as information that would hurt the interests of those involved in the cases”, he said.

Shi Lei, deputy director of the research department under the top court, said at a seminar on Tuesday that the top court is considering drafting guidelines on a legal micro blog, but there are no specific measures yet.”

The Chinese legal system is inching its way into being more transparent and open to the people, and using social media to facilitate this transition.  What next? Live, televised courtroom trials?  Maybe, one day.  I have to believe however, that it will be sometime before Chinese versions of Judge Judy or Judge Wapner appear regularly on CCTV.

To read the above article in its entirety, go to:

Hawkeye in China

Lex Smith

Published by admin on October 17th, 2013 tagged Uncategorized

One Response to “Chinese Courts and Social Media”

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