Article China: Supreme People's Court Issues Online Litigation Rules, Addressing Review of Blockchain Evidence

On June 16, 2021, China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC, China’s highest court) issued the Online Litigation Rules for People’s Courts (SPC press release in English). Taking effect on August 1, 2021, the judicial interpretation will apply to not only the SPC but also over 3,500 lower courts throughout China. The 39-article rules cover the legal validity, basic principles, applicable scope, and applicable conditions of online litigation and give guidance on how to conduct particular litigation activities online, including authenticity reviews of blockchain evidence. (SPC press release.)

According to the rules, the courts, parties, and other participants may rely on electronic litigation platforms to complete online, via the internet or specialized networks, all or part of the litigation procedures, including case filing, mediation, exchange of evidence, inquiry, court trial, and service. Online litigation activities and offline litigation activities have the same legal effect. (Online Litigation Rules art. 1.)

Online litigation may be used in all civil and administrative litigation cases. For criminal cases, only those of expedited procedures, commutation and parole cases, and other cases that “are not suitable for offline trial due to other special reasons” may be conducted online. (Art. 3.)

In general, to conduct online litigation, the court must obtain the consent from the parties. If only one party elects online litigation, the court may permit that party to litigate online and the other party to litigate in person. (Art. 4.) The court may decide to conduct court hearings online through videoconferencing in light of such factors as the desire of the parties concerned, circumstances of the case, social influences, and technical conditions. An online hearing cannot be conducted if all parties concerned express their disagreement, or one party expresses disagreement and provides justifiable reasons. There are several other circumstances under which an online hearing is not allowed, such as a case involving national security or state secrets or one that “has a major social impact and has received widespread attention.” (Art. 21.)

The rules allow for electronic documents to be directly used in litigation after being audited by the courts unless the original copies or items are otherwise required by the court under specified circumstances. (Art. 12.) Electronic evidence stored through blockchain technology and technically verified to be consistent will be presumed to be free from tampering after being uploaded to the chain, unless there is contrary evidence that is sufficient to overturn the presumption. (Art. 16.) The rules further provide how to review the authenticity of electronic evidence stored using blockchain technology, including determining whether any electronic evidence has been altered before being stored on the chain. (Arts. 17–19.) The SPC believes that “blockchain evidence will bring greater transparency, enhanced security, improved traceability, and increased efficiency for online litigation in China.” (SPC press release.)

Previously, in 2018, the SPC allowed evidence stored and verified on blockchain-based platforms to be used in cases heard by the three internet courts in Hangzhou, Beijing, and Guangzhou. In those internet courts, all court proceedings generally take place online.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the SPC has encouraged courts in China to “fully implement online litigation” through designated online litigation platforms. According to the SPC, “online litigation has become the main approach for the public to get access to the judicial system.” From January 1, 2020, to May 31, 2021, 12.19 million cases were filed online, accounting for 28.3% of the total number of the cases filed, and 1.28 million online hearings were conducted, taking an average of 42.34 minutes for each hearing. (SPC press release.)

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China: Supreme People's Court Issues Online Litigation Rules, Addressing Review of Blockchain Evidence
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Chicago citation style:

China: Supreme People's Court Issues Online Litigation Rules, Addressing Review of Blockchain Evidence. 2021. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-07-21/china-supreme-peoples-court-issues-online-litigation-rules-addressing-review-of-blockchain-evidence/.

APA citation style:

(2021) China: Supreme People's Court Issues Online Litigation Rules, Addressing Review of Blockchain Evidence. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-07-21/china-supreme-peoples-court-issues-online-litigation-rules-addressing-review-of-blockchain-evidence/.

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China: Supreme People's Court Issues Online Litigation Rules, Addressing Review of Blockchain Evidence. 2021. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-07-21/china-supreme-peoples-court-issues-online-litigation-rules-addressing-review-of-blockchain-evidence/>.

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