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China: Rules of Online Publication of Court Judgments Revised

(Feb. 9, 2017) On August 29, 2016, China’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), revised rules concerning online publication of judgments of Chinese courts at all levels.  The revised Provisions on the Publication of Judgment Documents by the People’s Courts on the Internet went into effect on October 1, 2016.  (Zuigao Renmin Fayuan Guanyu Renmin Fayuan zai Hulianwang Gongbu Caipan Wenshu de Guiding (Aug. 29, 2016), SPC website; unofficial English translation (Aug. 30, 2016), CHINA LAW TRANSLATE.)

The previous version of the Provisions was issued in 2013 and required all Chinese courts to post their judgments on an SPC online platform, China Judgements Online.  (Zuigao Renmin Fayuan Guanyu Renmin Fayuan zai Hulianwang Gongbu Caipan Wenshu de Guiding (Nov. 21, 2013, effective Jan. 1, 2014), CHINACOURT.ORG.)

Highlights of the Revised Provisions

The revised Provisions further specify the types of judgment documents that the courts must post online.  Such documents include not only criminal, civil, and administrative judgments (panjue shu), but also other “judgment documents” (caipan wenshu) such as payment orders and state compensation decisions.  (Zuigao Renmin Fayuan Guanyu Renmin Fayuan zai Hulianwang Gongbu Caipan Wenshu de Guiding, art. 3.)

The new Provisions prohibit judgment documents of “divorce litigation or those that involve the rearing or custody of minor children” from being published.  (Id. art. 4(4).)  If the court decides not to publish a judgment online, it must still publish the judgment’s case number, the name of the trial court, the judgment date, and the reasons for non-publication, except where publishing the information may reveal state secrets.  (Id. art. 6.)

Judgment documents must be posted online within seven business days of taking effect.  (Id. art. 7.)  Courts must redact names of certain people when publishing the documents, including the names of all minors and their representatives.  (Id. art. 8.)  The Provisions also specify other information that must be deleted, including information on the use of surveillance (technical investigation measures).  (Id. art. 10.)

Publication of the Retrial Judgment of Nie Shubin Case

On November 30, 2016, the SPC issued its judgment in the retrial of the Nie Shubin case; the judgment of this landmark case was posted on China Judgments Online three days later on December 2, 2016.  In 1995, Nie was convicted of rape and murder, sentenced to the death penalty, and executed in the same year.  Ten years later, in 2005, another man, Wang Shujin, confessed to the exact crime for which Nie was convicted.  The SPC in the retrial overturned Nie’s conviction.  (Nie Shubin Guyi Sharen, Qiangjie Funü Zaishen Xingshi Panjueshu [Criminal Retrial Judgment of Nie Shubin, for Intentional Homicide and Rape], CHINA JUDGMENTS ONLINE (Dec. 2, 2012).)

As of February 8, 2016, China Judgments Online contained over 26 million judgment documents, among which about 20,000 are from the SPC itself.  (Homepage, ZHONGGUO CAIPAN WENSHU WANG [CHINA JUDGMENTS ONLINE] (last visited Feb. 6, 2017).)