Virtual judges and verdicts via a chat app in China’s digital courts

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — From AI judges to electronic courts and verdicts to chat apps – this is the new world of justice that the Chinese authorities have highlighted this week.

China encourages digitization to simplify the handling of cases in its vast judicial system using cyberspace and technology such as a distributed, unrefined database called blockchain, or “block chain” and “cloud computing” that provide online information on demand, according to the report. Document on the policy of the Supreme People’s Court.

The efforts include a “mobile court” on the popular WeChat platform that has so far dealt with three million legal cases or other judicial proceedings since its launch in March, according to the Supreme People’s Court.

The document was released this week as judicial authorities provided journalists with a glimpse into the country’s first “electronic court”, set up in 2017 in Hangzhou to deal with legal disputes with a digital aspect.

In reviewing how the Hangzhou court operates online, the authorities showed an interactive online interface where litigants are represented in a video conversation while an AI judge urges them to present their cases.

In a pre-trial meeting, a hypothetical judge asks a black gown that appears under Chinese flag: “Does the defendant have any objection to the nature of the plaintiff’s series of evidence?”

The plaintiff, an ordinary human being, responds with “no objection.”

Cases handled by the Hangzhou Court include online business disputes, copyright-related cases and liability for products purchased online. Litigants can register their civil complaints online and log in later for court hearings.

Simple assignments of this kind can be handed over to a hypothetical judge to relieve pressure on human judges, who monitor the proceedings and make the final verdict in each case, officials said.

The move is partly aimed at digitizing to help the courts deal with the growing number of cases caused by mobile payments and e-commerce in China, where the world’s largest mobile Internet user population is estimated at 850 million.

– Service to justice –

“Closing cases” at a faster pace is a kind of justice, as delaying justice is tantamount to a denial of justice, “vice president of the Hangzhou online court Ni Defing told AFP.

He added that the use of distributed database technology (block chain) is particularly useful, as it contributes to the simplification of things and creates clearer records of the legal process.

Since the founding of the Hangzhou court, China has set up similar chambers in Beijing and in Guangzhou.

Together, the two courts accepted a total of 118,764 cases and closed 88,401 of them, according to the Supreme People’s Court.

The Mobile Court option on WeChat, China’s leading social messaging service, allows users to complete cases, hearings and share evidence without having to appear in court.

Authorities said it was launched in 12 provinces and regions.

Courts across the country are testing a series of online tools, said Supreme People’s Court President Zhu Qiang.

He told a panel Thursday that as of October, more than 90 percent of Chinese courts had dealt with online cases to some extent.

The judicial move is in line with President Xi Jinping’s efforts to make his country a world leader in technology, with significant government support – a strategy that has alarmed the United States.

This includes building huge surveillance equipment with high technology and an ambitious effort to challenge US hegemony in the “block chain”, which China can use in a wide range of areas, including issuing cryptocurrencies, simplifying government services, and monitoring loyalty to the Communist Party.


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