In a step our Supreme Court refuses to take, China's Supreme People's Court has announced that it will televise and stream all its hearings and oral arguments. There are a few exceptions - capital case reviews and international arbitration reviews. And, it is worth noting that the SPC is not just nine in robes. The 340 judges of the SPC are a a combination of our Supreme Court and the United States Courts of Appeals. The development is reported in Susan Finder's Supreme People's Court Monitor:
From 1 July 2016, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) is (in principle) broadcasting live all its public trials (public hearings) (better understood those from a common law jurisdiction as an appellate court hearings) on its ownCourt TV website.
SPC broadcasts also include hearings by the #2 Circuit Court (in Shenyang) and #1 Circuit Court in Shenzhen. The technical platform is provided through Sina.com and a private company. The SPC describes its online broadcasts as its fourth transparency platform.
Some of the cases that the SPC considers do not have public hearing procedures, such as its capital punishment review and judicial review of decisions concerning foreign and foreign-related arbitral awards.
As of 14 July, there almost 30 cases for which the videos are available, many of which involve lending, either bank or private lending and real estate-related disputes, and are primarily civil cases. Some of the cases include:
- Application for Re-trial, Nestle vs. State Administration of Industry and Commerce Trademark Review and Reconsideration Board (TRAB);
- Loan dispute heard in the #2 Circuit Court involving a Nanning private company, Bank of China, Liaoning, and the Vansun Group (in this case, counsel for the Nanning company alleges the CEO of the company was incapacitated by alcohol when he signed the loan contract)
- A Fujian investment co. v. Guizhou real estate development company (private lending dispute).
It provides a window into the world of Chinese commercial disputes.
SPC Vice President Jing Hanchao, who was apparently tasked with implementing this development, is quoted by the official press as saying:
the live webcasts will be significant progress for judicial openness. With full transparency of trials online, the public can better play their supervisory role.Live broadcasts will also drive judges to strengthen their capabilities, thus improving the judicial system.....live webcasts will create a large amount of data that will help jurists study China's legal system.
Having their advocacy broadcast on line may also drive lawyers to strengthen their advocacy skills as well.
For persons interested in the Chinese judiciary, it provides easy access to SPC court hearings, without the hassle of special permission, letters of introduction, and trips to Beijing.