Across China: Internet court handles cases despite coronavirus epidemic

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BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Wen, president of the Beijing Internet Court, has been busy making final preparations for launching a virtual court to give judges a "sense of ritual" when hearing cases online.

Wearing a mask to discuss the new function of the Internet court with her colleagues, Zhang said the virtual court would have the same setting as a real courtroom with a gavel and the national emblem that can be seen by all parties in an online trial proceeding.

The court is one of the three of its kind in China, with the other two in the eastern city of Hangzhou and the southern metropolitan of Guangzhou, respectively, which carry out pioneering practices of online litigation procedures from filing a case to issuing judgment documents.

The online work model has made the internet courts one of the few sectors that have not been impacted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Based on the e-litigation platform, the whole process of litigation from case filing to ruling and meditation is conducted online.

The Beijing court also has a "mobile micro court," a mini-program on China's leading social media platform of WeChat. It offers on-hand legal services on mobile devices for those who do not have a computer at home.

Zhang said from Feb. 3 to Feb. 20, an intense period of the epidemic when nearly all residents stayed at home, the court received 2,681 file applications, with a daily average of 150, basically the same as the volume before the epidemic outbreak.

"The unprecedented public health emergency of COVID-19 has pushed courts across the country to start testing online trials. The Beijing Internet Court can share the experience from our pioneering practices and help set protocols of online litigation proceedings in cyberspace," said Zhang.

On Feb. 21, the Beijing internet court released the country's first protocol of an online court hearing with 26 procedures, stipulating the details from online identity authentication to the dress code of all parties in a video courtroom.

The court, located in Zhongguancun Fengtai Science Park, has been operating 24 hours a day through its digital litigation platforms since its inauguration in September 2018. More than 130,000 electronic files have been handled by the court with 99.6 percent of them going through online trials. Enditem

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