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New Courts Authorized to Better Protect Investors

The Supreme People's Court announced yesterday that it will designate a number of courts to handle commercial cases involving foreign parties in order to provide a high-quality judicial environment for foreign investors.

Such courts will include the high courts, intermediate courts in municipalities and capital cities of provinces and autonomous regions, special economic zones and cities directly under State planning, and some courts in economic and technological development areas in cities.

The Supreme People's Court will also authorize intermediate courts in other cities if necessary.

"The fundamental goal is to achieve justice and efficiency in handling cases, enhance the authority of China's rule of law and create a fine legal environment now that China has entered the World Trade Organization (WTO)," said Wan Exiang, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, at a press conference.

However, the new practice, which will be adopted next month, will not be applicable in cases of border trade, real estate and violation of intellectual property rights violations involving foreign parties. Wan explained that this is because border trade disputes are few, real estate cases are not trade disputes while intellectual property right disputes have already fallen into the jurisdiction of specially designated courts.

Initial statistics from the Supreme People's Court indicate that between 1979 and October last year, courts across China had dealt with 23,340 civil and commercial cases involving overseas parties. Sources with the court said that the actual figure could be much higher.

Grassroots and intermediate courts are authorized to hear commercial cases involving foreign parties under current practice.

However, the traditional overlapping of administrative and judicial divisions has made local courts in China constantly plagued by local protectionism, an obstacle to the fair handling of cases.

(China Daily February 26, 2002)

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