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China launches “Court of the Internet”

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Litigation and dispute management
  • Technology


China launched the first “Court of the Internet” last week in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. The new court has been established to hear e-commerce and internet-related cases, with the entire matter being managed, and heard, online.

Hangzhou is home to a number of Chinese e-commerce leaders including Alibaba and Netease. It is also a “China Cross-Border E-Commerce Comprehensive Test Zone”, a Beijing-led initiative to sponsor the development of B2B e-commerce. Its jurisdiction includes: internet copyright infringement claims, disputes involving online financial loans and other online financial products, product liability disputes arising from online shopping and internet service contract disputes.

The launch of the new court followed a pilot programme that began in 2015, when the Zhejiang Higher People's Court instructed three district courts to establish online facilities for trade, copyright and financial services disputes. The success of that programme is demonstrated by the fact that over 23,000 cases have been heard in the past two years.

To commence an action in the “Court of the Internet” the plaintiff verifies their identity through “Alipay” (Alibaba’s payment service). Cases are then filed, fees paid, evidence submitted and attendance at the trial are all conducted online. Data, including videos of the hearing, are encrypted and transmitted using security technology provided by Alibaba “Cloud”. Most hearings last less than half an hour and each case is completed in an average of 32 days.

The success of the Hangzhou “Court of the Internet” is generating interest both in China and overseas. Last month, the Xishan District Court in Yunnan province, announced a collaboration with Chinese telecom company, Sina Corporation, to established a cyberspace court.

Other countries have also begun to incorporate online elements into their judicial systems. Last month the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in the UK launched an online court hearing programme. The MoJ is also considering the introduction of virtual hearings conducted over video or telephone. British Colombia has introduced an online tribunal to address strata title and small-claims disputes.

Unsurprisingly there are concerns, as is always the case in an emerging area of the law. There are important issues of data and privacy protection that must be addressed if online courts are to be adopted more broadly. In China there are also potential conflicts of interest given Alibaba’s prominent role in online commerce. For example, the court may be asked to adjudicate a trade dispute involving popular shopping site, Taobao, which was founded by Alibaba. In this case Alibaba would be both hosting and verifying legal proceedings against itself.

Cyber security is another major concern. Systems remain vulnerable to ransomware and malware, as was shown during the recent “WannaCry” attack.

China is leading the way with this new system and the experiment will be watched closely by jurists, lawyers and legal reformers around the world. There is no doubt that online dispute resolution offers a solution to many of the challenges facing courts, both in China and more widely. It remains to be seen whether the experiment can tackle the security and other issues that will doubtless arise.


上星期,在浙江省省会杭州开设了第一家“互联网法院”。 新开设的互联网法院将用于听证和调查电子商务相关的互联网案件,所有案件的听证调查和管理工作都将在网上展开。

杭州是许多中国互联网商务巨头,包括:阿里巴巴和网易的总部所在地。 杭州所在的“中国跨境电子商务综合试验区”是由中国政府所主导的综合试验区,旨在发展B2B互联网电子商务。互联网法院的职责包括:网络版权侵权的索赔,网上金融贷款和其他在线金融产品的争议,网络购物和互联网服务合同纠纷引起的产品责任纠纷。

互联网法院的启动遵循2015年开始的试点方案,在当时浙江省高级人民法院指示三个地区人民法院设立贸易,版权和金融服务纠纷的在线纠纷调解机制。 在过去两年的实施过程中,有超过23,000宗的案件听证。

原告通过验证“支付宝”(阿里巴巴的互联网支付服务)个人信息进行“互联网法院诉讼”。提交案件,支付诉讼费用,提交证据乃至出席审判的全部过程均在网上进行。 整个案件的资料传输均使用阿里巴巴“云”提供的安全技术对数据进行加密,包括互联网法院听证会的视频加密和传输。 大多数听证会需时不到半小时,案件的平均审讯时间是32天。



毫无疑问,人们对于将新兴科技带入司法程序存有疑问。 如果要更广泛地应用网上法庭进行裁判,首先就必须解决数据和隐私保护的重要问题。 在中国,阿里巴巴在网络商务的裁判中的起到了关键作用,但这也存在潜在的利益冲突。 例如,网络法院的审判很有可能牵涉到由阿里巴巴创办的淘宝网相关的贸易纠纷。 在这种情况下,阿里巴巴将会同时主导并核查针对自己进行的法律程序。

网络安全是另一个主要问题。 系统仍然容易受到勒索软件和恶意程序的攻击,就如同最近的“WannaCry”网络攻击一样。

中国领先试验并推行的“互联网法院”这一新制度,受到了全球法律学者,律师和法律改革者密切关注。 毫无疑问,用网络进行争议调解的出现为现实生活中的庭审所面对的许多问题提供了解决方法,而且这项改革也不仅仅只适用于中国。当然,“互联网法院”仍然面多公众的诸多质疑,而这些有问题和质疑只有留待实践去检验。