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HomeChainaChina’s top court launches new database of verdicts amid fears over declining...

China’s top court launches new database of verdicts amid fears over declining transparency

It will be a supplement to the existing China Judgments Online, or CJO, another website run by the Supreme People’s Court.

CJO – an important resource for lawyers, academics and the public – was thrown into the spotlight in December when the Supreme People’s Court admitted that Chinese courts were uploading fewer verdicts to the website, citing security and privacy reasons.

China’s top court pledges more transparency after sharp drop in uploaded rulings

It said there were 19.2 million court rulings uploaded to CJO in 2020, but that had dropped to 10.4 million in 2022, and just 5.1 million in 2023.

The top court pledged to set up a new website for judges and court staff to access verdicts, as well as the new database for the public.

But many academics have raised concerns over a deterioration in transparency, saying the move is a retreat from efforts to improve the disclosure of court rulings since the CJO website was launched in 2013.

“We attach great importance to judicial openness,” the Supreme People’s Court spokesman said. “We will not close the China Judgments Online website. We will continue to operate and optimise the website, while providing the verdict database service to address demands from legal industry insiders and the public.”

The spokesman did not say whether CJO would be scaled down further, or give any update on the new website for judges and court staff.

He said that in the public database, civil cases accounted for about 44 per cent of the rulings, criminal cases 39 per cent, administrative cases 11 per cent and the rest were state compensation and enforcement cases.

A search by the South China Morning Post did not find any cases involving state secrets or national security.

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The spokesman said the database aimed to provide a resource for litigation and rulings and it could offer “authoritative guidance to judges” and help improve the consistency of rulings.

He said it could also be used by the public to study the law, improve awareness and self-protection, and to reduce the number of “unnecessary lawsuits” after seeing how similar cases were handled.

Cases in the database include crimes concerning theft, swindling, drug trafficking, intentional injury and assisting in cybercrimes.

There are also cases ranging from the protection of private company assets and the rights and interests of entrepreneurs to internet violence, telecoms scams and food safety.

The court spokesman said this was aimed at helping achieve “economic and social development” and to “serve the people”.

“The number of cases is currently limited. However, they can already basically satisfy the demand from legal practices,” he said. “We’ll expand and update the database in a timely manner.”

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