Residents observe top court in action

Updated: 2013-12-05 01:33

By Cao Yin (China Daily)

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Beijing resident Liu Yang had not imagined that he would one day be sitting in China's top court to listen to a case and afterward discuss the law with judges in person.

But on Wednesday, Liu and some 80 residents from every walk of life stepped into the Supreme People's Court, where Chinese Internet giants Qihoo 360 and Tencent aired a dispute over unfair business practices.

"It's my first time to visit the top court and participate in a hearing. I felt both solemn and excited," said the 25-year-old employee of an Internet company.

"It's a helpful experience. I have been studying the online companies and keeping my eye on this high-profile dispute," he said. "Attending the hearing is much better than just touring around the court."

Wednesday was the annual open day of the top court, which is located a few hundred meters from Tian'anmen Square.

The court has opened its doors to the public each year since 2009, and the event was broadcast via its micro blog.

On the same day, more than 800 courts nationwide opened to the public to help people understand more about how the courts work and to take useful advice, said Sun Jungong, spokesman for the Supreme People's Court.

In China, residents can get approval to listen to cases by applying to the courts and showing an identity card. But the chance of getting a seat in the top court's public gallery is slim, Sun said.

"Most cases end in provincial or even grassroots courts. It's rare that a case is appealed to the Supreme People's Court," he said.

Opening doors to the public, followed by face-to-face communication between judges and residents, promotes judicial transparency and represents important steps that help to ensure fair verdicts, he said.

The courts have also begun to use multimedia and social media — micro blogs and WeChat, for example — to share information with the public, he said.

By Wednesday, the court had attracted more than 240,000 followers on Sina Weibo, a leading Chinese micro blog platform.

The broadcasting of trials dates back to August, when the Jinan Intermediate People's Court released daily records of the trial of former senior official Bo Xilai, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery and embezzlement.

Shi Shusi, a popular micro-blogger who was invited to participate in the tour on Wednesday, spoke highly of the courts' moves toward openness, but he also suggested that they should use new social media tools to have even more direct interaction with netizens, instead of just releasing information.

"We need to break through limits by asking judges to talk with the public — or in other words, we want 'judge stars' who will boost credibility," he said.

Zhao Zhengbin, a criminal lawyer who was also part of the tour, said that transparency should be enforced in daily work, too.

"Ensuring that every legal procedure is open or under a spotlight is more important than this visit," Zhao said.