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China's Law-Based Cyberspace Governance in the New Era

The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China March 2023

China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-17 07:17

IV. Defending Fairness and Justice in Cyberspace

An impartial judiciary is the last line of defense for social fairness and justice. China has stayed committed to the principle of maintaining judicial justice and administrating justice for the people. Actively responding to the needs of justice in the age of the internet, China has employed internet and information technology to empower the traditional judiciary, improved rules of cyber justice, and reformed models of cyber justice. This has allowed it to settle new types of cyber disputes in accordance with the law, combat cybercrime, safeguard the rights and interests of cyberspace players, and deliver judicial services that are more fair, just, open, transparent, efficient, accessible, inclusive, and equitable.

1. Defining New Rules of Cyber Justice

As new internet technologies, applications and business forms develop quickly, legal relationships in cyberspace are becoming more diverse, posing new challenges to the administration of justice in cyberspace. This calls for better-defined rules of cyber justice.

For this purpose, China has produced timely judicial interpretations of civil and criminal issues such as intellectual property rights, the right to dignity, online transactions, and unfair competition on the internet, as well as telecom and online fraud. It has handled a good number of unprecedented, complicated cases that are closely related to the internet, such as those involving internet infrastructure security, algorithms, data rights and trading, protection of personal information, and management of online platforms. In the process, it has refined the criteria for the application of the law and made the standards for adjudication consistent. This has led to increasing clarity on the rules, code of conduct, and boundaries of rights, obligations and responsibilities in cyberspace. China has formulated rules for online litigation, mediation and operation of the people's courts, refined rules on taking electronic data as evidence, and standardized the procedures for handling cybercrime cases. As a result, a system of rules and procedures for cyber justice is taking shape. This systematic development of relevant rules provides regulatory guidance and institutional safeguards for cyber justice, which is therefore becoming more rule-based.

2. Exploring New Models of Cyber Justice

China has been active in exploring new channels, domains and models for further integrating internet technology with judicial activities, for the purpose of speedier delivery of justice. In order to build a cyber justice model with Chinese characteristics, it has piloted measures in applying the latest technologies such as big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and blockchain in judicial proceedings, judgment enforcement, judicial administration, and other fields.

Local courts are encouraged to explore new mechanisms with regional features for internet-empowered adjudication, on the basis of the development of local internet industry and the characteristics of local cyber disputes. Internet courts have been established in Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou, in an attempt to realize adjudication of internet-related cases via the internet. In the process of digitalizing procuratorial work, China has used big data to empower legal oversight. It has systematically integrated a wide range of case information, worked on models and platforms for big data-based legal oversight, and implemented oversight of the prosecution of individual cases and of similar cases in order to address the common problems they raise. This has helped improve the quality and efficiency of legal oversight in the new era. The emergence of these new models signifies the further development of a socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics in cyberspace, and is becoming a salient feature of China's judicial system.

Panel 5 Internet Courts

Internet courts represent a success in creating new judicial models. The Hangzhou Internet Court was established on August 18, 2017, followed by the opening of two more such courts in Beijing on September 9,2018 and in Guangzhou on September 28.These internet courts focus on 11 types of internet-related dispute in the cities under their jurisdiction, including those involving online loan contracts, online infringement, and online copyright. They have helped advance technological innovation, rule-making, and cyberspace governance.

During the period between August 2017 and October 2019, these three courts handled a total of 118,764 internet-related cases, and concluded 88,401 of them. As many as 96.8 percent of these cases were filed online, and in 80,819 of these the entire process was handled via the internet. Online hearings took 45 minutes and case processing 38 days on average, which are in turn 40 percent and half of the time needed for conventional court trials. In 98 percent of the concluded cases, litigants accepted the ruling at first instance. All this indicates the good quality, efficiency and impact of internet courts.

3. Judicial Protection of Online Rights and Interests

China has carried out judicial activities to combat cybercrime, so that the people can see that justice is served in every judicial case.

Strengthening judicial protection of online civil rights and interests. To protect the online civil rights and interests of all parties concerned, China handles civil and commercial cases involving personal information, intellectual property rights, online transactions, and online infringement in accordance with the law. For protection of personal information, the focus is put on online platforms that process huge amounts of personal information. Civil public-interest litigations have been launched against online platforms suspected of abusing personal information. In adjudicating these cases, the courts have clarified the rules and limits for the commercial use of customers' personal information, and prompted companies running online platforms to collect and use data in accordance with laws and regulations. For protection of intellectual property rights in internet-related cases of high technological complexity such as those involving patents, integrated circuit designs, technological secrets, and computer software, the courts have introduced a technology investigator system. Step by step, safeguards are being set up in cyberspace to protect citizens' legitimate rights and interests there.

Intensifying punishment for cybercrime. As internet technology evolves swiftly, conventional crimes are transforming rapidly into internet-enabled, no-contact forms, leading to a rise in illicit acts such as telecom and online fraud, online gambling, and online pornography. China handles new types of cybercrime in accordance with the law. In recent years China has carried out a systematic "internet clean-up" campaign, combating cyber hacking, invasion of individual privacy, and many other criminal acts that cause strong concern to the public. It has launched a number of campaigns against telecom and online fraud, including those to hunt fugitives via cloud services and platforms, freeze the SIM cards and bank accounts used by suspects, intercept domestic recruitment by criminal groups operating from abroad, and pursue the heads and key members of criminal groups. It combats all types of predatory lending including trap loans, the student loan, reverse mortgage, and elder investment scams. It punishes in accordance with the law the shadowy businesses that provide services such as internet connection, domain registration, server hosting, mobile application development, online payment, and promotion to criminal groups behind telecom and online fraud.

China has also updated its national anti-fraud big data platform and anti-fraud app, built a national fraud database, and improved the mechanisms for quick freezing of payments and retrieval of swindled money. It takes resolute action against online gambling and delivers harsh punishments for online pornography. Through these efforts, remarkable progress has been made in combating cybercrime, giving the people a stronger sense of security and reinforcing social harmony and stability.

Panel 6 Going after Cybercrime

Telecom and online fraud harms citizens' immediate interests and property safety, and undermines social harmony and stability. It is therefore deeply loathed by the people. To address this global scourge, China targets all elements with in-depth measures, which have achieved good results. Between 2019 and 2021 China prosecuted 129,000 people on charges of telecom and online fraud. Between 2017 and 2021 it concluded 103,000 lawsuits of such fraud in the first instance, and convicted 223,000 criminals.

Exploring new avenues for judicial protection of minors in cyberspace. While focusing on forestalling and punishing cybercrime, China takes targeted measures against online criminal activities such as virtual sexual harassment, and has increased punishments for those preying on minors. Through law-based punishment and individualized assistance and education, the state does its utmost to rehabilitate underage people involved in cybercrime. China has strengthened the protection of minors in cyberspace, making breakthroughs in typical cases such as those concerning circulation of audio and video about narcotics, violation of minors' personal information rights and interests, and excessive livestream rewards from minor viewers. By taking action in the form of public-interest litigation, written suggestions from prosecutorial organizations, support for prosecutions, and briefings on relevant information, China is working to pool the strength of online platforms, the public, and the government to foster a healthy cyber environment for young people.

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