China Provides Online Case-Filing for Cross-Border Litigants

On 3 February 2021, the Supreme People’s Court of China (the “SPC”) promulgated “Several Provisions on providing Online Case-Filing Services for Cross-Border Litigants” (the “Provisions”). The Provisions defines the cross-border litigants as foreign nationals and residents of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, legal entities registered abroad or in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and notably, Mainland Chinese citizens whose habitual residence is abroad or in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. These litigants may, under the Provisions, consume the online case-filing services to file first instance lawsuits on civil and commercial disputes.

China Mobile MiniCourt
China Mobile MiniCourt (“移动微法院”) is a WeChat Mini-Program established by the SPC and serves as an online platform enabling litigants to place the lawsuits at courts of different locations and different levels in China. By launching the China Mobile MiniCourt, the litigants may see the homepage, with language options among Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and English.

Identity Verification
For a cross-border litigant who files the case online for the first time, the litigant’s identity should be verified. The court, where the litigant files the case , is  responsible to conduct the online verification. Both individuals and legal entities should submit their identity documents, namely passports and business license. Besides, for individuals representing legal entities, the authorization documents are also required. All these documents should be notarized and legalized accordingly before submission to the court.

Meanwhile, the Mainland Chinese citizens with cross-border residence should provide their Chinese identity documents, such as identity cards, household registers or Chinese passports, as well as supporting documents proving that their cross-border residence is legal and has sustained for over 1 year, for example work visa or permanent residence permit.

The verification process will be relied on the inbound-outbound information platform of China’s Immigration Administration and the verification result will come out within 3 working days by online notification.

Representative Testimony
The representative testimony is introduced in the process of cross-border litigants authorizing Chinese lawyers to act for the litigant. The testimony will be conducted via an online video call, with three parties joined, i.e. the cross-border litigant, the court and the Chinese lawyer. The testimony will be proceeded in Chinese, where an interpreter might be necessary if the litigant cannot speak Chinese.

During the testimony, the court will assess whether the authorization and its acceptance are true and witness the process of signing the authorization documents, such as Power of Attorney. Upon verification, no further notarization or legalization will be required and the Chinese lawyer may proceed to file the case and pay case-filing fees on behalf of the litigants.

Right after the promulgation of the Provisions, there has been news reporting successful case-filing by the cross-border litigants via the online platform. It can be foreseen that, by exempting numerous notarization and legalization, and by shortening the period of case-filing, the online case-filing services will bring about great convenience and continue to expand its functions in the future.

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