News / Asia

Chinese Courts Put More Criminal Trials Online

The Chinese court said it will deliver a verdict on Sept. 22  for Bo Xilai, center, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in a case set in motion by his wife's murder of a British businessman, (File photo)..
The Chinese court said it will deliver a verdict on Sept. 22 for Bo Xilai, center, on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in a case set in motion by his wife's murder of a British businessman, (File photo)..
VOA News
Chinese courts are increasingly using social media, such as the Twitter-like Weibo, to broadcast live updates from courtrooms in a move that analysts say is aimed at gaining public trust.

The trend appears to be accelerating following the high-profile trial of Bo Xilai, a former rising politician who stood trial in August for corruption and abuse of power.

Although media access to the courtroom was restricted, the court posted lengthy transcripts during the five-day trial, attracting more than half a million Weibo followers.

Analysts say the openness during Bo Xilai’s trial is having a broader impact.

“It has increased the public’s expectations,” said King-Wa Fu, assistant professor at the Journalism and Media Studies center at the University of Hong Kong “The public wants more transparency and they want more open data to the public.”

This week, courts in Beijing and Nanjing released live updates from at least three high profile criminal trials - although the proceedings were speedier and the defense more subdued than in Bo’s case.

In one instance, a man was accused of having killed an infant after a brawl with the baby’s mother over a parking space in Daxing, one of Beijing’s mega districts, in late July. The incident has been hotly debated in Chinese media because of the brutal and random nature of the crime.

During the four hour trial on Monday, the Beijing First Intermediate Court published 11 updates, including photos of the defendants - the accused murderer Han Lei, and a friend who allegedly helped him flee the scene of the crime.

Still images taken from a surveillance video at the crime scene were posted online, as well as summaries of the prosecution charges and of the defendant’s apology and claims of remorse.

Jacques Delisle, professor of law and director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania said that although the trend towards more transparency is unmistakable, the reasons might vary from case to case.

“The Bo case was, it appears, an attempt to confirm that we are not back in the old Mao days or Stalin style political trials, that he had a chance to present a defense,” Delisle said in an email to VOA.

“With other trials, there is obviously less of that going on... One can read them as an attempt to show that the authorities are on the job and the criminal justice system is working and dealing with behavior that ordinary people fear and condemn.”

Chinese media reports say that last year more than 600 courts used official Weibo accounts, and 17 of them regularly used their microblog to broadcast live information from trials.

Duan Wanjin, a Shaanxi-based criminal lawyer said that such efforts towards transparency are a first step towards more substantial reform of the judiciary in China.

The law in China mandates that with the exception of cases involving state secrets or individual privacy, all criminal trials should be open to the public.

But in practice, Duan said, access to hearings or court documents has often been denied.

“It often happens that the courts' leaders who decide the seatings during a trial let government staff or even police and investigators participate in the hearing, but the public and even journalists are never allowed in. This has created a huge problem of public mistrust of courts.”

By showcasing trials online the courts are trying to win that trust back, analysts said.

During the last meeting of China’s legislature in March, Zhou Qiang was appointed as head of the People’s Supreme Court. His election created some expectation of reform among legal scholars, particularly after a speech in late May where Zhou encouraged lower courts to be more transparent. “Openness should be the principle,” Zhou was quoted as saying during the meeting.

Commentaries on state media as well as policy documents from China's propaganda departments have fleshed out the rationale behind this new approach.

In an article on the People's Daily this week, the director of China's State Internet Information Office - the organ that oversees the Internet in China - used war metaphors when talking about the Party's need for a tougher hand on propaganda work.

“If we do not effectively occupy emerging public opinion battlefields, other people will occupy them.” the article read.

Analysts agree that in recent years the party has been perfecting the way it sends its message to the public, while at the same time tightly controlling public discourse online.

“It is open but still within a very controlled environment,” King-Wa Fu said. “It picks up the information that it feels comfortable to make open. But it does not mean that in the public people can have more space to speak openly.”

But there is some consensus among analysts in China that the trend towards more openness within the judiciary cannot be reversed, whether the party likes it or not.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid