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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid