China court uses WeChat video in divorce hearing

A plaintiff shows her ID card in a WeChat video call during the trial.
A plaintiff shows her ID card in a WeChat video call during the trial. PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

GUIYANG/BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - As Chinese divorce hearings go, it was fairly standard - apart from the fact that one half of the couple was 2,000km away.

A civil court in Fuquan, a city in the largely underdeveloped southwestern province of Guizhou, finalised a breakup last week in which the husband was present in court, but the wife was in Tianjin, in northern China.

The proceedings were carried out in just 20 minutes over a WeChat video call, a first for the city, said Deng Chao, the judge who handled the case last week.

The couple, who were not identified, had been married since 1989 and have five children, Deng said, adding that there were no disputes over finances or custody.

Court hearings using a video link are common in large cities, but are still rare in remote regions.

"We'll continue to try to hear simple cases via video. But for complicated ones, couples will still be asked to show up in court," Deng said.

Pan Degui, a spokesman for the court, added that video link hearings will be promoted, as they can significantly reduce costs for couples.

While it may appear economic and convenient, Liu Lin at Beijing Shuangli Law Firm warned that hearing cases via apps like WeChat could cause more complications and open the possibility of potential privacy issues.

Chen Wei, an attorney at Yingke Law Firm in Beijing, agreed and added: "It could be risky for judges to hear cases this way because it's difficult to verify the proof that couples may offer."