China's courts now embrace social media, but courtrooms remain closed
BEIJING (AP) - China's notoriously opaque courts have suddenly embraced social media to provide a window into their proceedings, to boost a skeptical public's confidence in the country's Communist Party-controlled legal system.
Nearly 1,000 Chinese courts have set up microblog accounts. One in central China released a blow-by-blow of a murder appeal last week, complete with a photo of the convict signing his verdict in handcuffs.
Another court in the south-west has released transcripts of 39 cases on social media since May. A Beijing court held a rare online question-and-answer chat session last week about a high-profile rape trial. And perhaps most surprisingly, the long-awaited trial of fallen Politburo member Bo Xilai in August was largely tweeted directly from the courthouse.
China's courts are releasing information online to build an image of transparency and improve accessibility. Chinese legal scholars and lawyers applaud the moves but warn they may be more about propaganda than transparency. Courtroom audiences remain tightly controlled, and the courts can easily filter sensitive information as they release details via Twitter-like feeds. Lawyers are barred from live microblogging their cases.