Chinese court launches WeChat account to let litigants chat with judges on their cases

The Haidian District People's Court is the first court in Beijing to use WeChat.
The Haidian District People's Court is the first court in Beijing to use WeChat.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A court in Beijing has opened a WeChat account to allow litigants to chat with judges, get status updates on their cases and report those who break court orders.

The Haidian District People's Court started the service early this month (August) to provide convenience in lawsuits and improve work efficiency.

It is the first court in Beijing to use WeChat - a messaging app similar to WhatsApp - to provide legal services and a fresh step for the Chinese judicial authorities which are pushing the courts to become more tech-friendly.

"Litigants and lawyers can connect their mobile phones with our platform after providing their identity on WeChat. When they want to know what cases will be heard or what part of the legal procedure the cases are in, they can just open their WeChat to search," said Mr Mao Jinke, director of the court's enforcement office.

He said the platform was initially used by the enforcement department to collect reports on people who failed to comply with court rulings.

"When we found it could improve connections between judges and litigants, we decided to extend it to other sections," he said.

Judges are required to reply within 24 hours to questions from litigants, or from people who report those who fail to comply with court orders. Responses will be sent to litigants via WeChat as soon as possible, Mr Mao said.

He said messages left by litigants on the platform will be reviewed first, as judges should not be disturbed by scams or malicious complaints.

"If someone is found always sending spam to us, the platform will put him or her on a blacklist," Mr Mao said.

Before the move, courts nationwide have taken various measures to improve work efficiency on behalf of litigants.

For example, litigants in Shanghai's Pudong New Area can initiate a lawsuit in only 15 minutes by scanning a QR code, according to a work report delivered by Mr Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court, in March.

In Gansu province, courts have been set up to hear cases via live video. So far, 423 courts in the western province can hear cases with remote litigants and all verdicts can be searched and downloaded online, the province's official website reported.

"Once I've swiped my identity card in court, information about how to appeal, who takes charge of my case and which stage of the process my case is in will clearly appear on a screen. I don't need to run back and forth to the court," said a resident surnamed Zhang in the province's Jinta county.

Last month (July), Mr Zhou of the top court ordered courts at every level to make full use of big data and continue to make access to courts easier for litigants.