Guangzhou to build Internet Court for the GBA

It had to happen: Guangzhou is taking the lead in mapping out a Five-Year Plan for the development of a Court of the Internet in the Greater Bay Area.

An Internet Court is exactly what it sounds like. Its establishment in Guangzhou should come as no surprise to anyone employed outside of the ancient, tradition-bound, wig-wearing world of Hong Kong’s judicial community. With the rise of digital technologies on the mainland, especially facial-recognition algorithms, the ability to conduct legal proceedings in remote locations via online video feeds should be possible. Which is why Guangzhou has taken the lead and established a Court of the Internet which will start having hearings, hopefully cross-border hearings, within the next five years.

Picture this: The plaintiff and defendant are in different locations, logging into the court room after having passed an identity-verification process. The court room is just like any other video-based chat room on Skype, Whatsapp or WeChat. There is a judge present, but no public gallery. The live broadcast of the whole process is publicly accessible on mobile phones.

Moreover, evidence can now be more efficiently submitted to the court. Screenshots and screen-recordings admitted in a traditional court would have to undergo a series of authentication processes. In the Internet Court, a centralized electronic evidence management platform will be accessible, which could be used to retrieve data instantaneously online that has already been verified – think about goods that have been bought through Alibaba, transaction records from WeChat Pay, etc. Oh, and yes, there is blockchain technology layered on top of all this, to ensure that sources of evidence and trial processes are traceable, and court rulings are credible – they cannot be manipulated on a centralized server.

There is a long way to go, obviously. According to the five-year plan, the GBA Internet Court will “combine more judicial technology application scenarios and innovation to explore and broaden the scope of online-based judicial cases”.

Justice is coming to a chat room near you, sooner than you think.

Read more (in Chinese).