Courts handling 'a boom' of Belt and Road cases
Services improved to ensure equal protection to all, senior judge says
Courts across the country are handling a rising number of foreign-related lawsuits as the Belt and Road Initiative rapidly progresses, and market players will be equally protected to ensure a fair and just environment, a vice-president from the top court said.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, covers the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, with the aim of creating a trade and infrastructure network to connect Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.
"The initiative has brought a boom of foreign-related disputes, as well as challenges for us in case hearings," He Rong, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.
When top court President Zhou Qiang delivered his annual work report to the National People's Congress on Sunday, he asked grassroots courts to provide better legal services for the initiative by improving case hearings while handling foreign-related lawsuits this year, especially maritime and commercial cases.
Statistics from the top court provided to China Daily show that Chinese courts at all levels concluded 25,916 foreign-related cases of all types last year, up by 9.38 percent year-on-year.
"Of the total, the initiative-related disputes have increased rapidly," said He.
Since last year, more foreign-related cases have involved Asian, Middle Eastern and European countries, including Singapore, India, Malaysia, Russia and Kazakhstan, and many have focused on cross-border contract projects and international logistics, she said.
"The changes can be attributed to the further infrastructure connections, prosperous trade and more investments among the countries along the Belt and Road routes," she said.
The number of new maritime cases rose by 25.33 percent and new intellectual property cases by 49.22 percent as the initiative progressed, according to the statistics.
As the presiding judge, He Rong ordered a Greek company to pay a Chinese transportation authority 6.59 million yuan ($953,000) for breaching a salvage agreement on July 6 last year.
She overturned the original ruling by the Guangdong Provincial High People's Court, saying that the payment should be based on whether the authority provided services for the company in line with the agreement, not on whether the salvage was successful.
Zhang Wenguang, an associate researcher specializing in international law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, applauded the case, saying He's verdict would help grassroots courts to handle similar cases.
Litigants at home and abroad can better understand Chinese courts' principles in such cases, and it is also good to improve the country's justice image, Zhang said.
Since 2013, the top court has taken various measures to improve services as the initiative is implemented.
He Rong said a series of new judicial interpretations will be on the top court's agenda this year.
"Also, we'll keep an eye on new types of cases concerning the building of the Eurasian Land Bridge, the overland rail link between East Asia and Europe, as well as disputes about free trade zones, internet finance and cross-border financing," she said.
"What we want is to provide strong legal guarantee and better legal services while our country is improving the initiative," she added.