The top judicial bodies from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are expanding exchange and training programs to help judges in the region more effectively handle trade issues.
He Rong, vice-president of China’s Supreme People’s Court, said at a forum on Sept 17 in Nanning, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, that judges from both China and ASEAN member countries want to learn about the different trade regulations of each country. Familiarity with them, He said, would help judges better handle disputes in the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area.
Increased communication among judges in the region will generate more judicial cooperation, she added.
At the China-ASEAN Justice Forum, about 100 delegates－including presidents and chief justices of top courts in the region－agreed to improve the ability of judges to accurately implement laws and international trade rules.
Under their agreement, delegates will conduct extensive exchanges and training workshops, forums, seminars and cross-regional visits.
Liu Hehua, director of the foreign affairs department of the SPC, said he approved of the agreement and added that more Chinese judges will visit foreign countries within the next five years to undergo training.
“We’ve provided various types of training for judges. Some have traveled to Western countries for one-year law programs, and some have received shorter periods of training in languages and specific judicial issues,” said Liu, adding that more than 1,000 judges have participated in the training thus far.
Although the director did not disclose how many Chinese judges can speak English, he said the figure is rising.
Sundaresh Menon, chief justice of Singapore’s Supreme Court, said the forum was timely as the region is rapidly developing economically.
More frequent trade cooperation needs judicial protection and support, so it is important that more judges participate in exchange programs, he said.
“We’ll give more accurate and fairer verdicts if we are familiar with judicial backgrounds and systems,” he said. “We want to be aware of the legal difficulties judges in other countries face and what solutions they will take, which will also be useful for our own judicial reform.”
Li Xuan, vice-president of the Guangxi Zhuang’s National Judges College, said China’s top court should create opportunities for judicial officers to hear foreign-related cases at low-level courts to be more familiar with international disputes.
JUDGES EMPHASIZE FOREIGNERS’ RIGHTS
Foreign litigants receive equal protection whether they are plaintiffs or defendants in lawsuits in China, judges said on Sept 17.
Speaking at a forum in Nanning, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Luo Dongchuan, chief judge of the foreign-related cases department at China’s top court, said equal protection is the aim and principle when Chinese courts hear cases involving foreigners, “which means foreign litigants should follow Chinese judicial procedures if they appeal to Chinese courts.”
Chinese is the only language in trials involving foreigners, but Chinese courts can provide translators if foreign litigants and witnesses request them, Luo said, adding that those who request the service should pay the fees.
Liang Yu, the chief judge for foreign-related disputes at the Guangxi High People’s Court, echoed Luo’s sentiments.
“Our judges can mediate after trials in English with involved foreigners, but speaking Chinese at hearings and finding Chinese lawyers are necessary per the law and a way to show China’s legal image and sovereignty,” Liang said.
Liang said his department handled as many civil and business disputes involving foreigners from January to June as it did in all of 2013.
When foreigners are involved in criminal cases, courts will inform their embassies and allow the foreigners to discuss the case with court officials outside of court if they wish, said Wang Ka, president of Chongzuo Intermediate People’s Court.
In August, Zhou Qiang, president of China’s top court, said that the door of all Chinese courts would be open to foreigners.
“We invite foreigners to visit, hear cases, supervise our work and share judicial opinions with us,” he said.