Friday, June 10, 2005
The China Court Network (中国法院网) reported on June 1st that a foreign-related case had for the first time been accepted for hearing by a Basic-Level People's Court in Yiwu City, Zhejiang Province. [Story] While the many "firsts" claimed in press reports are not always accurate, certainly this is unusual. In 2001, the Supreme People's Court issued rules generally giving Intermediate-Level People's Court original jurisdiction over such cases; the news report here says that the Supreme People's Court and the Zhejiang Higher-Level People's Court, in view of the Yiwu court's "actual circumstances", gave it authority as of June 1st to hear civil and commercial cases involving foreign (including Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan) interests where the amount in controversy was under 1 million yuan. Apparently it is the only court currently so authorized. Jurisdiction had previously been limited to intermediate courts and above because of their presumed greater sophistication. It is a little hard to see why a court in Yiwu has been considered the first basic-level court sophisticated enough to hear foreign-related cases, while courts in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing are apparently not yet up to standard. It seems to be in the nature of a local experiment that will then be propagated nationwide if successful. Certainly with the inevitable rise in the amount of foreign-related litigation, the intermediate courts will soon find themselves overworked.