On November 21, 2013, the Supreme People’s Court of China passed the Provisions on the Online Issuance of Judgment Documents by People’s Courts (the “Provisions”), which will take effect on January 1, 2014. The Provisions replace earlier rules (of the same title) enacted by the Supreme People’s Court on November 8, 2010, and generally focus on improved implementation of the principles of standardizing the online issuance of judgment documents, promoting judicial justice and enhancing the public credibility of the judiciary.

The Provisions also contain a number of suggestions for the protection of personal information. These recommendations indicate that:

  • Judgment documents involving state secrets, personal private matters or cases involving juvenile delinquency shall not be published on the Internet.
  • When issuing online judgment documents, a People’s Court shall delete the following information: (1) the home address, contact information, ID number, bank account number and any other personal information of a natural person; (2) relevant information of a juvenile; (3) the bank account number of an entity or other organizations; (4) business secrets; and (5) other content inappropriate for release on the Internet.
  • A People’s Court shall retain the real information of the name or title of the party concerned upon issuing online judgment documents, but the names of the following parties or litigants shall be processed anonymously through the use of alternate symbols: (1) the parties and their statutory agents in marriage and family cases or inheritance disputes; (2) victims and their statutory agents, witnesses and expert witnesses in criminal cases; (3) any defendant who is sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years and is exempted from criminal punishment (and who is not a recidivist or habitual offender).

The Provisions are intended to make the judicial system more independent and more transparent. At the same time, it remains to be seen how easily searchable the judgment opinion network will be after the Provisions are implemented. The Provisions represent the latest step in the ever-growing array of sector-specific regulations governing personal information in China, and may suggest that legislative and regulatory activities for the protection of personal information will continue.