From May 1st, 2020, more types of electronic data will officially become admissable as forms of evidence in Chinese courts.
The decision of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China regarding evidence in civil litigation promulgated on December 26, 2019 will come into force on May 1, 2020. The decision further refines and expands the scope of electronic data.
The Supreme People’s Court newly amended provisions on evidence in civil litigation, details the types of electronic data, including five categories and various forms:
（1） Information published by web pages, blogs, microblogs and other network platforms;
（2） Communication information of network application services such as SMS, e-mail, instant messaging and communication groups;
（3） User registration information, identity authentication information, electronic transaction record, communication record, login log and other information;
（4） Documents, pictures, audio, video, digital certificates, computer programs and other electronic documents;
（5） Other information that can prove the facts of the case stored, processed and transmitted in digital form.
This means that, from May 1, the above electronic data can be formally entered as evidence in court.
Case 1: WeChat Notice of Dismissal
In April last year, Ms. Chen went to work for a company in Zhengzhou City and signed a one-year contract. However, on September 26 of the same year, the company informed the employees via wechat that the company’s capital chain was broken and could not continue to operate. The company announced that the operation was stopped and salaries were postponed. Later, Ms. Chen sued, asking the company to pay compensation for arrears of wages and illegal termination of labor contracts. At that time, the evidence submitted by Ms. Chen included a wechat record, in addition to the notice of non acceptance of the labor and personnel dispute arbitration committee and the labor contract.
Finally, the court ruled that her evidence had the authenticity, legality and relevance, and accepted them. At the beginning of April this year, the court ruled that the company should pay Ms. Chen 3000 yuan in salary and 3456.04 yuan in economic compensation.
Case 2: Loan repayment
In traditional borrowing, most people use paper-based borrowing and signed receipts to guarantee their rights. These are also commonly submitted forms of evidence in litigation. Today, whether it’s bank card transfers or WeChat and Alipay transfers, a record is clear.
Mr. Feng borrowed 30,000 yuan from Mr. Zhang. On October 11 and 12, 2019, Mr. Zhang transferred a total of 30,000 yuan to Mr. Feng via wechat transfer.
After two months, seeing that Mr. Feng didn’t make the repayment in time, Mr. Zhang asked him to fill in a loan slip, which stated that the cash transfer from Mr. Zhang was 30,000 yuan, and agree on the daily interest rate and the time of principal and interest return.
At the due date, Mr. Feng still hadn’t paid back the money. At the beginning of March this year, Mr. Zhang filed a lawsuit in court. Besides the debit note, WeChat records were also submitted as evidence, including transfer records and dialogue record.
After hearing the case, the People’s Court of Jinshui District of Zhengzhou city held that the fact that the defendant borrowed 30,000 yuan from the plaintiff and was not repaid was clear, there was a “debit note” and WeChat transfer record as evidence, and the creditor’s right and debt relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant was established. In the first trial, the defendant was ordered to repay the principal of the loan and the interest.
Electronic data used to be evidence,
What is the purpose of this revision?
We can see from the above cases that wechat chat records, SMS, electronic transaction records, etc. have been used as evidence in the previous court cases; so what’s the significance of this amendment?
Li Xuyan, honorary president of Henan Lawyers Association and director of Beijing Dacheng (Zhengzhou) law firm provided some answers.
Li Xuyan clarified that electronic data is a new form of evidence added in the Civil Procedure Law of 2012; the interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on the application of the Civil Procedure Law of the people’s Republic of China in 2015 made principled and general provisions on the meaning of electronic data.
In order to solve the operational problems in the trial practice, the revision decision made more detailed provisions on the scope of electronic data, clarified the requirements for the parties to provide and the people’s court to investigate, collect and preserve electronic data, and the rules for electronic data review and judgment, and improved the system of electronic data evidence rules.
After the amendment, which kind of cases will benefit more?
Li Xuyan said that in recent years, with the advancement of information technology, people’s behavior has gradually changed from “offline” to “online”, and more and more evidence in litigation is presented in the form of electronic data, especially in disputes caused by personal private lending, online lending, online shopping, etc., the application of electronic data is more frequent, and in most cases, the evidence parties can provide is limited to wechat chat records, Internet transfers and other electronic data. Therefore, how to extract and use electronic data as evidence is particularly important for the parties to prove the facts of the case and safeguard their legitimate rights and interests.
How to Save Electronic Data as Evidence
There are some important things to pay attention to when planning to save electronic data as evidence. Screenshots of wechat transfers have been rejected in courts. Zhang Bo, a lawyer of Henan Jichun law firm, said that “The provisions on evidence in civil litigation are clear. If the parties take electronic data as evidence, they shall provide the original. A copy made by the producer of electronic data that is consistent with the original, or a printed copy or other output medium that can be displayed and identified directly from the electronic data, shall be deemed as the original of the electronic data.” Zhang Bo said, for example, whether wechat records can be used as evidence in the court depends on two premises. The first is to be able to prove that the user of wechat is both parties, because wechat is not a real name system; the second is to ensure the integrity of wechat records, because wechat evidence is a life-style segment record, if not complete, it may lead to out of context, and the court will not accept it.