Zhou Qiang's keynote speech on the Fourth China-Singapore Legal and Judicial Roundtable

(english.court.gov.cn) Updated : 2021-01-07

Judicial Response to Regular COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control

Keynote Speech on the Fourth China-Singapore Legal and Judicial Roundtable

By ZHOU Qiang, Chief Justice, President of the Supreme People's Court

(November 30, 2020)

Honorable Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, guests from the judiciary in Singapore,

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

The sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic has brought severe impact to all countries and heavily damaged the global economy. All countries around the world are facing the arduous tasks to overcome the epidemic, stabilize the economy, and protect people’s livelihood. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, China and Singapore have worked together to overcome the difficulties. The strong cooperation has proved our solid friendship. In the face of the epidemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping personally led and deployed. He has emphasized to put people and life as the top priority and to protect people's lives and health at all costs. Thanks to the arduous efforts, China has achieved major strategic success in the epidemic prevention and control. China's economy is showing a stable recovery, evidenced by the positive overall growth in the first three quarters, including a 0.7% growth in foreign trade and a 5.2% rise in paid-in foreign capital. China has played a positive role in promoting the recovery of the global economy. In order to support countries in overcoming the epidemic, the Chinese people have shared full experience unreservedly with all parties and done our best to assist the international community, demonstrating that China has acted out its responsibility.

The Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Communist Party of China (hereinafter referred to as "CPC") Central Committee approved the proposals for the formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives through the Year 2035. According to the proposals, China will achieve the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects as scheduled. From the next year on, China will embark on a new journey toward a modern socialist country in all-around way. The proposals emphasized that China has turned to the stage of high-quality development, and will unswervingly implement the new development philosophy featured by innovation, coordination, green, openness and sharing. We will foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations mutually reinforcing each other. And China will open up to the world with larger scope, wider field and greater depths. On the Opening Ceremony of the 3rd China International Import Expo, the 20th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the 12th BRICS Summit, the APEC CEO Dialogues and investigation and study around China, President Xi emphasized that China will steadfastly expand all-round opening up and will further open its door to share development opportunities with the whole world. With the deepening of the Belt and Road Initiative, the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (hereinafter referred to as "RCEP") Agreement, and the gradual release of domestic demand potential, China will provide more opportunities for countries in the Region and inject new impetus into the recovery of the world economy.

The rule of law is the fundamental way of governing the country. China has always attached great importance to the rule of law construction. The CPC Central Conference on Work of Overall Law-Based Governance (hereinafter referred to as the "Conference") noted that the Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law serves as the fundamental guideline for law-based governance in China. The Conference utilized "Eleven Upholds" to systematically elaborate the important thoughts and strategic deployment of promoting the rule of law in the new era, and stated that the rule of law construction in China had started a new journey. In the prevention and control of the epidemic, President Xi highlighted the need to abide by the law, and coordinate the promotion of epidemic prevention and control and economic and social development on the track of the rule of law. On November 13, President Xi addressed a letter to the China Forum on International Legal Cooperation (2020), stating that China is willing to work with all parties, actively carry out international rule of law cooperation, and provide legal support for building an open economy and promoting global economic recovery. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Supreme People’s Court (hereinafter referred to as "SPC") of China has timely issued a series of support measures of judicial services and guided people's courts at all levels to make full use of the achievements of the smart court construction. People's courts in China have tried more than 3 million cases of various types in a timely and efficient manner through the Internet. We have realized the “no shutdown of trial or enforcement, no stop of fairness and justice” during the epidemic, providing powerful judicial services and support for the coordinated promotion of epidemic prevention and control and economic and social development.

Firstly, punish epidemic-related crimes in accordance with the law and protect people's lives and health. Punish epidemic-related crimes that hinder the epidemic prevention and control in accordance with the law. The SPC issued the Opinions on Punishing Criminal and Illegal Activities that Hinder the Prevention and Control of Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia, and released three batches of 26 typical cases of punishing crimes that hinder the epidemic prevention and control, instructing people’s courts at all levels to punish the epidemic related crimes of resisting quarantine measures, deliberately concealing epidemic symptoms and spreading the virus, producing or selling fake and inferior epidemic prevention supplies, and fabricating false epidemic information, etc. The SPC resolutely safeguard public health safety and social stability. Strengthen the judicial safeguard for the safety of medical personnel. The SPC issued documents to ensure the safety of medical personnel, severely cracked down on 7 types of medical-related illegal and criminal acts, and created a good diagnosis and treatment environment for medical personnel and patients. The SPC published 8 typical cases of punishing medical-related crimes in accordance with the law. We have "zero tolerance" for medical-related crimes, in order to maintain medical order, and ensure the safety of medical personnel. Prevent imported or exported cases in accordance with the law. The SPC issued Opinions on Punishing the Crime of Impairing Border Health and Quarantine by Law, which can punish crimes involving a major risk of epidemic spreading as the result of deliberately concealing border entry and exit or travel in severely-hit areas and refusing to comply with quarantine regulations. The SPC maintains the results of epidemic prevention and control, and provides judicial safeguard for the global all-out war on the epidemic.

Secondly, give full play to the role of justice in promoting development, stabilizing expectations and safeguarding people's livelihood, so as to create a good legal environment for economic and social development. Improve judicial policies and measures to support the resumption of work and production. The SPC issued guiding opinions on epidemic-related civil, commercial, foreign-related commercial and maritime, as well as enforcement cases, and documents on properly handling the epidemic-related travel contract disputes and labor disputes in accordance with the law. In order to specify the judicial rules for handling disputes in accordance with the law, the SPC released three batches of 31 typical cases of serving and safeguarding the resumption of work and production. People’s courts in China accurately apply the force majeure rules, implement policies of bailout and benefit for enterprises, and properly handle cases involving breach of contract and corporate debt caused by the epidemic, so as to create favorable conditions for enterprises to resume production and develop sustainably. We make full use of judicial measures such as insolvency reorganization, reconciliation and enforcement in good faith, and do our utmost to protect market players, especially small, medium and micro enterprises, and help maintain the security of the industrial chain and the supply chain. Deepen the diversified resolution of disputes. Deepen construction of a one-stop system of diversified dispute resolution and litigation services, to achieve the one-stop resolution of simple cases through mediation, expedited adjudication and speedy trial, so that the parties can resolve their disputes "at one place and in one time". People's courts across China have guided market players to help and understand each other and resolved a large number of disputes before litigation by issuing notices to enterprises in response of epidemic risks and providing online consulting services, etc. Actively create an international business environment that is market-oriented and governed by rule of law. We strengthen the judicial protection of property rights and intellectual property rights, improve the judicial protection mechanism for market players, and equally protect the property rights and legal rights and interests of various ownership systems, so as to protect and stimulate market vitality. We strictly implement the Foreign Investment Law and give full play to the role of the International Commercial Court of the SPC, to equally protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese and foreign investors and provide the international community with a fair, efficient, convenient and low-cost "one-stop" diversified solution for international commercial disputes.

Thirdly, the smart courts "fully play their roles" and efficiently resolve disputes online. Litigation services are online for 24 hours a day. People's courts in China, through platforms like Mobile Micro Court guide parties to file a case, bring an action and participate in mediation online, so that they can file a case nearby in a different region and deal with litigation matters remotely. Since 3 February, people's courts in China have filed 6.31 million cases online, held 759,000 online hearings and 3.076 million online mediations, with an increase of 61.30%, 741.05%, and 191.08% year-on-year respectively, and the number of electronic service has reached 17.606 million. Popularize the online hearing. We launched the online hearing and optimized technical safeguards of real-time synchronized transmission of video and audio, synchronized audio and video recording and online signatures. We strictly performed legal procedures and protected the litigation rights of parties in accordance with the law, so that parties can perform identity verification, defense, proof and cross-examination all online and participate in hearing from home. We have established 38,000 science and technology courts nationwide, which strongly support the remote hearing by video. Litigants can appear in court online in different regions. Online enforcement is transparent and fair. We innovated the enforcement methods and promoted online enforcement. We fully utilized IT-based methods such as online enforcement search and control system to handle enforcement cases and ensure that the winning parties can timely realize their legitimate rights and interests. People’s courts in China explored and launched the model of "cloud enforcement" and measures like "online refund through face-scanning" to solve enforcement difficulties. Enhance judicial openness. We adhere to promoting fairness and credibility through openness, and rely on the four open platforms of trial procedures, court hearings, judgements and enforcement information to maximize people's rights to know and to participate. China Judgments Online has published 106 million judgements and achieved 52 billion visits; Tingshen.Court.Gov.cn has live broadcast of 9.89 million trials with 30 billion views. All cases of great social concern, including epidemic-related cases, are public in accordance with the law, making the trial of hot cases a rule of law open class shared by all.

Guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging around the world. Only through solidarity and collaboration can we overcome this public health challenge. The judiciary has significant responsibilities in response to the public health emergency of international concern. The SPC of China is willing to strengthen judicial exchanges and cooperation with the Supreme Court of Singapore, make in-depth discussions on the response to the regular epidemic prevention and control, share useful experience, join hands to tackle risks and challenges, and together contribute to the international community in overcoming the epidemic and promoting the recovery of the world economy.