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Widespread use of artificial intelligence, WeChat in Chinese courts

Yesterday, Chinese state media outlet, Xinhua, reported that China's court system intranet has been extended to 3,523 local courts and 9,277 tribunals across China, enabling all judicial officers to have access to the same information in the course of legal work.

The smart court system enables court officials to manage all work online and it makes the judicial process information open to the public in accordance with the law.

China's national database of legal documents, the biggest in the world, now includes information on 122 million legal cases, more than 6 million trial records and 240,000 items of judicial personnel data.Judges can use the database to share information with the Ministry of Public Security, National Administration for Code Allocation to Organizations, Ministry of Agriculture, and banks.

But that is not all. Chinese courts are extensively exploring the use of technology to improve services and enhance efficiencies.

AI, Robots, WeChat

Last week, ChinaDaily reported about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the judicial system.

There are robots in place in 100 courts around the country. The number is expected to go up. The robot, designed by Aegis, a technology company in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, can provide spoken replies to questions from the public and court officials. Users can also submit queries via a regular computer keyboard or by writing Chinese characters on its screen on its front, and receive a printout with the answers.

The robots, costing 50,000 yuan to 150,000 yuan ($7,528 to $22,585), can provide essential information, such as how to bring a lawsuit. 

They can also retrieve case histories, verdicts and laws, reducing the workload of court officials and improving service efficiency.

The robots used in courts in different parts of the country are also customised according to local needs. For instance, robots in Shenzhen in Guangdong province is programmed to provide information about labour-related disputes, as Shenzhen is home to a large number of migrant workers. While robots in Beijing's courts focus primarily on civil and commercial law.

In addition to using Aegis' robots in the courts, the public can also search for information on the company's WeChat account, which was established in July.

The ChinaDaily article provides an example of how the services helps the public. If someone sustains injuries in a traffic accident, the platform can provide information about procedures, such as how to contact the police and request to see relevant footage captured by surveillance cameras.

The WeChat platform has the advantage of being accessible from anyone’s smartphone. The system is linked to more than 350 judicial authorities, including courts and justice bureaus. Both the robots and the WeChat platform have access to a constantly updated database which contains details of more than 40,000 legal procedures, and answers to about 30,000 frequently asked legal questions. It also holds information about more than 7,000 laws and 5 million cases.

According to company statistics cited by the article the platform receives over 30,000 requests every day, and is able to immediate answers for 85 percent of the questions.

On November 16, Jiangsu Provincial Higher People's Court and Tencent, which owns WeChat, announced the creation of a “micro-court” ecosystem in a joint press conference (based on Google translation of press release in Mandarin).

Intelligent bots embedded in the WeChat platform will provide services such as replies to inquiries on laws and regulations and guidance on processes. The platform can provide online pre-filing support and help generate standardised petitions. Tencent’s face recognition technology is used to verify identities and enable participation in litigation activities via the platform. Evidence submission and other processes can also be completed through WeChat, thereby reducing litigation costs. The case judge and the clerk, can find related cases on the platform and generate case analysis reports.

The WeChat platform can also be used for courtroom scheduling, jury changes, clerical approval, electronic delivery and other services, so that court officers can handle cases anytime, anywhere. Trials can also be conducted remotely through the platform. The platform can also be used for the resolution of conflicts and disputes.

In August this year, a court in Beijing opened a WeChat account to allow litigants to chat with judges, get status updates on their cases and report rulebreakers, as reported by ChinaDaily. The platform was initially used by the enforcement department to collect reports on people who failed to comply with court rulings. Subsequently, its use was extended to improve communication between judges and litigants. Judges are required to reply within 24 hours to questions from litigants, or tips on non-compliance with court orders.

The same ChinaDaily article also mentions the ability to initiate lawsuits in Shanghai's Pudong New Area lawsuit in only 15 minutes by scanning a QR code. In Gansu province, 423 courts had been equipped with the ability to hear cases remotely via live video.

Featured image: Blogtrepreneur/ CC BY 2.0

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