Amended Civil Procedure Law comes into effect

The Civil Procedure Law of China was amended on 12 December 2021 and the revised law became effective on 1 January 2022.

The modifications, some of which are summarised below, are intended to facilitate and accelerate the current procedure.

Online hearings

The new Article 16 provides that, if the litigants agree, a hearing may be organised online.

Single judge

According to Article 40 (ex 39), a case may be adjudicated by a single judge in a simplified procedure or in a normal procedure where the facts are very clear.

Service of documents

Article 90 (ex 87) provides that, if the parties agree, court documents may be served electronically – although it is still possible to request a paper copy of the documents). The official date of service is the day on which the document is entered in the server. Where documents need to be served by way of publication in the press, which is necessary when the person to whom the documents are to be served cannot be found, Article 95 (ex 92) specifies that they will be deemed to have been served 30 days after publication (previously, two months).

Appeal

Article 165 (ex 162) provides that, for small cases (ie, where the claim is only monetary and is less than 50% of the local average salary), the judgment is final and not subject to appeal (unless the case involves a foreign party), and must be issued within two months (instead of six). Article 176 (ex 169) stipulates that, if the court of second instance finds - after study and inquiry (which may include "court talk", equivalent to an informal hearing) - that the facts are clear and no new facts, evidence or arguments are presented, it may decide to adjudicate the case without a formal hearing.

Mediation

Finally, according to Article 201 (ex 194), if a case is settled via a mediator, and the parties require that the settlement be endorsed by the court, this request must be made within 30 days of the settlement signature.

Comment

The service of documents is a problem frequently encountered by litigants who sue an elusive defendant. The system of serving documents via the press, even if it is slightly improved by the amended time frame (30 days instead of two months), remains a cause of delays and frustration. It would be more efficient if the address of registration of a person, individual or corporate, is the only address to be taken in consideration for the service of documents. A person who moves without changing their address would then be responsible for organising the mail to be forwarded to the new address, or if the registered address is incorrect, this should not constitute an obstacle to the normal operation of the procedure.


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