Follow-up on the fate of China Judgments Online

(Also on Substack.)

The latest Supreme People’s Court Work Report provides some information about China Judgments Online and the new People’s Court Case Database

Back in December I posted about uncertainty regarding the future of the China Judgments Online database. The latest Supreme People’s Court Work Report, delivered to the National People’s Congress last month, has some more information in an appendix. The appendix appears only in the PDF version; it’s not attached to the online version. (The appendix also has lots of other interesting information but I’m not covering that here.)

The basic picture is that it seems that the new database, the People’s Court Case Database, will be a limited set of approved cases that judges must check before issuing judgments. Probably the idea is that China Judgments Online is just too big and amorphous; judges need guidance as to which cases are good and worth learning from and which are not. The document seems to say that CJO will continue as before, but with more redactions to further protect privacy, but there is also a specific reference to Supreme People’s Court and High People’s Court cases, suggesting that perhaps we will see fewer cases from lower courts. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating; let’s see what the statistics on uploaded cases tell us in a year or so.

Here’s the Chinese, followed by my quick and dirty English translation. Translator’s notes are at the end.


人民法院案例库收录最高人民法院发布的全部指导性案例,法 官办案须依法参照;同时收录各级法院和社会各界、有关单位推荐,经最高人民法院审定,对类案具有参考示范价值的权威案例,为法官办案提供参考。法官审理案件须先查阅案例库,参考或参照入库同类案例作出裁判,否则要说明理由,理由成立可以作为新的案例入库,或替代原案例入库,确立新的裁判参考。案例库向社会开放,供当事人诉讼、律师办案、学者科研、群众学法使用。当事人、律师通过查阅入库案例可以明确诉讼预期,减少无谓的起诉、上诉、申诉、信访等。

法答网是最高人民法院依托内部办案网,为全国法官提供法律政策运用、审判业务咨询答疑和学习交流服务的信息共享平台。2023年7 月1 日正式运行,纵贯全国四级法院、横跨各业务条线,受到普遍认可和欢迎。运行以来,法答网累计咨询28 万件,答疑23 万件。最高人民法院通过梳理、提炼有共性、高频率的提问,进一步总结修改或起草司法解释、规范性文件,促进统一法律适用。


8. What are the respective functions of the People’s Court Case Database, the Legal Answers Network, and China Judgments Online?[1]

The People’s Court Case Database(人民法院案例库)collects all the Guiding Cases issued by the Supreme People’s Court; judges in handling cases must refer (canzha0 参照) to them according to law. At the same time, it collects authoritative cases with referential (cankao 参考)[2] and model value on the recommendation of courts at every level and relevant units upon review and approval by the Supreme People’s Court, for the purpose of supplying references for judges in handling cases. When judges adjudicate cases, they must first check the case database, and make their judgments with reference to (cankao) or applying by reference (canzhao) cases of the same type that are in the database or else explain why they are not doing so. If the reason [for not doing so] is valid, then the case can become a new case for collection in the database or replace an existing case, and thus establish a new judgment for reference (cankao). The case database is open to the public for use by parties in litigation, lawyers handling cases, scholars doing research, and the public studying law. Through looking up cases in the database, parties and lawyers can clarify their expectations in litigation and reduce pointless lawsuit filings, appeals, shensu appeals, petitions, etc.

The Legal Answers Network (fa da wang) (法答网) (“LAN”) is an internal case handling network of the Supreme People’s Court. It is a shared informational platform that provides information about the application of judicial policies, consultations and answers to doubtful points in adjudication work, and services in study and exchange to judges across the country. [This system] formally went into operation on July 1, 2023. It covers the four levels of courts across the country, goes across all subject matter areas, and has received universal acceptance and welcome. Since going into operation, the LAN has accumulated 280,000 inquiries and provided 230,000 answers. Through organizing and refining inquiries that have a high degree of commonality and frequency, the Supreme People’s Court further sums up its revision and drafting of judicial interpretations and normative documents, promoting the unified application of law.

China Judgments Online is a platform on which courts at four levels make legally effective adjudication documents public according to law. The purpose is, via judicial openness, to promote judicial fairness and provide a guide for the functioning of society. In the next stage, the people’s courts will continue to deepen judicial transparency, and—on the basis of increasing the number of uploaded documents, realizing full coverage of the adjudication field, and enriching the types of cases—promote the uploading of more documents from the Supreme People’s Court and the High Level People’s Courts. At the same time, [we will] strengthen the protection of the privacy of parties connected with litigation, hide relevant identifying information, and ensure that the life and work of parties and their families, and the development of business of enterprises and units, is not [negatively] influenced by the uploading of cases.


[1] “China Judgments Online” is the commonly used English translation of Caipan Wenshu Wang (裁判文书网), literally “Adjudication Documents Network”).

[2] Both canzhao and cankao are generally translated as “refer to”. Canzhao generally means that the document or rule in question must be followed, but for various formal reasons it cannot be characterized as strictly binding or applicable. Cankao means that the document or rule can serve as a guide to action but is not mandatory. The use of the two terms here reflects the difference between Guiding Cases and all other cases deemed authoritative to some degree.