On January 14, 2020, the Supreme Court, in consultation with the Macau Special Administ1rative Region, amended the Arrangements of the Supreme People’s Court for Cooperation Between Courts in the Chinese Mainland and the Macau Special Administrative Region for the Service of Judicial Documents and Obtaining Evidence in Civil Commercial Cases (the “Arrangements”), which was first signed in 2001. The amended Arrangements came into effect on March 1, 2020 and are highlighted below:
1. Addition of electronic service
A new Article 3 is added, which provides: “Mutual service of judicial documents and evidence between the parties may be delivered electronically through the online judicial assistance platform for the Chinese mainland and Macau; if electronic delivery cannot be made through the platform, the service shall be made by mail. The integrity, authenticity and immutability of the judicial documents or evidentiary materials that are sent electronically through the online judicial assistance platform shall be ensured. Judicial documents or evidentiary materials that are sent electronically through the platform shall have the same effect as their originals.”
The launch of the platform will fully realize the online transfer, review, handling and tracking of evidence collection cases for both sides, greatly improving the efficiency and convenience of mutual judicial assistance.
2. Expansion in the level of courts involved in mutual assistance
Article 2 is revised as follows: “The mutual service of judicial documents and evidence shall go through high people’s courts and the Court of Final Appeal of the Macau Special Administrative Region. The Supreme People’s Court and the Court of Final Appeal of the Macau Special Administrative Region may mutually serve documents and evidence to each other directly. After consulting the Court of Final Appeal of the Macau Special Administrative Region, the Supreme People’s Court may authorize some intermediate people’s courts and the low level people’s courts to contact the Court of Final Appeal of the Macau Special Administrative Region for mutual service of documents and obtaining evidence.”
So after the new Arrangements go into effect, the intermediate and low level people’s courts may, with the authorization of the Supreme People’s Court, directly deal with the Macau Court of Final Appeal for service of documents and evidence. This can avoid the extra step of review and transfer by the higher people’s courts and improve judicial efficiency.
3. Addition on witness testimony by videoconference or teleconference
A new Article 23 is added which provides: “The entrusted court may, at the other court’s request and with the consent of the witness or the inspector, help arrange the witness or inspector within its jurisdiction to testify via videoconference or teleconference.”
The Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Evidence in Civil Procedures as amended in 2019 contain additional provisions on the testimony of a witness using video transmission technologies and audiovisual materials. In alignment, the Arrangements thus also set down new provisions to arrange for testimony via videoconference or teleconference, thereby providing a new way to testify and reduce the burden of testimony, contribute to court’s investigation of facts and increase the efficiency of judicial assistance.