The Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Issues Concerning Property Investigations the “Property Investigation Provisions”) in Civil Enforcement Procedures were adopted during the 1708th session of the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Court on January 25, 2017 and came into effect on May 1, 2017. Consisting of 26 articles, the Property Investigation Provisions primarily regulate matters such as the allocation of the distribution of responsibilities in a property investigation, the obligation of a party subject to enforcement to report its assets, court communications, onsite investigation measures and the posting of bounty announcements as highlighted below.
(1) A reasonable division of responsibilities in a property investigation
In view of limited means available to an enforcement applicant with respect to tracking down the assets of the person subject to enforcement, to better protect the parties’ rights, the Property Investigation Provisions provide that a people’s court shall inquire about the assets of the person subject to enforcement via an online enforcement inquiry and control system to resolve common issues concerning the investigation of property forms. As for assets not covered by the system, the people’s court should apply other means to investigate, and both the applicant and the applicant’s attorneys may also conduct investigations on their own.
(2) Enhanced obligation on the person subject to enforcement to report his or her assets
The Property Investigation Provisions specifically detail the contents of an order for an asset report, the scope of the report, supplemental reporting obligations and verification procedures. There is additional emphasis on imposing a fine or detainment of a person who is subject to enforcement but submits a false assets report, as well as initiating criminal action or listing such person on the list of dishonest persons subject to enforcement, depending on the severity of the circumstances. In addition, the Property Investigation Provisions also contain an additional system to report assets that was acquired within one year from the receipt of the enforcement notice. The more refined reporting system, the penalty measures and credit disciplinary measures mentioned above thus strengthen the obligation of a person subject to enforcement to disclose his or her assets.
(3) Consolidation of the concerted development of informatization and enforcement
With respect to the above online enforcement inquiry and control system, which has attracted extensive attention, the Property Investigation Provisions specifically provide that online inquiry shall have the same effect as an onsite investigation, thereby affirming its value in the set of investigation measures that may be taken by a people’s court. In addition, by drawing on and borrowing from practices that have been successful, the Property Investigation Provisions stipulate that for motor vehicles, vessels or aircraft belonging to a person subject to enforcement which have been seized by the registration agencies but not yet actually attached, or if the whereabouts of the person subject to enforcement who is required to submit to an investigative interview are unknown, the relevant agencies may be notified to help locate the person pursuant to relevant rules.
(4) Enriched means of property investigation and design of an audit investigation system
The Property Investigation Provisions establish an audit investigation system on the basis of summarized enforcement experiences in practice. Meanwhile, to address the issue that the person subject to enforcement refuses to provide audit information, the Property Investigation Provisions specifically provide that if a person subject to enforcement conceals the audit information, the people’s court may conduct a search under law, and if the person subject to enforcement hampers the audit investigation, such person may be fined or detained based on the severity of the violation to ensure smooth audit activities.
(5) Establishment of a bounty announcement system
A new bounty announcement system is added to the Property Investigation Provisions in which the rules for the bounty system, the conditions for collecting the rewards, the method of payment and the court approval timing are set out. The establishment of such system will lead to a greater chance of tracking down the assets of a person subject to enforcement and can put psychological pressure on that person to compel voluntary performance of obligations.