China’s Supreme Court Allows Blockchain Evidence

The Chinese Supreme Court issued an unprecedented ruling allowing blockchain-enabled evidence as admissible in court disputes.

In an unprecedented ruling, China’s Supreme Court has decreed that evidence authenticated using blockchain technology is admissible in court and could be used in legal proceedings.

The high court’s decision also provided advice for the country’s internet courts in reviewing legal disputes.

“Internet courts shall conduct cases online, and the litigation links such as acceptance, delivery, mediation, evidence exchange, pre-trial preparation, court trial, and sentencing shall be completed online. According to the application of the party or the need for the trial, the Internet court may decide to complete some of the litigation links online,” the decision said.

It also ordered Internet courts to accept digital data submitted as evidence by any of the parties that are collected and stored through the blockchain. However, the collected data must contain valuable information such as digital signatures, hash value verification or reliable timestamps, or the data could be stored in a digital deposition platform.

China’s Supreme Court issued the ruling after Hangzhou province created the country’s first Internet court in the country last year. The Internet court was established to handle litigations involving internet-based disputes that involve digital data.

In July 2018, the Hangzhou internet court ruled that blockchain-enabled evidence was acceptable in court cases in a copyright infringement case. The latest ruling from the country’s high court validated Hangzhou’s decision.

The Supreme Court added, "The grass-roots people's courts shall accept the following first-instance cases within the jurisdiction of the municipality where the Internet courts in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou are centralized."

These are disputes involving online transactions such as online shopping, network service contracts, financial loans, copyright or neighboring rights, infringement, internet domain name ownership, personal and property rights, product liability, public interest litigation, administrative disputes, and other internet civil and administrative cases.

According to the high tribunal, blockchain technology provides a tamper-proof platform as information in distributed ledger technology (DLT) is cryptographically secured, thus ensuring privacy for all participants in addition to providing a provably authentic audit trail. Some industries have started using blockchains to offer ease-of-doing-business platforms to comply with regulatory standards.

The decision also comes as the Communist Party of China recently issued a guideline on DLT for government officials. The Blockchain – a Guide for Leaders, is “the biggest significance of blockchain technology at present is its operating mechanism,” said Ye Hao, president of People's Daily, the Party’s news outlet.