Evidence law in China (Fr)
Kenneth Weissberg, lawyer at the Paris Bar and French Foreign Trade Advisor
Ying Liu, Master in Law from the University of Xiamen, in China and Master in Business Law from the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, in France.
Evidence plays an essential role in the proceedings. A right only exists when a rule of law recognizes it, and the procedure of this right authorizes the referral to a court competent to enforce this rule.
Il existe une différence importante entre la procédure chinoise et les procédures occidentales. La répartition des pouvoirs en Chine n’est pas la même que dans les pays occidentaux. La séparation des pouvoirs législatif, exécutif et judiciaire, que l’on connaît dans les pays occidentaux, n’existe pas en Chine, oùle pouvoir judiciaire y compris celui du Parquet, et le pouvoir exécutif dépendent du pouvoir législatif.
Le système traditionnel de la procédure chinoise est inquisitoire : la maîtrise du procès est confiée au juge qui joue un rôle actif. En plus des éléments que les parties vont lui soumettre, le juge pourra rechercher lui-même des éléments de preuve afin de fonder sa propre opinion. Cependant avec l’entrée en vigueur du code de procédure civile de 2008 qui s’est inspirédu système de la procédure accusatoire(le système de justice qui s’appuie principalement sur les compétences et habiletés des avocats des parties pour défendre leur version des faits.), l’admissibilité de la preuve est devenue une question de plus en plus importante.
The Chinese Civil Procedure Code promulgated on April 9, 1991 was amended on October 28, 2007, and came into force on April 1, 2008 (hereinafter referred to as CPCC). In its chapter 6, 12 articles relate to the proof.
The Chinese Criminal Procedure Code promulgated on March 17, 1996 entered into force on January 1, 1997 (hereinafter referred to as CPPC). The evidentiary provisions are in Chapter 5 and have 8 articles.
The Chinese Administrative Procedure Code promulgated on April 4, 1989 entered into force on October 1, 1990, its chapter 5 includes 6 articles concerning the evidence (hereinafter called CPAC).
All these provisions being very abstract and difficult to apply, the Supreme People's Court drew on the experience of the courts and was inspired by the systems of common law and civil law, to state “the provisions on certain problems in application of the Code of Civil Procedure1 ”which were published on December 6, 2001, and which came into force on April 1, 2002 (hereinafter referred to as“ 2002 Provisions ”). 2
The purpose of these provisions is to ensure the correct application of the law and to guarantee citizens the exercise of their powers.
The first part of this article will concern a general presentation of the legal regime of evidence in China, mainly in civil matters. The second part will consist in analyzing the particularities of evidence in administrative and criminal matters.
I. The general system of evidence in civil matters
A. The burden of proof
Like French law, the burden of proof in China rests with the parties who must prove the facts in support of their claim.
According to article 64 of the CPCC:
It is up to each party to prove the facts necessary for the success of its claim.
If for objective reasons the parties and their principals cannot collect the evidence themselves, when the court considers it necessary for the resolution of the dispute, it must investigate and gather the evidence.
The People's Court must investigate and verify the evidence objectively as a whole, in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law.
Article 65 of the CPCC specifies:
the court has the power to investigate legal and natural persons; data subjects have no right to refuse.
The parties have the obligation to prove the damage for which they claim compensation. In principle, the burden of proof rests on the claimant, since the claimant must prove it. Reciprocally, whoever claims to be released must justify the payment or the fact which produced the extinction of his obligation.
According to article 4 of the 2002 Provisions, it is the defendant who must then prove that the claim of the plaintiff is unfounded. Article 4 lists eight tort cases, for example with regard to an obligation to compensate for environmental pollution, the defendant has to prove that he benefits from an exemption provided for by law, the absence of the event giving rise to liability, or the absence of a causal link.
In French law, in civil matters, the judge is passive: the parties must provide proof of their claims and the judge must only assess their relevance. He cannot search for new ones himself, nor complete them. On the other hand, in Chinese law, the role of the judge is not passive. It is expressly stated in paragraph 2 of article 64 CPCC, that when the court considers that it is necessary for the resolution of the dispute, it must investigate and collect the evidence. Article 7 of the 2002 Provisions provides that, in the absence of a settlement, the court is responsible for determining the burden of proof in accordance with the principle of equality and the principle of honesty and loyalty.
At first, this rule posed a lot of problems, it often happened that the court replaced the parties and collected the evidence for them, which raised the question of the legality and the admissibility of the evidence that the court obtained by exceeding his powers. The law was silent on this issue. Fortunately, with the 2002 Provisions, this issue has been resolved; section 15 has limited to two cases in which the court can gather evidence:
- facts likely to harm the interest of the State, the general interest or the legitimate interest of others;
- the procedural reasons for the suspension of the trial, the cessation of the trial and the challenge.
Apart from these two cases, the court can collect evidence at the request of the parties, subject to state or professional secrecy.
B. Methods of proof
The new code of civil procedure defines the modes of proof in an exhaustive list in its article 63:
- Proof in writing
- Physical evidence
- Sound and audiovisual recording
- The testimony
- The testimony of the parties
- The expert report
- The judge's finding
- La preuve par écrit : la preuve littérale ou preuve par écrit résulte d’une suite de lettres, de caractères, de chiffres, ou de tous autres signes ou symboles dotés d’une signification intelligible quelles que soient leurs langues d’origines, y compris l’acte authentique et l’acte sous seing privé.
- Material proof: it is the object itself which proves the legal facts by its figure, its weight, its specification or any other signs or symbols. Regarding litigation on the quality of constructions, the building that has been reconstructed constitutes physical evidence.
- Sound and audiovisual recording: it contains sound recording, video recording, data saved on computer. It is a new mode of evidence, most legal systems consider it traditional written evidence, but in Chinese law it is an independent mode of evidence. The test for the admissibility of evidence is set out in article 68 of the 2002 Provisions; evidence which has been obtained by means prejudicial to the legitimate rights and interests of others or contrary to law is inadmissible. Evidence consisting of a recording in a public place is admissible.
- Le témoignage : Il consiste de la part d’un témoin àvenir déclarer devant la justice ce qu’il a personnellement vu ou entendu.
The testimony of the parties knows two cases:
- the parties' explanation of the facts of a case,
- the admission of a party concerning the facts of a case denounced by the other party is admissible, it consists for a person to recognize a fact which is unfavorable to him. It must be emphasized, however, that admitting a fact does not mean consenting to the other party's claim.
The expert report:
l’expertise est une mesure d’investigation technique ou scientifique qu’un juge confie à un expert à la demande des parties. Elle a pour finalité l’aide à la décision. La demande d’un expert est à la fois un droit pour les parties à la procédure, et une obligation de la charge de la preuve. Les parties ont le droit de faire opposition à un rapport d’expertise émis par l’expert choisi par le tribunal.
A report by the judge:
The investigation carried out by the judge on the place or on the objects of the litigation, either at the request of the parties, or on his own initiative.
II. Special features in administrative and criminal matters
A. In administrative matters
The Chinese Administrative Procedure Code promulgated on April 4, 1989 entered into force on October 1, 1990 (hereinafter CPAC which includes 75 articles in total), its main features are:
- In an administrative trial, the defendant is the administrative department and its officials.
- The claim of the claimant can only relate to concrete administrative behavior, that is to say unilateral behavior carried out by an administrative department towards a citizen, a legal person or all the other bodies determined during the exercise of its administrative powers. .
- Conciliation is not applicable in administrative matters.
The burden of proof in administrative matters lies with the administration (the defendant). The latter must demonstrate concrete administrative behavior within ten days of receipt of the request. On the other hand, the CPAC had not specified the cases of absence of proof on the part of the administrative department or the proof presented after the deadline of ten days without justified reason. The Supreme People's Court explained that in such a case, the concrete administrative behavior in question is considered to be devoid of just cause; this results in the failure of the administrative department. If for an objective reason or in case of force majeure, the defendant does not succeed in establishing the proof, he has the right to request an extension of ten days. During the trial, the defendant cannot collect the evidence of the plaintiff or the witness himself.
Although the FPCC has expressly stated that the burden of proof rests with the defendant, it does not exclude that, where applicable, the burden of proof may lie with the plaintiff. The applicant must then prove:
- That he has met the conditions of the charge.
- Concerning a case in which the defendant did not act, he did not fulfill his obligation to do. The onus is on the applicant to prove that they have made an application. A distinction must be made between the fact that he did not act and the fact that he made a negative decision. In the case of a negative decision, it is considered that the administrative department has already acted.
- As regards an obligation to make reparation, the claimant (the claimant) must prove the damage he suffered.
B. In criminal matters
The principles of evidence in criminal matters are different from those applicable in civil matters.
D’abord, concernant la répartition du pouvoir judiciaire, qui est défini à l’article 3 du code de procédure pénale, le pouvoir judiciaire est réparti entre les organes de la sécurité publique chargés de l’enquête préparatoire et de la détention préventive. Il a le pouvoir de prendre l’initiative de l’action publique, et il est chargé de l’enquête pour toutes les autres infractions sous la direction du parquet ; le tribunal assume la fonction de juger. En effet, dans le système actuel chinois, les organes d’enquête ont des pouvoirs considérables, ils ont le pouvoir de décider et d’exécuter toute mesure d’enquête telles que la perquisition, la saisie, la surveillance de résidence, la liberté sous caution, et la garde à vue (sauf l’arrestation et la détention subséquente) sans autorisation préalable du parquet ou du tribunal.
Next, a large part of the evidence provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure concern the procedures for obtaining evidence. The other parts, which concern the provisions on the presentation of evidence, the communication of documents, the validity of evidence and the effectiveness of evidence are very difficult to apply directly in practice. This is the reason for the appearance of numerous provisions published by different authorities, for example "The provisions on certain problems in the application of the Code of Criminal Procedure" of January 19, 1998, jointly stated by the Supreme People's Court, the Prosecutor's Office People's Supreme, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Justice and the Commission responsible for the legal work of the Standing Committee of the National People's Assembly. These provisions are very numerous and lack coherence between them.
Enfin, la comparution comme témoin devant un tribunal, consiste de la part d’un témoin à venir déclarer devant le tribunal lors d’une audience ce qu’il a personnellement vu ou entendu, et à être interrogé par les parties ou ses avoués selon la procédure prévue par la loi. Cependant, cette procédure fonctionne mal en pratique, et la présence du témoin constitue une grande difficulté. En raison du manque de dispositions concernant la protection des témoins, leur taux de présence est extrêmement faible ; néanmoins le témoignage est beaucoup utilisé à l’audience. L’article 157 du code de procédure pénale chinoise énonce:“le témoignage d’un témoin absent doit être lu à haute voix en audience.” Il en résulte que les parties ne peuvent pas les interroger et que le juge est en situation difficile pour vérifier la sincérité de ce témoignage. La conséquence en est que l’audience reste très formelle et perd beaucoup de son intérêt, le juge rend son jugement sur la base des documents papiers qui lui sont remis.
En conclusion, non seulement en matière de preuve, mais aussi d’une manière générale, la procédure pénale chinoise, même si elle a considérablement évolué ces dernières années et connu beaucoup de progrès, a encore beaucoup de progrès à faire pour atteindre le degré de fiabilité des pays occidentaux.
1 Similarly in administrative and criminal matters,
Provisions on certain problems in the application of the code of administrative procedure of June 4, 2002, implemented on October 1, 2002.
Provisions on certain problems in the application of the code of criminal procedure of June 29, 1998, brought into force on September 8, 1998.
2 According to a decision concerning the repeal of the provisions published before the end of 2007 (7th) of the Supreme People's Court of December 8, 2008, articles 136, 205, 206, 240, 253,299 of the provisions of 2002 were deleted due to the modification in 2008 of the CPCC, the part concerning the evidence remains in force.