China's Supreme People's Court Issues Top 10 Cases For 2017

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On 1 February 2018, the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China ("SPC") announced the results of a national selection of 10 classic cases among more than 25 million cases heard by the Chinese courts in 2017, which have influenced the development of rule of law in China. The activity jointly held by the SPC and China Central Television, the state broadcaster, received over 700,000 clicks by the public.

These selected top 10 cases are as follows:

1. A telemarketing fraud case: Xu Yuyu, a high school graduate, died of "cardiac and respiratory arrest" after she recognized that she was defrauded by a fraudulent phone call into sending her RMB¥9,900 in university tuition to a third party in order to get a scholarship. In recent years, the network fraud cases in telecommunications
have been reported as high incidence and multiple occurrences, which have seriously infringed upon the people's property security and lawful rights and interests. This case raises concerns about all-too-common leaks of personal information, and is the first major case applying to the Opinions of the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorate and the Ministry of Public Security on Several Issues concerning the Application of Law in the Handling of Telecommunications Network Fraud and other Criminal Cases issued on 19 December 2016.

2. An intentional injury case: Yu Huan, aged 23, was sentenced to life in prison by the first instance judge in February 2017 after he attacked four of his mother's creditors with knife, one of whom died later in hospital, after they exposed themselves to his mother while demanding she repay her debt on 14 April 2016. The victim, who was a loan shark henchman, threatened Yu's mother into paying the debt by exposing his penis at her. Then, the defendant appealed and the sentence is transferred to prison for five years as the judges in second instance hold over-defense, which use to be applied conservatively, cautiously and more stringent in China, shall apply in this case under such a situation.

3. A retrial case of illegal business operation: the retrial court hold that Wang Lijun's behaviors of purchasing and selling corns without any applying for prescribed food purchase permit and business license during November 2014 to January 2015 violated the relevant provisions of the state grain circulation management at that time, but doesn't constitute of a crime of illegal business operation provided in Article 225 of the Criminal Law as the degree of the harm hasn't reached to the degree of harm which seriously disrupting the market order provided in the Article 225 of the Criminal Law. The SPC voluntarily designated to retrial this case. It indicates that the people's court actively protects civil rights and promotes the revision of relevant laws and regulations through trial of cases.

4. An administrative litigation case: Zhang Mouwen and others appealed to withdraw the notice and supplementary notice of Jianyang City government to the SPC as they believed these notices belong to repeated charges and infringed their legitimate management rights. Their claims are supported by the SPC finally. This case clarifies that an administrative license shall have a statutory time limit which shall be informed to the licensee. However, this time limit cannot be erased due to failure to inform it, and an administrative authority's behaviors of failure to inform the time limit, and then termination of the license based on a ground that the deadline expires belong to an illegal administrative procedure.

5. The red cans dispute between Guangzhou Wang Laoji Health Industry Co., Ltd ("Wang Laoji") and Guangdong Jiaduobao Food Co., Ltd ("Jiaduobao"): The SPC ruled that this case of the well-known commodity "red cans herbal tea Wang Laoji", in Wang Laoji the red cans herbal tea product tank including "yellow Wang Llaoji red background color, text, pattern and combination parts, the whole content, for the specific packaging and decorating of well-known commodity. Combination of red tin Wang Laoji herbal tea history, cooperation background between the two parties, cognition of consumers and consideration of fair principle, it would be unfair to sentence the packaging and decoration rights to one party because Guangyao Group and its predecessor, Jiaduobao and its affiliates played a positive role for the formation, development and achievements of goodwill in respect of the packaging and decoration rights and it may damage the interests of the public. Therefore, the well-known commodity specific packaging and decorating rights shall be shared by both parties under the principle of honesty and credit, respect for consumer awareness, and does not undermine the legitimate rights and interests of others.

6. A public interest lawsuit regarding to toxic plastic runways built in a kindergarten in Beijing: this case is resolved through mediation by the court, and created a new way to punish the infringer to bear social responsibility - public welfare contributions. Since this case is handled effectively, it promotes the resolutions of many similar cases.

7. The first national counterfeiting case initiated by e-commerce platform: In 2016, Taobao sue Mr. Yao based on a ground that it violates a rule set out in an agreement between the Taobao users and Taobao which is "shall not sale fake products, and infringe the goodwill of Taobao" due to the fact that Mr. Yao was found sale of fake "Royalcanin" brand cat food. Finally, the court ruled Mr. Yao to compensate Taobao RMB¥120,000.

8. A search case because of refusing to execute the verdict: the court decided to execute a verdict by searching a debtor's house at night as it is found that the debtor is capable to pay her arrears. At 11 pm on 24 February 2017, the judge went to the residence of the debtor to conduct a search, and found she lived in a house which estimated value is about RMB¥5 million, and has more than 10 luxury handbags and a large number of luxury brand shoes, cosmetics and clothing. The whole search process was live broadcasted on internet, and was viewed by 12 million people. After realizing that her behavior is about to suffer serious consequences, the debtor agreed to pay the arrears.

9. China's most-wanted fugitive returned to China for trial: Yang Xiuzhu, a former deputy mayor of Wenzhou and China's number one most wanted fugitive, was sentenced for 8 years in prison and a fine of RMB¥800,000 by the People's Intermediate Court in Hangzhou in October 2017 based on the findings that she had embezzled nearly RMB¥20 million in public funds and had accepted over RMB¥7 million in gifts during December 1996 to May 1999. Yang Xiuzhu absconded in April 2003, and had fled to Singapore, the United States and other countries for 13 years in hiding. On 16 November 2016, she urged to return to China to surrender.

10. A case to acquitted Lu Rongxin: in 2014, Lu Rongxin was sentenced to death sentence with reprieve due to crimes of intentional homicide and rape by the first instance court. After twice appeals by Lu Rongxin, Yunnan High Court excluded the DNA identification opinions, guilty statements and on-site identification materials which were used for confirmation Lu Rongxin's crimes, and identified them as illegal evidence. This case is different with others which are corrected by the corresponding parties for many years' appeal. It is the Court which initiatively found problems during the trial of second instance, excluded illegal evidence and then found the defendant innocent, and finally correct the unjust sentence in a short term through joint investigation with the Procuratorate and Public Security Bureau in Yunnan.

These ten high-profile cases ignited heated discussions in the public. They reflect not only how people's courts punish crimes and protect people's property security and legitimate rights and interests, but also issues that are of major concerns for the Chinese public nowadays.

Xia Yu is a Partner in the MMLC Group.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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