Criminal Justice

Chinese courts release microblog reports of trials; are some details missing?

Want to learn about a high-profile trial in China? Though court proceedings are often closed to the public, some courts are now reporting on trials through microblogs.

China’s new Supreme Court president, Zhou Qiang, has urged local courts to use social media to release information and respond to questions, according to state media reports. Now nearly 1,000 courts have launched microblog accounts, the Associated Press reports.

One court in central China “released a blow-by-blow of a murder appeal,” the story says. One released transcripts of 39 cases. One held an online Q-and-A about a rape trial. And in the most high-profile case, a court released “chunks of the courtroom transcript in near-real time” of the bribery trial of former Politburo member Bo Xilai on a microblogging site called Sina Weibo, which is China’s version of Twitter.

AP notes some problems, however. “Court officials meticulously scrubbed politics from their Weibo feed to avoid broader political implications, including details—initially included in a transcript but then deleted from the feed—that Bo told the court he followed directives from a higher-ranking politician in covering up a failed defection by a top aide,” the story says. “The Weibo feed for his verdict announcement also failed to mention that Bo protested the injustice aloud after the court convicted him of corruption charges and sent him to life in prison, according to a source with direct knowledge of the proceedings.”

The Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime Report noted another problem with the trial account: It wasn’t clear how much of the trial was scripted and how much was spontaneous.

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