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Construction of Public Legal Service System of Shanghai

Dec 28, 2017

The Shanghai Municipal Government’s Information Office held a press conference on November 29 on the construction of Shanghai’s public legal service system. Following are the highlights:

 

Lu Weidong, director, Shanghai Justice Bureau

Chen Chunlan, deputy director, Shanghai Justice Bureau

Wang Xie, deputy director, Shanghai Justice Bureau

Jiefang Daily: I have two questions. I saw many types of consulting services on the WeChat platform of 12348. How many people can the platform serve at one time? My second question is about the legal consultation hotline that has added information about prisons and detoxification centers. Can you give some details?

Chen Chunlan: We have been concerned about the capacity of the consultation platform and experiences of the public. We will arrange for 116 fixed volunteers to offer online legal consultation service on each working day. Besides, we will contact backup volunteers if the website backstage detects excessive number of users. Meanwhile, the system will automatically enter the message mode in order to avoid a long wait. Users can choose to wait online or leave messages which will be answered later; in three working days.

For the second question, information about prisons and detoxification centers has been added to the 12348 platform. The information about opening of prison and detoxification centers is an important task for promoting reform of the judicial administration and an important part of administrative and judicial affairs openness.

We will stick to the principle of privacy protection. Information disclosure in prison and detoxification centers is based on hierarchical classification of the content.

The first level of information will be open to society. The 12348 hotline provides services, including information inquiries, question solving and settling of complaints. Artificial services will be offered from 9am to 5pm on working days. Today, we will issue the list of the first batch of public legal service items.

The second level of information is available only to close relatives of criminals and drug addicts so that they can know about their family members’ situation.

The third level of information is available only to criminals and detoxification personnel so that they can get reports about their assessment, rewards, punishments, medical treatment, education, labor remuneration and so on.

The fourth level of information will be opened after criminals, addicts and their close relatives make applications for detailed information about the process of serving sentences and compulsory isolated detoxification.

We have allowed access to information about prisons and detoxification centers to better promote strict, fair and civilized law enforcement and at the same time ensure criminals and drug addicts have stability and peace. Next, we will further optimize the ways of publicity and make use of modern technologies to facilitate public supervision.

Shanghai Law Journal: You just mentioned the first list of public legal services in Shanghai. Can you reveal the specific contents of the list? In addition, what are the new measures for Shanghai’s legal aid this year?

Lu Weidong: The just-released public legal service list, totaling 39 projects, can be divided into five categories namely law publicity, offering of legal services and guidance, contradiction resolution, assistance for special groups and legal rights of service personnel and convenience services. Each project has five basic elements – name, object, content, method and provider of the service. The goal we want to achieve is that people can get corresponding service when they see our service list. Next, we will continue to expand public legal services and improve service quality to constantly meet people’s diversified demands for justice and fair legal services. The second list will be released in accordance with the progress of the reform.

The second question concerns legal aid. In recent years, we have given legal aid that has benefited more needy people. Firstly, efforts should be made to expand the scope of legal aid. In July 2016, Shanghai completed the third adjustment which expanded the scope of legal aid cases closely related to people’s livelihood such as labor and medical disputes, disputes concerning agricultural product quality and the legitimate rights and interests of servicemen and their families. Besides, the legal aid will benefit more low-income groups. As a national pilot city for full coverage of criminal defense, defense will be provided for the accused in the first instance, second instance and retrial cases heard by ordinary procedures to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests. We have also strengthened legal aid work for minors and offer legal aid for underage victims without limit. In the first 10 months, the number of legal aid cases in the city increased by 34 percent year on year.

Secondly, we will make innovations in the services. We will provide door-to-door service for the elderly, those aged over 80 and people suffering from severe disability. We will allow easy access for the elderly, veterans and the disabled. These groups will get priority in legal aid applications and simplified examining procedures. Legal aid workstations will be established in people’s courts at all levels, labor arbitration institutions and departments handling traffic accidents to support needy people. They will also be set up at detention houses to provide legal assistance to the detainees. We have also drafted a guide for legal aid in Braille, Chinese and English. Online application, appointment and inquiry of legal aid will be available in order to offer residents convenience.

Eastday.com: How can the city’s bureau of justice ensure that lawyers offering legal consultation service on the 12348 platform are reliable? Are there any specific measures?

Wang Xie: Firstly, we will examine the qualifications of these legal consultants and check the authenticity of their background information. Lawyers, notaries and judicial experts offering legal consultation service on the platform will have to pass strict appraisals.

Secondly, we will control the quality of consultation services to ensure public satisfaction. The supervision data on whether a consultant is patient, polite and efficient or otherwise will be maintained for regular appraisal. Volunteers who offer good service and receive favorable comments from the public will be able to expand their services. Volunteers not in line with the expectations of the public will be eliminated. At present, we are working hard to formulate relevant working mechanisms and will strive to provide high-quality legal services for the public.

Thirdly, we will try and maintain strict discipline. Lawyers are prohibited from charging for the free public consultation or introducing certain legal service institutes or personnel to residents during the consultation process. We have built 21 management teams in the city to supervise the volunteering legal services. If we receive any complaints about the service, the consultant will be strictly investigated for legal responsibility in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.

People.com.cn: There are lots of legal advisers for village committees and neighborhood committees in Shanghai, what are their main responsibilities? What is the difference in service and function between these residential legal advisers and public legal services?

Chen Chunlan: In recent years Shanghai has been pushing forward legal adviser work among villages and neighborhoods, which has had a positive effect. In order to better meet the needs of society and residents, recently the municipal judicial bureau issued a document, asking all villages and neighborhoods in Shanghai to have legal advisers by end of the year, that is to say all villages and neighborhoods in Shanghai will be covered by the program by end of the year. Thus residents can enjoy excellent and convenient legal service inside their communities. The aim of legal advisers is to serve the community, and they have the following responsibilities:

First is to answer legal consultations and provide professional and timely legal advice to residents and villagers. Second is to accept invitations of people’s mediation organizations to settle disputes. Third is to assist people who are qualified for legal assistance to apply. Fourth is to push forward the upgrading of governance according to the law in communities and villages, assist in drafting, reviewing and revising village regulations, non-government agreements and other administrative regulations, and provide legal advice on key projects, business contracts and other major decisions. In addition, they should provide assistance on legal issues of elections in villages and neighborhoods. Fifth is to carry out law propaganda, hold legal seminars, hand out legal material on judicial knowledge related to daily work and life, guide cadres and masses to do things and safeguard their legal rights as per the law. Sixth is to accept the authorization of villagers and residents to draft and rewrite legal documents, join litigious activities. Seventh is to provide other legal service on behalf of village committees, neighborhood committees and the community as a whole.

Legal advisers of neighborhoods and villages are main bodies to provide public legal service on that level, and the task is shouldered by lawyers and grassroots legal service workers, and the cost is shouldered by the government. The work platform base is the public legal service room of neighborhoods and villages.

Public legal service rooms are set up at grassroots level, aiming to provide a more diversified and professional legal service for the masses. Apart from lawyers and legal service workers, we have also invited retired judges, volunteers and mediators to provide legal counsel. Apart from that, we have increased investment on technology and IT, and we plan to have legal service rooms in remote service stations gradually so that people don’t need to run around for their legal errands. Residents can get legal counsel without walking out of their community, by receiving remote notarization, remote professional mediation and remote expert consultation. According to our plan, all neighborhoods and villages will have public legal service rooms by end of June next year, and then residents and villagers will have greater convenience in receiving legal service.

Xinmin Evening News: I have two questions. Recently in Shanghai some notary offices have started providing service which requires applicants to go to the office once, my question is what notaries can be done online? Next what measures will be introduced to make it more convenient for locals to have notary service? The second question is what are the bottlenecks in providing public legal service for locals, and what do you plan to do next?

Wang Xie: On the 12348 Shanghai Justice Website locals can have mainly five types of notary service: academic certificate, marriage certificate, house ownership certificate, driver’s license and business license. In addition, since August we have carried out test work at Dongfang, Xuhui, Yangpu, Changning, Zhabei and Minhang offices, covering four categories namely birth, name, academic certificate, and professional. All the applicants have to do is to go to the office once, and all the remaining work, including application, acceptance of application, review and payment, is done online. The notary documents can also be delivered to the applicants by postal courier service. In the first three months of the trial, the six notary offices accepted 2,605 notary applications, covering all the forms mentioned above.

The notary offices are trying their best to reduce the errands of locals with technology and improved service. To avoid neglect of necessary material by applicants, the Changning Notary Office has set up five remote video consultation points in the district. All the locals have to do is to go to the remote video consultation points, where they can consult with notary personnel face to face. With the setting up of public legal stations and offices in sub-districts, towns, neighborhoods and villages, notary service will become more convenient for residents.

Similar service will be extended to other departments and institutions. For example when one needs a notary with marriage certificate but he or she has lost the certificate, what can he/she do? At the above notary offices he/she doesn’t need to worry as the offices have been linked with other departments online, so the office employees simply need to send the ID information to the civil affairs bureau, which checks the marriage information and sends it back to the notary office. It takes only a few minutes. So we are serious about the service. In addition, we are pushing forward intelligent notary at the Dongfang and Yangpu notary offices so that efficiency can be further improved.

ICS: Shanghai has a total 1.3 million foreign residents. What achievements has the city made in law publicity and legal service system building? Can you give us some detailed data?

Chen Chunlan: We have given much attention to legal publicity among foreign residents as Shanghai is building a global city of excellence. According to the city’s seventh five-year plan for law publicity, all groups living and working in the city should be included in the legal publicity and education system. The city has built public facilities such as squares and galleries to promote legal publicity. For example, publicity of the constitution of our country and the legal system of socialism with Chinese characteristics can be found at the West Gaoke Road Station of Metro Line 7.

Besides, we are also promoting legal publicity with the support of new media. The city’s legal publicity office launched an O2O event to promote legal popularization and education, both online and offline. We all know many foreigners watch the event online to acquire legal information.

Next year is the third year of the plan and we will make overall planning on legal publicity and education. Foreigners will be included in the planning.

Lu Wedong: According to the legal and administrative reform, domestic law firms can now operate jointly with their overseas counterparts in Shanghai. The representative office of the overseas law firms and foreign lawyers from the joint operation office in Shanghai can provide legal service for foreigners.

Legal Daily: China is pushing forward the construction of a public legal service system across the nation, what are the Shanghai characteristics in the work?

Lu Weidong: I will introduce our work briefly in two aspects: one is the internal mechanism side, and the other is the service side.

Regarding the internal mechanism, since 2012 we have started to focus on public legal service construction. After wide investigation and research, we were firm on setting up a one-stop, comprehensive and professional platform, which laid a solid foundation for the 12348 Shanghai Justice Website. Second, we set up a public legal service section during the institution reforms in 2014, which is the only one in China so far.

Last January, the Shanghai Public Legal Service Center was set up and opened to public with rich legal service resources, including experts from the bar association, notary association, and judicial experts association. In the past two years, more than 1,700 volunteers have provided free legal service consultations for 15,000 people. Today the 12348 Shanghai Justice Website was opened to the public; the number of people benefiting from the platform will definitely increase.

On the service side, we are focusing on setting up a public legal service platform that is trustworthy, accessible, effective and easy to use.

To make it accessible, we have set up a public legal service system regarding the needs and habits of people to solve their diversified legal problems. Online, hot line and real service stations will ensure that the masses can receive public legal service through different channels.

To make it effective, our service is one-to-one and in real time. When residents enter an online consultation service, they can get answers on WeChat. As far as we know, there are few places where real-time consultation can be provided as most of the time people have to leave messages. In addition, our real-time consultations can be provided by lawyers, notary professionals, judicial experts, mediators, legal aids and community rectification staff, which is a rather wide personnel scope.

To make it easy to use, the 12348 Shanghai Justice Website provides a wide range of services like C-to-C taobao platform. When someone opens the website, all the legal resources will show up, and they can select or rank it themselves. In addition, they can seek help with one-click search and robot intelligent service. We hope to make a user-friendly platform so that the masses will be able and like to use the legal service. People can experience a growing sense of gain and feeling of happiness.

Of course, the online platform is far from perfect as it is available online for a short time. We hope locals can help us by finding problems through use and supervise our work, we also hope they can put forward more advice and suggestions.