The Shanghai Financial Court, which specializes in finance-related lawsuits and is the first of its kind in China, began operating on Monday. The new institution is meant to provide a better business environment for investors from home and abroad, officials said.
The intermediate-level court focuses on civil and administrative disputes over financial issues, including loans, insurance, securities and cases against financial authorities, senior officials from Shanghai High People's Court said at a news briefing on Tuesday.
For the court to handle cases, the minimum amounts at issue are 100 million yuan ($14.7 million) if both parties are in Shanghai and 50 million yuan if one party is not based in the city. Cases that do not meet the minimum are handled by district courts.
Criminal cases are not accepted by the financial court, which is located in the city's downtown Huangpu district.
"If we take online lending as an example, lawsuits against online lending platforms will be accepted and heard at the court, but criminal cases in which such platforms are suspected of committing illegal activities won't be accepted," said Zhao Hong, president of the court.
Twenty-eight judges will oversee case hearings and trials at the court, which has 66 staff members, including judges, legal assistants and administrative officers. Most of the judges are veterans of the lower-level financial tribunals of the city's courts, Zhao said.
The court's official Chinese and English website, where individuals and businesses can register cases, check their progress, apply to read legal documents relevant to their cases and view court decisions, was also officially launched on Tuesday.
Sheng Yongqiang, vice-president of the Shanghai High People's Court, said the establishment of the Shanghai Financial Court is of profound significance to the country to implement and guarantee financial reforms and development, foster a favorable legal environment for the financial sector and build Shanghai into an international financial center by 2020.
Zhao said the court will also bolster the international reputation for financial justice of the city and the country.
"If we look globally, the financial centers have almost all set up legal system mechanisms aligned with their financial systems," she said.
From 2013 to 2017, courts in Shanghai heard nearly 480,000 finance-related cases as courts of first instance, or original jurisdiction, and the number of such lawsuits in Shanghai grew by an average 51 percent year-on-year, Zhao said.
The financial court was another innovation in China's judicial system after the intellectual property courts were set up in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2014 and an internet court was set up in Hangzhou in 2017. An internet court is being planned for Beijing.