China’s supreme court forced to admit it lost documents in long-running contract dispute
- Supreme Court of China starts investigation after popular blogger reports that papers went missing two years ago
- Judge involved in case said the documents were taken from his office and suggested the CCTV cameras had been sabotaged
The Supreme Court of China said on Saturday it had started an investigation into the disappearance of a series of case documents relating to a high-profile contract dispute between two mining companies.
The loss of the documents, which took place in late 2016, did not come to public attention until prominent former television host Cui Yongyuan revealed it on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo in a series of posts over the last week.
On Sunday, a video recording of a man believed to be Wang Linqing, the judge who presided over the dispute between a private and state-owned firm was leaked to a financial newspaper.
In the recording, he said he had stored the documents in his office, and also hinted that the closed circuit TV cameras had been sabotaged when the documents disappeared.
Following an initial denial on Thursday, the Supreme People’s Court issued a statement on Saturday night acknowledging the disappearance of the documents.
“We have started the investigation procedure and welcome anyone who can provide us with related information, including Professor Cui Yongyuan,” said the statement.
“If we find that there is any violation of disciplinary rules by our court staff, we will handle them in a serious manner according to Party rules and law.”
The lost documents contain key details of a lawsuit initiated by Kechley Energy Investment in 2006.
The private mining company claims that the state-owned Xian Institute of Geological and Mineral Exploration breached a contract signed in 2003 to form a joint coal-mining project in Yulin city by inviting a third company to participate in 2006 without the plaintiff company’s consent.
After the High Court in Shaanxi sided with the state-owned firm in 2011 and stripped Kechley of its business licence over what the court ruled was as an “invalid contract”, the plaintiff took the case to the Supreme People’s Court.
In November 2016, just when Wang, the judge at the Supreme Court, prepared to hand down verdict in favour of Kechley, all of the documents were taken from his office.
The following year that court did issue a ruling in Kechley’s favour, awarding it 13.7 million yuan for breach of contract.
But the court has been unable to implement the verdict because of the missing documents and has not explained how the ruling could be made without those documents.
Wang said in the video. which was leaked to Chin a Times, that he immediately told the presiding judge, whom he only identified by the surname Cheng, but said he appeared to be unconcerned about the loss.
After Cheng checked the video footage himself, he told Wang that the closed circuit TV camera had been broken on the day that the documents disappeared.
“When I heard what he said, I felt this was very suspicious,” Wang said in the video.
“The closed circuit TV cameras were just installed not long ago and there were two of them in my office, it can’t be that both of them are broken.”