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Guidelines for Online Hearings

In order to assist the parties in resolving their disputes efficiently and conveniently by using online arbitration services, Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (Shanghai International Arbitration Center, hereinafter referred to as “SHIAC”) revises Guidelines for Online Hearings to enhance the standardization of online hearing procedures. The Guidelines have been reviewed and approved by the Chair’s Meeting of SHIAC in accordance with the Charter of SHIAC and are now released to the public.

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Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission

(Shanghai International Arbitration Center)


Guidelines for Online Hearings


Article 1  The Formulation and Scope of Application of the Guidelines


1. In order to fulfill the needs of the disputants towards efficient dispute resolution through online means, Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (also Shanghai International Arbitration Center, hereinafter referred to as “SHIAC”) promulgates these Guidelines for Online Hearings (hereinafter referred to as “Guidelines”) in accordance with the Arbitration Law of the People’s Republic of China and the arbitration rules which have been adopted by SHIAC. 


2. These Guidelines shall apply to arbitration cases accepted by SHIAC and in which the hearings are conducted online.


Article 2  Definition and Basic Principles of an Online Hearing


1. Under the Guidelines, an online hearing refers to any arbitration activities including but not limited to merits hearing, procedural hearing and mediation, where one party or multiple parties, arbitral tribunals and other arbitration participants utilize(s) the electronic software with the function of audio and/or video communication based on the Internet connection services for the purpose of such activities.


2. The conduct of online hearings should follow the principles of justice and lawfulness, equal rights, procedural protection, efficiency and convenience, safety and reliability.  


3. The parties participating in online hearings should act in a bona fide manner and abide by the rules set forth in the Arbitration Law of the People’s Republic of China, the applicable arbitration rules and these Guidelines.


Article 3  Decision to Conduct an Online Hearing


1. The arbitral tribunal may decide whether to hold an online hearing or not, after fully consulting the opinions of the parties and comprehensively considering the actual situation of the case and the parties involved. 


2. The arbitral tribunal may decide to hear the case online in full or in part, given that there are no impediments or circumstances unsuitable for an online hearing and that any of the following conditions is fulfilled:


(1) All the parties involved in the arbitration case apply for an online hearing;


(2) One party involved in the arbitration case applies for an online hearing, and the other party(s) has/have no objection towards the adoption of an online hearing;


(3) The arbitral tribunal deems it necessary to hold an online hearing. 


3. The arbitral tribunal may decide not to hold an online hearing in any of the following circumstances:


(1) Where the case demands in-person verification of identities or physical exhibits; 

(2) Where the matter in dispute involves state secrets, commercial secrets, or has higher confidentiality requirements;.

(3) Other circumstances that the arbitral tribunal may consider inappropriate to have an online hearing. 


Article 4  Preparation of an Online Hearing


1. When the arbitral tribunal decides to hold an online hearing, it should promptly entrust the Secretariat of SHIAC (hereinafter referred to as “Secretariat”) to inform the parties of such a decision. The parties to an online hearing should sign a statement of confidentiality which is attached to the above-mentioned decision notice (see Appendix I.) and submit it to the Secretariat. 


2. Before the commencement of an online hearing, the arbitral tribunal may seek opinions from the parties regarding relevant logistical matters of the online hearing. Such logistical matters include but are not limited to: the platform to be used, the duration of the hearing, the procedural steps, the participants attending the hearing, the facilities and technical support, the confidentiality of the case, the protection on personal information and the security of cyber data, the examination of documented evidences and witness testimony, the audio and video recording of the hearing, the form of the hearing transcript and the counter-measures for any potential technical failure during the hearing, etc. The arbitral tribunal should decide on any of the aforementioned logistical matters if any, and entrust the Secretariat to promptly inform the parties of such a decision.


3. The arbitral tribunal may convene the participants to run equipment test before the commencement of the online hearing, or it may entrust the Secretariat to do so to ensure that the hardware devices used by all parties to the online hearing can meet the requirement of a clear and stable transmission of the sound and the video signals and are free of technical interference. All participants to the online hearing should cooperate with the equipment test.


4. In order to ensure the efficiency of an online hearing, the parties should make electronic copies of the documents that are needed in the hearing, including but not limited to the parties’ identities and qualification documents, the power of attorneys, the legal submissions and the exhibits, etc., and submit those electronic documents to the Secretariat through online means. 


Article 5  Conducting an Online Hearing 


1. Before the commencement of an online hearing, the arbitral tribunal should verify the identities of the participants and the hearing environment of each party. The arbitral tribunal should remind each party to ensure that the hearing background meets the requirements of confidentiality, no interference, good visibility and stable Internet connection. It is forbidden to participate in hearings in public places such as Internet cafes, shopping malls, and transportation vehicles, or in places that may affect the audio and video effects of the hearings, or places that undermine the seriousness of the hearings. 


2. During the online hearing, all participants should follow the Order of an Online Hearing (see Appendix II.). If any party intentionally disrupts the order and fails to rectify its misdemeanor after being warned by the arbitral tribunal, the arbitral tribunal may terminate the hearing and hold the party liable for the relevant consequences.


3. In cases where deliberation is required, the arbitral tribunal may instruct the Secretariat to determine the time in advance and reserve an online conference room separately.


4. If a host is needed for the hearing, any member of the arbitral tribunal or any staff member of the Secretariat entrusted by the arbitral tribunal may act as the host. The host shall be responsible for observing the screen of the participants, operating functions such as silence, muting, personnel entering and leaving the hearing room, and sharing screens according to the needs of the hearing. The host shall also remind the participants of the system notifications if any.


5. If one party falls off the line, the arbitral tribunal should suspend the hearing and wait for the party to reconnect. The disconnected party should contact the Secretariat without any delay to coordinate the reconnection.


6. If the parties and/or their agents, after having been properly notified, fail to appear at an online hearing without justifiable reasons, they should be deemed to have failed to participate in the hearing. Whoever deliberately disengage from the online hearing system without the permission of the arbitral tribunal during the hearing shall be deemed to have withdrawn from the hearing. If the claimant fails to participate in the hearing or withdraws from an on-going hearing without a legitimate reason, it may be deemed to have withdrawn the application for arbitration. Where the respondent submits a counterclaim, it shall not affect the arbitral tribunal’s hearing of the counterclaim and its award. If the respondent fails to participate in the hearing or withdraws from an on-going hearing without a legitimate reason, the arbitral tribunal may conduct the hearing in absentia and render a default award. Where the respondent makes a counterclaim, it may be deemed to have withdrawn the counterclaim.


7. During the online hearing, the arbitral tribunal should guarantee the right of the parties to fully present their views, including but not limited to the challenge on arbitrators, the presentation and examination of evidences, the oral debate and the closing remarks, etc.


8. If an online hearing is impeded by network interruption, equipment failure, virus attack and any other technical difficulties, the arbitral tribunal may decide to terminate the online hearing and arrange another one. SHIAC and/or the arbitral tribunal shall not be liable for the risks arising therefrom. 


Article 6  Transcript for an Online Hearing


1. For cases where online hearings are applicable, transcripts and audio-visual records of hearing proceedings other than mediation shall be made.


2. After consulting with the parties, the arbitral tribunal may make arrangements for the amendment, supplement and signature of the hearing transcript. 


Article 7  Revision, Interpretation and Implementation of these Guidelines


1. These guidelines are subject to revision and interpretation by SHIAC.


2. The arbitral tribunal may, after consulting with the parties, make adjustment to the application of these Guidelines on the basis of the specific circumstances of the case, provided that such adjustment does not conflict with the mandatory provisions of the laws, the regulations and the arbitration rules of SHIAC.


3. These Guidelines shall come into force as of the date of promulgation.


Appendix I.


Statement of Confidentiality


1. We assure that all participants in the online hearing are aware of and comply with the confidentiality obligations under the Arbitration Law of the People's Republic of China and the arbitration rules of Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (Shanghai International Arbitration Center) and will not disclose any confidential information or matters in the course of the hearing.


2. We assure that we will accurately report to the arbitral tribunal the identity of the persons participating in the online hearing, and that the identity and authority of all our personnel participating in the hearing, including but not limited to myself, legal representatives, agents, witnesses, translators and technical support personnel, are consistent with the identity and qualification documents and the power of attorney submitted in advance of the hearing.


3. We assure that none of our personnel participating in the online hearing will make audio, video or screen recordings of any part of the hearing without the approval of the arbitral tribunal, nor will they negotiate, communicate or consult with any person other than those participating in the hearing.


4. We are aware of the regulations on privacy, confidentiality, data protection, cybersecurity and other aspects in the jurisdiction where the arbitration proceedings are held and where the award is subsequently enforced, and we assure that all participants in the online hearing will act in compliance with such regulations.


                                Issued by:


                        Date:


Appendix II.


Notes and Order of an Online Hearing


1.Persons participating in an online hearing should pay attention to the following matters:


a. To be equipped with a 360° surround camera if possible, and to turn on the camera when entering the online hearing room and show a full view of the hearing environment, and to ensure that the camera is turned on throughout the hearing and that no virtual background is used;


b. To take into account the factors such as network signal, sound insulation and lighting and sound effect when choosing your seat, and do not change positions at will after adjusting and determining the seat;


c. To mute the microphone when not speaking and keep other communication devices silent or switched off;


d. To make gestures or use the prompt function of the hearing system if you need to speak, and to avoid speaking at the same time when others are;


e. To position the camera at eye level and look directly at it;


f. To use headphones with microphones whenever possible;


g. Witnesses, appraisers and experts should follow instructions to enter/exit the online hearing room;


h. In the process of back-to-back mediation, the parties should alternatively exit/enter the online hearing room as instructed.


2. During the hearing, each party shall not interrupt the arbitral tribunal or the other party at will; if the interruption continues after the advice by the arbitral tribunal, the arbitral tribunal may instruct the Secretariat to impose gag measures on the person concerned.


3. Participants in an online hearing shall not engage in any of the following conduct that interferes with the order of the hearing:


a. Making private audio, video or screen recordings;


b. Disseminating hearing activities to the public by any means, such as text, pictures, audio, video, etc.;


c. Allowing persons who are not authorized by the parties or permitted by the arbitral tribunal to observe the hearing in any form or to consult or discuss with them;


d. Making or answering telephone calls;


e. Leaving one's seat or turning off the screen at will;


f. Any other conduct that interferes with the proper order of the hearing.


Guidelines for Online Hearings

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