You would rarely find praise of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Bitter Winter, but we acknowledge they did something very useful for scholars and also for our magazine, when they decided to digitize and publish on the web millions of court decisions. Eighty millions of court cases may seem an enormous figure. In fact, they are only a fraction of the decisions rendered by courts in China, an immense country where the law is invasive, and being sued or prosecuted is a common occurrence.
But for scholars and observers being able to work on a data base including eighty million decisions was a unique opportunity. We at Bitter Winter enjoyed the free ride, and shopped often for decisions punishing human rights activists or members of “illegal” religions.
Sadly, after eight years of existence, China Judgments Online is no longer growing. It is shrinking. The 100th anniversary of the CCP approaches, and every Chinese is supposed to participate in the “Studying the Party History Campaign,” and to have learned its first commandment, that history is not about “truth” but about promoting the CCP. Whatever puts the CCP in a bad light should be erased from history, including recent history.
Finally, somebody at some level of the CCP’s intricate bureaucracy saw the light, and understood how many critics throughout the world also use “China Judgments Online”, including yours truly at Bitter Winter. We had noticed something strange, but had initially attributed it to the fact that the data base is not exactly user-friendly, and has never worked perfectly.
Read more at “The Great Purge of China’s Legal History”