Forbidden: China Geo-Blocking Americans from Accessing Supreme People’s Court Website and Published Decisions

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Update: A hearty thank you to China for making these sites accessible as of November 20, 2022!

Recently, China has started geo-blocking Americans and other foreigners from accessing the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) website and China Judgements Online.  Attempting to access these sites leads to a 403 Forbidden error message with “reason:GeoBL.” However, the more-limited English version of the SPC’s website remains available, making it appear not to be a technical error.  Chinese websites for the China National Intellectual Property Administration, the National People’s Congress, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, among others, remain accessible.

 

Initial data points indicate China is geo-blocking IP addresses at least from the US, Australia, Singapore and Mongolia.  However, devices with Hong Kong IP addresses can access the SPC Chinese website.

This is an inconvenience for those seeking judicial clarity in Chinese intellectual property cases. For example, China’s SPC recently released lists of Typical Antitrust (Anti-Monopoly) Cases and Typical Anti-Unfair Competition Cases but the lists and SPC’s explanations of cases are not directly accessible to foreigners.  Further, links to the decisions on the SPC’s website are blocked. 

In another example, China’s SPC recently released the “Announcement on Soliciting Public Opinions on the Draft Judicial Interpretation of Anti-Monopoly Civil Procedures” (关于反垄断民事诉讼司法解释稿向社会公开征求意见的公告) on the Chinese SPC website but the English SPC website only has a short article stating the the SPC is working on the draft without providing a copy of the draft.  Interestingly, the English article states that the SPC “will solicit public opinions at an appropriate time” while the Chinese version states “the deadline for feedback is December 9, 2022” perhaps indicating China’s SPC does not welcome opinions from foreigners.

For now, the main workaround is subscribing to a VPN and setting your IP address to a Hong Kong or Chinese mainland server (if available). Another workaround is to subscribe to the SPC official account on WeChat or Weibo where the SPC often posts announcements and are not currently geo-blocked.

Author: Aaron Wininger

Aaron Wininger is a Principal and Director of the China Intellectual Property at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner.

Author: Aaron Wininger

Aaron Wininger is a Principal and Director of the China Intellectual Property at Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner.