Foreigners who disobey Chinese courts could be barred from leaving

Foreigners who disobey Chinese courts could be barred from leaving

CHINA - Foreigners who fail to comply with all court rulings face being banned from leaving China, with information about them disclosed online, court officials say.

On Tuesday, the Supreme People's Court, the country's top court, published a blacklist of 31,259 people who have refused to make court-ordered payments and failed to comply with rulings.

Five of them are from overseas.

The five are involved in disputes over debts in Beijing and in Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces, the top court's implementation department said.

"If the five defaulters use their assets overseas, such as cars, houses and cash, to clear their debts in China, the restriction on them will be removed," said Liu Guixiang, the department's director.

The restriction also targets dishonest Chinese residents and foreign companies operating in the country, he said.

China has signed bilateral agreements on implementing civil and commercial judgments with countries such as Russia, but has reached few of these agreements because of different legal systems, Liu said.

"Therefore, the most effective way to push overseas debtors to comply with Chinese verdicts is to prevent them from leaving," he said.

The new restriction covers all breaches of court orders, not just debt repayments.

Song Haiping, director of the implementation department at Henan High People's Court, cited a previous case where an indebted foreigner was barred from leaving.

In March 2010, a Zhengzhou resident identified only as Dong bought a 2 million yuan (S$408,080) house from a United States national, but the seller did not hand over the property and refused to return the down payment of about 500,000 yuan.

Dong sued the man in January 2011, but the foreigner disappeared after paying only 55,000 yuan.

The court barred the man from leaving the country and told exit-entry departments of the restriction.

On May 23 last year, the foreigner was held in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. He paid off the debt the next month.

"The departure ban can work as a deterrent," said Song, who has issued more than 100 restrictions on departure.

But Liu said courts will have to turn to judicial cooperation with their overseas counterparts if the ban does not work. The process could take time and be complicated, he said.

In another incident, a Hong Kong resident ran a coal business and defaulted on his debts in Shanxi province.

But before a local court told him to repay the debts, he transferred all his assets to his hometown, a statement by the top court said.

The provincial court had to apply for judicial help from Hong Kong, but making the application took six months.

Cheng Lei, an associate law professor at Renmin University of China, said the blacklist can help build a "credit system" in China, a task also requiring financial departments and government administrations to share their data.

"The system needs contributions from all walks of life," Liu said.

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