Back in late February, bridge blogger I, Yee wrote a post on the plight of Yetaai, an open source programmer in Shanghai who had noticed that a website of his had been blocked. Yetaai did some tests and discovered the problem originated within the China Telecom network, so he phoned them up and was told the problem was “irreversible”. What China Telecom wouldn't do was put that in writing, so he did some more tests, got them notarized, and took China Telecom to court.
“Robust personal accounting with function of double entry booking, e-billing, tax processing, budgeting, and foreign currency ex rate revaluation,” is the description of the open source private accounting software his website, now hosted on SourceForge, provides.
With his numbers of supporters growing, a court date had originally been set for May 29, but on the day before the first hearing, the judge announced the trial would be postponed. On Friday, August 3, Yetaai's first hearing was held; here‘s what he wrote afterwards:
August 3, first court session began
Court records prior to the first hearing
Net friends who have been following this case all along might remember that the court had originally scheduled this hearing for May 29, which was later postponed.
June 18: I reported in at my new job. Whether this case wins or loses is out of my control, but even if I win, it won't feed my family. Life must go on.
July 11: off to Beijing for a business trip, take part in ERP system implementation project, duration expected to last ten months. The project manager is a laowai
, and we have a lot to talk about. I just hope I can help him.
Approx. 2:00 pm, Friday, July 27: I phone the judge, he confirms that the court is now scheduling my case, which looks to be held on Friday, August 3.
Approx. 10:00 am, Monday, July 30, I receive notice from my lawyer Li Li that my summons has arrived and my hearing is set to be heard at 9:00 am on August 3, 2007 in courtroom 3 at #611 Dingxiang Road, Pudong New District, Shanghai. In the afternoon I receive a scanned copy of the new summons. In consideration of the product integration testing, with just us three consultants available to answer all thirty clients’ questions, I decide to let my lawyer attend the court hearing alone.
One pm, Wednesday, August 1: Lawyer Li suddenly calls, saying the court needs original copies of all evidence to be submitted. They're all in the file box back in my hotel room!
Seven pm, the ZJS
courier has braved the rain to come to the hotel, and I'm completely not comfortable with giving him the originals. He tells me they'll arrive on August 3 at the latest. I say I'll be dead then. I ask him to take extra care, even offering to add a little express fee. The little guy laughs, and refuses, saying they will take extra care, and that it's guaranteed to arrive the next day. I try and give a tip. He refuses. Watching him go back out into the rain and peddle away on his bike, I can't help but feel really bitter, that guy's working overtime already as it is. But still I'm at my rope's end. He's got his business commitment, but I don't know if his company is able to honor it. I go back to my room and sit quietly for an hour, and then I end I make up my mind: tomorrow I'll go back to Shanghai and attend the court hearing. Right away I phone the courier guy and ask him to return the package, but to my surprise he says it's already left in the truck and is now on the way to the airport.
August 2: I successfully apply for time off. I notify Li Li that I will be appearing in court. He suggests that we meet in front of the courthouse at 8:30, to go over the basics of the case one more time. At night the plane is late taking off. Departure was scheduled for 7 pm but we don't take off until 9, landing at Hongqiao
at 11:30, setting foot at home just after midnight.
8月3日早7点11分，接到李立的短消息，说快递已经送到。起床，早饭时看到儿子，想起”The Insider”中Jeffery Wigand希望他的女儿能看到他的揭发烟草公司的电视节目。轻轻叹了一声气。我是想带儿子去旁听法庭，不过，老婆不同意，不希望儿子接触这种她所谓劳命伤财的事情。媒体？我的口哨声也不错，不过还是省省吧！
7:11 am, August 3: I receive a text message from Li Li, saying the couriered package has already arrived. I get out of bed and at breakfast when I see my son I'm reminded of Jeffery Wigand
in The Insider
, hoping his daughter will see him on TV exposing the tobacco companies. I heave a little sigh. I want to take my son to court to listen, but the wife doesn't agree. She doesn't want our son coming in contact with what she calls this waste of time and money. The media? I'm a good whistler, but I think I'll save that for later!
7:30 am, August 3: My wife drives me to the courthouse on her way to work. “Turn here”, I tell her, and my wife madly slams on the breaks, stopping at the road I've said to go down. “Good call, all the other lanes are on green right now.” “But this is a good route.” My wife says nothing. “You see that guy over there? I hate him, yet every day I have to go by him. Even when he's smiling, just looking at him ticks me off! I hate him enough to go up and slap him one. From now on he'll be listening to me.” My wife listens to my attempt at hip-hop, and finally smiles. She stops, we kiss. I turn and blow her another kiss, mouthing: ‘I love you.’
I send a text message to the courier guy, thanking him. He replies saying he was happy to have been of service.
At the entrance to the courthouse I see my acquaintance, the wikipedian Yuan Mingli
[zh], who has come here especially just to listen to my court hearing. He's very supportive of what we're doing.
9:00 am on the dot, the judge pushes open the doors to courtroom 3. Finally I meet China Telecom
‘s two representatives.
Judge Cai Donghui is very young, and when he introduces the chief justice and People's Jurors, I don't get their names down quickly enough. The secretary's name is Qian Liying. It seems the two China Telecom representatives’ names are Le Yingwei and Wang Xiangdong. Le is a very pretty, young woman, and Wang is a tall man slightly on the skinny side. As the judge goes around introducing people, I try and smile to each of them. Except for judge Chai, nobody responds. Right when the introductions are done, I notice a second observer on the side, a very spirited-looking young guy. I smile at him too, but he just stares straight at me for a few seconds in return. I guess he's on the China Telecom side. Later when the hearing is over, I see him, Le and Wang talking quietly for a moment, though right up until he leaves he doesn't give me a second glance.
The debate process consists primarily of Judge Cai reading out the procedures; the chief justice from time to time puts forth a few questions, like ‘what's a proxy server
?’ etc. Li Li and Ms. Le lead most of the debate, with me supplying the occasional detail, mostly factual details. My side's demand is for the defendant to repair the glitch, explain the reason for the breakdown, and to compensate for some expenses, like the notarization, internet fees, etc. Although the legal fees are quite high, because my side was insufficient in preparing the demand for compensation of legal fees beforehand, the dismissed it. As both sides recognize the opposite party's identity and service contract, there is no debate. The majority of the debate quickly focuses on the following two points:
1. Whether the occurrence of being unable to visit websites occurred at the site of service (my paid ADSL connection access point). The complainant's key evidence is the notarization, and the notarized letter sent to the opposite party's representatives. The notarization is a record of a series of operations carried out on the notary public's office computers. The notarized letter recounts that after the complainant encountered the problem, he complained to China Telecom's complaint center's telephone repair line, and was unsatisfied with their response of ‘irreversible reasons’. The defendant admits that it received the telephone call and the notarized letter, also admitting that it did not respond to the letter. The defendant feels that because the address at which the recording of the behavior took place was not in a service area, that the demand is invalid. Furthermore, they feel that the content of the notarized letter has nothing to do with this case, and this was the reason it was not replied to. My side maintains that the notary public also accessed the internet with China Telecom broadband also in Shanghai (this point was not specified clearly in the notarized letter, but they did not dispute it, though as I was preparing the letter to be notarized, I'd asked one of the notaries and they confirmed that they had used an ADSL connection in the test, and not the the office's own network. Even if they had disputed this, my side had already prepared complementary evidence, a screenshot of the China Telecom mainpage, along with the erotic and lewd photos to be found there), and according to a public understanding of how the internet functions, visiting the same URL from different access points should produce the same result. If not, then controls are being carried out at the access point. With the credibility of the notary office in mind, as well as the details of grievances made by telephone in this case, it's my belief that the facts related by the complainant are verified.
2. Whether or not this occurrence is a malfunction to be handled by China Telecom; or, to put it another way, according to the services promised in the mutual contract, whether China Telecom should take responsibility for this occurrence. If responsibility is to be taken, taken to what extent. The complainant demands the opposite party take responsibility for this, including restoration of service or provision of an explanation of the problem, and maintains that the complainant cannot accept the defendant's original response of ‘irreversible reasons’. The defendant submitted the complainant's internet usage record, at the same time declaring that China Telecom had already provided the complainant with an internet connection, and that the connection was open, that there existed no flaws in the service. Their service is only limited to providing the connection. My side feels that the connection provided by the opposite party has not complied with the complainant's demands of being able to obtain true information from the internet, but instead have provided a false advertising page [the screenshot]. This connection does not correspond with the public common sense perception of what the internet is, nor does it inform the user in advance. Having violated the agreement, the demand is to move to to correspond withe the public common sense regulations.
The process of the main debate was rather tedious; when the transcript of the court hearing is released, I'll post it here.
Following this, Lawyer Li Li said to me, he hopes my case will be successful, that it will be the good luck for China's netizens. But due to the excessive number of external departments interfering in the judgment of this case, and the excessive energy it will take up, if the first hearing loses, he won't be able to help me fight for a second hearing. I still feel he's a lawyer with very strong ability, and very proficient in his profession; his understanding of the internet is also very strong. But lacking media and public support in joining me to take on the big, powerful bureaucracy Don Quixote-style, I can't really force him.
Sending Li Li off, I called in on Judge Cai, asking him what some of his thoughts were. He expressed that at present it would be inconvenient to reveal them. At the same time, he felt that a verdict on this hearing would be issue would be released soon. But just minutes ago, Lawyer Li Li told me that the Supreme Court regulations are that verdicts can take as long as six months. I'm not too worried about how quickly or slowly the verdict comes, I just fair justice. But without public pressure, will courts today be able to improve to the point of delivering accurate judgments? Perhaps I ought to look at it another way, and hope that the whichever way the court awards will awaken the public's expectation of justice and equality. I think I ought to be hurrying home to give my wife a kiss, and all the other places on her waiting for me to come kiss them. That's true happiness! Even if I am just an inferior citizen.