A local court in Beijing has recently established a new workgroup, consisting of almost 10 experienced judges, specifically tasked with handling cases associated with the Internet as an effort to probe into the legal issues relating to cyberspace.

"Internet crime has turned out to be an increasingly serious problem," said Li Dongmin, a judge at the People's Court of Haidian. Li admitted that cyberspace lawsuits have been increasing dramatically–in 1986, China reported only nine such cases and in 2002 over 4,500 were on the record. For example, Ma Xiurong, one of the judges with the workgroup, heard a case last month, in which an Internet game player sued a host company because his bonus and equipment in the game was stolen. The player's request for economic compensation was supported by the court, although the owners usually can do nothing about the cases because their belongings in cyberspace are not normally considered real possessions.

There is still no special law protecting virtual properties. "We do have general laws to handle Internet crimes but the very application is developing and changing faster than the prescription of laws," said Ma, adding that one of the missions of the workgroup was to probe into this field, providing sample cases for lawmaking and hearings.


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