efe-epaBeijing

China's district courts tried a total of 288,000 cases related to intellectual property rights in 2018, 41.8 percent more than in the previous year, officials said Tuesday.

State Intellectual Property Office head Shen Changyu revealed this data in a report he presented during the second session of the country's National People's Congress.

"A tribunal for IPR-related cases was set up at the SPC (Supreme People's Court) last year to further strengthen the judicial protection of IPR," the report said.

"More efforts were put into the construction of the intellectual property courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as 19 tribunals for IPR-related cases to improve the legal environment for technological innovation," it added, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Shen also said that courts across the country handled 32 major IPR-related cases and prosecuted a total of 8,325 people in 2018 for criminal offenses including, infringement of patent rights and trademark rights, an increase of 16.3 percent from 2017.

The inadequate protection of IPR has been, along with the trade deficit, the main argument used by United States Donald Trump to justify his trade war with China.

Trump accuses China of stealing intellectual property from American companies and using its legal framework - which in most sectors only allows investment from foreign companies through joint ventures - to carry out technology transfers.

For his part, Chief Justice Zhou Qiang stressed during the legislative session that the SPC processed 34,794 cases in 2018 and issued a sentence on 31,883 of them, which represents a year-on-year increase of 22.1 percent and 23.5 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, Procurator-General Zhang Jun said that reforms in the judicial system, launched in 2014 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, are based on "people's increasing demands for democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, security."

Although in theory, with these reforms, the Communist Party of China seeks to impart greater judicial independence to the courts, in practice, critical voices believe it is a maneuver by Xi to perpetuate himself in power.

Zhou also emphasized that Chinese courts took "strong actions against crimes threatening state security last year", which included "inciting the subversion of state power, inciting the split of the country and espionage."

Following an anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi after he took office in 2013, the courts issued a judgment on 28,000 cases, which involved 33,000 people, for embezzlement, bribery and breach of duty.

The country's courts also ruled on 5,489 cases related to organized crime and tried 42,195 cases for harming the environment last year, a rise of 21 percent from the previous year.