China

People’s Republic of China in Asia

According to the work “Guide to Foreign and International Citations”, by the Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University School of Law):

China is divided into twenty-two provinces, five autonomous regions, the Hong Kong
Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR),
four municipalities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing) that are under the direct control
of the central government. China considers Taiwan to be its twenty-third province. The official
language is Mandarin.

The State Council of the People’s Republic of China is the highest organ of state
administration. It is vested with power by the Constitution to enact administrative regulations
and rules, and to issue decisions and orders in accordance with the Constitution and statutes. The head of the State Council is the Premier, who has the overall responsibility for the performance of the executive functions of the government.

China is a civil law country. The main sources of law are the Constitution (Xianfa),
statutes enacted by the NPC or its Standing Committee (falu), administrative regulations issued
by the State Council (Xingzheng Fagui), administrative rules issued by those departments under
the State Council (Xingzheng Guizhang), local regulations (difang xing fagui), and
interpretations of laws including legislative interpretations (lifa jieshi), judicial interpretations
(sifa jieshi) and administrative interpretations (xingzheng jieshi). The judicial interpretations of
the Supreme People’s Court serve an unofficial, quasi-legislative role in China’s legal system.
Like most civil law systems, however, previous rulings of higher courts are not binding on lower
courts in China. China amended its Constitution in March 2004, to formally provide private
property and human rights protections.

The two special administrative regions retain the legal traditions of their former colonial
regimes. Hong Kong (HKSAR, see page 77) is a former British colony that was returned to mainland China in 1997, but which keeps its common law traditions. Macau (MSAR) is a
former Portuguese colony that was returned to mainland China in 1999, but which maintains a
legal system similar to Portugal. The prior laws in HKSAR and MSAR remain in force, but new
laws must not violate each region’s respective Basic Law, enacted by the National People’s Congress.

China’s courts consist of the Supreme People’s Court (Zuigao Renmin Fayuan), local
people’s courts at various levels (difang geji renmin fayuan), military courts (junshi fayuan), and
other special people’s courts (zhuanmen renmin fayuan), for example, railway courts and
maritime courts.

The local people’s courts are divided into the following levels:

  • Basic People’s Courts (Jiceng Renmin Fayuan) (court of first instance),
  • Intermediate People’s Courts (Zhongji Renmin Fayuan) (court of first instance and court of appeal), and
  • High People’s Courts (Gaoji Renmin Fayuan) (court of first instance and court of appeal at the level of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government).
  • Excepting special courts, every court is usually subdivided into institutions such as the criminal division, civil division, intellectual property division, and enforcement division.

National People’s Congress

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China of 1982 (amended in 1988, 1993, and
1999) established a parliamentary regime, with the Chinese Communist Party as the permanent
ruling party. Under the Constitution, all power belongs to the Chinese people. The organs
through which the people exercise state power are the National People’s Congress (NPC) and
local people’s congresses at various levels. The National People’s Congress is the highest organ of state power, which, together with its permanent body, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, exercises the legislative power of the state.

All administrative, judicial, and prosecutorial organs of the state are created by the people’s congresses, to which they are responsible and under whose supervision they operate. The National People’s Congress is elected for a term of five years. It has the power to supervise the enforcement of the Constitution and to enact and amend basic statutes concerning criminal offenses, civil affairs, state organs, and other matters. The National People’s Congress also has the power to elect the head of the nation (the President, or, literally, State Chairman, Guojia Zhuxi), the President of the Supreme People’s Court (Zuigao Renmin Fayuan Yuanzhang) and the Procuratorate-General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (Zuigao Renmin Jianchayuan Jianchazhang).

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has the power to interpret the Constitution and to supervise its enforcement, to interpret statutes, and to enact and amend statutes with the exception of those that should be enacted by the National People’s Congress. The Standing Committee also has the power to annul administrative regulations and rules of the State Council that contravene the Constitution or statutes.

China Online Legal Resources

Constitution

Laws and Legislation

  • Isinolaw (Isinolaw.com): Database available from marked ILS work stations.  Extremely complete and current database of law and jurisprudence. Please see below ” Subscription Databases” for more information about how to access as well as other databases that we subscribe to.
  • Laws and Regulations (Peking University): in Chinese and you must configure your browser to display and your keyboard to input.  This website includes other databases for a subscription fee.
  • China Laws and Regulations (Lexis):[password required] Archival database not currently being updated, but in English.
  • Laws of the People’s Republic of China Selected Chinese legislation in English .
  • National and Local Laws and Regulations (State Information Center):  In Chinese and you must configure your browser to display and your keyboard to input.  There is a database of “new law”, however you must have a subscription to access the full-text of laws and regulations.  The rest of the database is free.
  • Gazettes Available through China Law Info,you can search the table of contents of various gazettes from China, including the Supreme People’s Court, the State Council of the PRC, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. The table of contents can be up to one year behind.
  • World News Connection (Harvard only): Includes the Daily Report China which sometimes reproduces the full-text of laws.
  • Legal Daily Online (official website): Publishes legal developments and occasional full-text laws.  In Chinese.

Law by Subject

Jurisprudence

  • People’s Court Daily (official website): In Chinese and English.  Publishes some decisions of the Supreme People’s Court.
  • Supreme People’s Procuratorate (official website): In Chinese, includes selected decisions.
  • Cases (ChinaLaw at Peking University): In English but selected.  Allows keyword and title searching, as well as browsing.
  • Reported Cases (University of Maryland): Selected cases from a variety Chinese sources.

Legal Metasites and Guides

Government

Subscription Databases

Where to access: Access via IP recognition at HLS terminals

    • Title: China Law Info
      Web Address: http://chinalawinfo.com
      Who Can Access: Harvard ID holders
      Where to Access: ILS public terminals
      How to Access: Access via password from ILS Reference Desk
      Provider: Chinalawinfo Co., Ltd.
      Description: China Law Info is a subscription database that provides access to a range of Chinese legal materials, including laws and regulations, cases, legal news, gazettes and law journals. The database has both English and Chinese language interfaces.
    • Title: China Law and Practice
      Web Address: http://www.chinalawandpractice.com
      Who Can Access: Harvard ID holders
      Where to Access: ILS public terminals
      How to Access: Access via password from ILS Reference desk
      Provider: Euromoney Publications
      Description: This product provides China business news stories, a new laws digest, an archive as well as business law bulletins and an events table.
  • Title: Isinolaw
    Web Address: http://www.isinolaw.com
    Who Can Access: Harvard ID holders
    Where to Access: ILS public terminals
    How to Access: Access via IP recognition at ILS terminal ILS-02
    Provider: Isinolaw Research Centre
    Description: Database includes full-text of laws and regulations, judicial interpretations, standard contract forms, analysis, court judgments and a section on WTO and China.

Other

More Chinese Law Websites

Note: We linked the resources to archive.org in an effort to decrease the number of broken links cited.

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