Features – Judicial Information of the People's Republic of China: A Survey

Zhai Jianxiong is an associate research librarian in law in the reference department, the National Library of China, where he is responsible for responding to the requests from the national legislature, government, judiciary and citizens. He has a Bachelor of laws degree and has been active in introducing China’s legal information to the world. In recent years, he has published several English language articles on the legal literature of China in journals abroad, such as the National Library of China and Its Legislative Reference Service in the IFLA Publication 83: Parliamentary Libraries and Information Services of Asia and the Pacific; Legal Literature in the P. R. China: An Introduction in the Reference Librarian, Number 60, 1998; and Tax Legislation of the People’s Republic of China and Its Information Sources in the Revenue Law Journal, Volume 8, 1998. In this guide, he will give a brief introduction to the sources of judicial information in China, with a focus on judicial interpretation, an important source of Chinese law.

Table of Contents

Judicial Structures
Court System
Procuratorate System
Judicial Interpretation
Sources of Judicial Information
The Supreme Peoples Court
Official Gazette
General Compilation
Subject Collection
Administrative Trial
Civil Trial
Criminal Trial
State Compensation
Annotated Edition
The Supreme Peoples Procuratorate
Official Gazette
Law Reports
Official Publication
English Version
Commercial Publication
Reference Sources
Judicial Yearbooks
Historical Judicial Materials
Local Judicial Chronicles
Online Sources
Court Website
Procuratorial Website
Commercial Sites


Judicial Structures

Court System

The Constitution of China provides that the People’s Courts are the judicial organs of the state and exercise the judicial powers. Soon after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the courts system was established throughout the country. In 1954, at the first session of the first National People’s Congress (NPC), the Organic Law of the People’s Courts was adopted which provided systematically the nature, functions, organization and activities of the courts. Now the court system of China consists of:

  • The Supreme People’s Court;
  • The higher courts instituted at the levels of provinces and autonomous regions as well as municipalities directly under the Central Government;
  • The intermediate courts established at levels of prefectures (including autonomous prefectures), provincial capital (including cities under direct control of the provincial or autonomous region government), relatively big cities and within the municipalities directly under the Central Government;
  • The basic courts established at county or autonomous county levels and in urban districts;
  • Military courts;
  • Maritime courts;
  • Railway transport courts.

Every court is, except the special courts (military, maritime, and railway transport courts), usually composed of several institutions such as criminal division, civil division, intellectual property division and enforcement division. In recent years the courts of the whole country handles a total of about 6 million cases annually. Two brief statistical tables relating to the cases received and settled by the people’s courts at various levels are listed below:

Table 1. Statistical Table of Cases Handled by Courts at Various Levels in 1999

Unit: case

Category Received Settled
Total 6,229,512 6,232,302
The First Instance 5,692,434 5,698,705
The Second Instance 438,313 436,804
Adjudication Supervision 98,765 96,793

Table 2. Statistical Table of Classified Cases in 1999

Unit: case

Category Received Settled
Total 5,692,434 5,698,705
Criminal Cases 540,008 539,335
Civil Cases 3,519,244 3,517,324
Economic Dispute Cases 1,535,613 1,543,287
Maritime Cases 5,736 5,964
Administrative Cases 97,569 98,759

Source: Law Yearbook of China: 2000

Procuratorate System

The People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China is the supervisory organ of law. In September 1954, the first NPC at its initial session adopted the first Constitution of China and the Organic Law of the People’s Procuratorate. Both provided for the establishment of a Supreme People’s Procuratorate, local procuratorates at various levels and special procuratorates. Thereafter, the procuratorial institutions at both central and local levels were gradually established. Currently, the national procuratorate system includes:

  • The Supreme People’s Procuratorate;
  • The local people’s procuratorates includes those in the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government; the branch people’s procuratorates set up in the cities, prefectures, autonomous prefectures, provincial capitals, and within the municipalities directly under the Central Government as well as procuratorates at the county, autonomous county, and urban districts levels;
  • Special People’s Procuratorates include military and railway transport procuratorates.

Table 3. Statistical Table of the Institutions of Procuratorates as at the End of 1999

Unit: case





Supreme People’s Procuratorates


Provincial People’s Procuratorates






Branch Procuratorates (at City, Prefecture, Autonomous Prefecture levels)


Military Procuratorates


Railway Transport Procuratorates






Procuratorates at County, City, District, Banner levels


Military Procuratorates


Railway Transport Procuratorates






Procuratorates in Industrial and Mine Districts


Procuratorates in Agricultural Reclaimed Regions


Procuratorates in Forest District


Procuratorates in Prisons, Detention Houses


Other Procuratorates


Table 4. Statistical Table of Offenders Approved for Arrest and Cases of Public Prosecution by the Procuratorates in 1999

Unit: case

Case Category

Approved and Arrested

Reviewed Prosecution










Case filed by Authorities of Public Security, State Security and Prison





Endangering State Security





Endangering Public Security





Undermining the Socialist Market Economy





Infringing upon Citizen’s Rights of the Person and Democratic rights





Property Violation





Obstructing the Administration of public order





Impairing the Interests of National defense





Servicemen’s transgression of duties





Self investigated prosecution





Embezzlement and Bribery





Dereliction of duty





Source: Procuratorial Yearbook of China: 2000

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Judicial Interpretation

In China, the judicial interpretation is referred to the interpretations, made by the national supreme judicial authorities on questions relating to specific application of laws in their judicial practices according to the authorization of the NPC. The Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, by virtue of the relevant decrees adopted by the NPC, both hold the power of formulating the judicial interpretation.

The judicial interpretation has a long history in China, dating back to 1954, shortly after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the judicial interpretation appeared along with the rapid progress in the fields of economic construction and national legislation after the first Constitution was promulgated. It is urgent for national supreme judicial authorities to strengthen the interpretative work on the application of law in order to cope with the problems that arise in handling cases. The Standing Committee of the NPC passed, for this reason, the Decision on Interpretation of Law in 1955 which provided that those questions connected with specific application of laws and decrees should be interpreted by the Supreme People’s Court. Thus the supreme judicial organ, for the first time, was formally conferred with the power of enacting judicial interpretation by the highest organ of state power from that time forward. This power was also confirmed by the legislation afterwards, such as the Organic Law of People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China in 1979. Furthermore, the Standing Committee of the 5th NPC at its 19th session adopted a resolution on improvement of explanation work of the law providing that:

“Where an interpretation of questions involving the specific application of laws and decrees in court trials shall be provided by the Supreme People’s Court and; where an interpretation of problems concerning the concrete application of laws and decrees in procuratorial practices shall be prescribed by the Supreme People’s Porcuratorate. If there is any difference in principle between them, it should be delivered to the Standing Committee of NPC for interpretation or decision.”

This Resolution stresses not only the power of judicial interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court but also bestows on the Supreme People’s Porcuratorate the same power. Thus the judicial interpretation has, as an important legal system, appeared in China and has been considered as a formal source of law. There have been recorded, according to judicial statistical data, about 4,000 judicial interpretations by the Supreme People’s Court alone or jointly with the Supreme People’s Porcuratorate from 1949 to 2000.

Sources of Judicial Information

The judicial interpretation can be divided into two categories in the light of subject of issuance The title of them also varies from circular, reply to answer, instruction, opinions, etc.

The Supreme People’s Court

Official Gazette

Gazette of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China.
Begun in 1985, it is the sole official publication. Published four times each year, it carries the important national legislation, official documents, judicial interpretation and typical cases involving civil, criminal, economic, marine and administrative ones discussed and adopted by the Judicial Committee of the Supreme People’s Court. Among which the judicial interpretations, is, pursuant to the provisions of the Supreme People’s Court, the authoritative edition and can be cited in the judicial documents and court decisions.

Two bound volumes of the gazette, A Complete Compilation of Gazette of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China: 1985-1994 (People’s Court Press, 1995), and its continuation, 1995-1999 (People’s Court Press, 2000), are alternative sources for locating judicial explanations.

General Compilation

Those judicial interpretation prior to 1985 can be traced with another publication entitled, A Collected Edition of Judicial Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China: 1949.10-1993.6 (People’s Court Press, 1994). This historical collection, compiled by the research department of the Supreme People’s Court, contains seven parts involving: general provisions, criminal law, criminal Procedure law, civil law (including general principles of civil law, marriage law, succession law and copyright law), economic law, maritime law, civil procedure law, and administrative procedure law. It collects about 2,200 judicial interpretations issued solely by the Supreme People’s Court or jointly with other central state organs from October 1949 to June 1993, and has been considered as a very useful archival source on searching for the judicial interpretations of early days.

In addition to the official publications mentioned above, a commercial collection deserving mention is: A Complete Collection of Judicial Interpretations of New China: 1949.10 – 1990.6 (China Procuratorial Press, 1990) and its enlarged edition, 1990.6.-1992.6. This collection, dividing judicial documents into several parts covering criminal and civil affairs, criminal and civil procedures, administrative law, lawyer and notarization, judiciary involving foreign interests, records a great many judicial documents issued by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and other normative documents such as legislative interpretation, law, policy, circular, reply and so forth adopted or promulgated by NPC, the State Council and Ministries and Commissions concerned. Furthermore, there is an English list of the legislative and judicial documents passed or issued from June 1990 to June 1992, in the end of enlarged edition which will prove useful to foreign readers.

Subject Collection

In recent years, the relevant adjudication divisions of the Supreme People’s Court have also compiled some judicial handbooks subject to their trial jurisdiction.

Administrative Trial

Handbook of Administrative Trial (People’s Court Press, 1987-1999, yearly). This is a major serial publication concerning administrative procedure published during the period 1987-1999. Compiled jointly by the Research Department and the Administrative Division of the Supreme People’s Court, it includes usually three or four score of laws passed by the NPC and its standing committee, administrative regulations enacted by the State Council and committees and ministries under it, and judicial interpretations made by the Supreme People’s Court regarding to administrative proceedings. It groups them into twenty or so subjects, including: finance, statistics, tourism, industrial and commercial administration, customs, taxation, audit, social securities, technical supervision, education, culture, journalism and publication, national defense, science and technology, public security, civil affairs, justice, and environmental protection. The first volume cumulated the laws, regulations and judicial interpretations promulgated or issued during the period 1979-1986.

A Collection of Judicial Interpretations on Administrative Proceedings (Jincheng Press, 2001) and Reference to Administrative Regulations and Judicial Review (Law Press, 2000-date, yearly) These two subject compilations on administrative trials are edited by the Administrative Division of the Supreme People’s Court. The former, covering the period 1982 to 2000, compiles nearly 200 judicial documents of the Supreme People’s Court relating to administrative procedure into one volume, and arranges them into a dozen subjects, which is very convenient for readers to search for a judicial interpretation on a specific topic. The latter, commencing in 2000 in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the implementation of Administrative Procedural Law of the PRC, is somewhat of an academic work which is composed usually of several parts embracing many of the latest materials on administrative trial, such as new laws and regulations, new judicial interpretations, theses on understanding and application of judicial interpretation, statistical data, and court decisions, etc. It merits mention here as the theses in this publication are well worth reading for their academic nature which can help readers to understand the meanings of judicial interpretation more clearly.

Civil Trial

Civil trial is the main work of court’s justice for civil case makes up 90% of the total cases and the civil adjudication personnel also makes up 90% of the whole judicial personnel. In order to fit in with the needs of developing the socialist market economy and of accession to the WTO, the Supreme People’s Court underwent in 2000 an important institutional reform which adjusts the institutions and functions of divisions of civil, economic, intellectual property, transport and communications and brought them into one category of civil trial. Thus a big pattern of civil justice has been set up since then.

There have many judicial publications relevant to the civil justice been published since the early days of 80s. Two chief ones are the Civil Handbook (People’s Court Press and later, the Mass Press) and the Handbook of Civil Justice (China Legal System Press, 2001). The former, compiled by the preceding civil division of the Supreme People’s Court and published continuously in six volumes during the period 1979-1998, contains the laws, regulations and judicial documents concerning civil trial. Though outdated somewhat in content, it is still considered as a useful source on searching for the judicial documents on administrative trial issued in the early days of 80s. The latter is a newly published subject collection of judicial documents which is composed of three companion volumes entitled, respectively, the Handbook of Civil Justice (Commerce), Handbook of Civil Justice (Intellectual Property), and Handbook of Civil Justice (Foreign Matters, Maritime, Transportation). They contain the laws, regulations and judicial explanations currently effective. Readers will find that it is very convenient for them to search for legal documents in connection with civil trial by using these publications.

There are in addition several subject compilations edited by the relevant former divisions of the Supreme People’s Court and published during 80-90s’ such as:

Handbook of Transport and Communications Justice (People’s Court Press, 1989, edited by division of transport and communications);

Handbook of Economic Justice (People’s Court Press, 1988-, economic division, 27 chapters have been published up to 2001 and will continue to be published by the civil division);

Handbook of Real Estate Justice (Law Press, 1991, 3 volumes, civil court), and its revised ed. New Handbook of Real Estate Justice: 1949.10-1997.7 (the Supreme People’s Court Press, 1997, also reprinted in 2000);

Handbook of Labour Dispute Justice (Law Press, 1994, civil court), which can be used to trace outdated legal documents on this topic.

Since China carries out the policy of sa ocialist market economy and accession to the World Trade Organization, many problems and disputes have emerged in the civil and economic activities. The civil division of the Supreme People’s Court, in response to the new situation appeared in the judicial practices and for the sake of directing the lower courts to apply the law correctly, edits two academic series: Reference and Guide to Civil Trial (Law Press, 2000-, quarterly) and Civil and Commercial Trial Review (Law Press, 1999-, irregularly). These two series, apart from containing the new judicial interpretations connected with civil trial, also embrace several special columns such as:

  • Policy of Civil Justice, issuing the directive proposals of the Supreme People’s Court and the speech of the leaders of the Supreme People’s Court delivered in symposiums and meetings relevant to civil trial;
  • Report for Requesting Instructions and Reply, publishing the approval in reply of the Supreme People’s Court on the report for requesting instructions of provincial higher people’s court regarding civil cases;
  • Cases Analysis, commenting the typical civil cases sentenced by courts at various levels and second instance cases sentenced by the Supreme People Court;
  • Judge Reading Notes, personal understanding and experience of senior judges from their trial practices;
  • Selected Judgments, carrying the written judgment of typical civil cases decided by the Supreme People’s Court.

The materials and the cases notes in the series mentioned above are wrote and organized mainly by the judges who are in the judicial front and partake in the trial, and the information they offered is considered commonly as accurate and authoritative. So these publications are play an important role in directing lower courts in their judicial practices and have a high academic value.

Criminal Trial

In 1997, the NPC passed the amendments to the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law , and late in the same year the Supreme People’s Court also issued a number of judicial interpretations for the sake of directing the lower courts to comprehend and apply correctly the amended laws and improve the quality of criminal justice. Some compilations dealing with criminal trial were published afterward, among which the following ones have the best quality.

A Compilation of the Latest Criminal Laws and Judicial Interpretations (Police Officer Press, 1998 Ed., 1999 Revised Ed.; The University of China People’s Public Security Press, 2001 Revised Ed.), and its companion, A New Handbook of Criminal Laws and Judicial Interpretations (Law Press, 1999). Edited by the Research Department of the Supreme People’s Court, these two collections collect all the effective decisions and laws passed by the NPC and judicial interpretations and documents issued by the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Justice involving criminal justice and arrange them in an order corresponding to the structures of the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law and is easy for readers to search for a document. Their revised editions keep the content updated to 2001.

Handbook of Criminal Justice Supervision (People’s Court Press, 1990). This is another useful source for tracing criminal judicial explanation prior to the 1990s. Compiled by the Second Criminal Division of the Supreme People’s Court, it embraces the criminal laws and judicial documents involving criminal trial since 1979, when the first Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law was promulgated, to 1990 and has permanent reference value.

Since 1997, when the amended Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law become effective, a lot of new problems have emerged in the judicial trial practices. In order to enhance the judges’ abilities to solve problems and deepen their understanding on the criminal law amended, the First Criminal Division of the Supreme People’s Court publishes a professional research and directive publication entitled, the Reference to Criminal Trial (Law Press, bimonthly, 1999-date, cumulated yearly). It is written mainly by the judges with rich trial experience of the said division and law school professorsl. The content of this book involves several parts of cases covering some typical crimes, laws, regulations and judicial explanations, selected verdict document and samples of litigation documents. In the cumulative volume, there is a subject index and a list in English which will help readers abroad.

There is another academic publication entitled A Guide to Criminal Jurisprudence (Law Press, 2000-date, Quarterly) which plays the same role as the former. Compiled by the Criminal Procuratorial Department of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and written by reputed legal experts, it usually includes several parts such as judicial practice, application of evidence, legislative interpretation, analysis of disputed case, analysis and interpretation of newly defined crimes. Each part contains three or four studying articles focusing on some key and difficult points emerging in the criminal justice practices, providing incisive analysis offering authoritative opinions to the judicial practitioners.

State Compensation

On May 12, 1994, the NPC passed the Law of the People’s Republic of China on State Compensation, which divides the state compensation into two categories: administrative compensation and criminal compensation. In China, the problem of criminal compensation is not solved by general judicial proceedings. The decision for compensation is made by the compensation commission within the intermediate court and its higher courts. In order to meet the needs of lower courts in handling compensation cases, the Compensation Commission Office of the Supreme People’s Court edited the Handbook on State Criminal Compensation (People’s Court Press, 1995) which includes the laws and regulations of the NPC, the State Council, judicial documents of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate concerning criminal compensation promulgated or issued from 1979 to 1995.

Annotated Edition

From 1990s, the China’s legislative activities reached it’s high tide and many laws and regulations relating to the establishment of socialist market economy and protecting the citizen’s democratic rights were enacted one after another according to the constitution amendments passed in 1993 and 1999 which provide that “the state practices socialist market economy” and “the People’s Republic of China governs the country according to law and makes it a socialist country ruled by law”. In order to enable the lower courts to comprehend and apply the law accurately, the Supreme People’s Court strengthened its work on judicial interpretation and at the same time organized some well-experienced legal experts, law professors and judges who had been a party to the drafting of judicial interpretation, to write some annotated editions of judicial documents, such as:

  • An Accurate Interpretation on Accusation in the Criminal Law (People’s Court Press, 1998);
  • A Comprehension and Application of Interpretation for Certain Problems involving the Application of the Guaranty Law of the People’s Republic of China (Jilin People’s Press, 2000);
  • A New Interpretation and Application Concerning the Guaranty Law of the People’s Republic of China (Xinhua Press, 2001);
  • A Comprehension and Application of Interpretation on Several Problems Relating to the Definition of Moral Damage Caused by Tort (People’s Court Press, 2001);
  • A Comprehension and Application of Provisions Regarding the Hearing Scope of Civil Cases (For Trial Implementation) (People’s Court Press, 2001);
  • An Explanation on the Implementary Proposals of General Principles of Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China (China Legal System Press, 2001).

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The Supreme Peoples’ Procuratorate

Article 129 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states that the people’s procuratorates are state organs for legal supervision and the Supreme Peoples’ Procuratorate is also authorized by NPC to issue the procuratorial interpretations. The publications published by the Supreme Peoples’ Procuratorate are less than those of the Supreme People’s Court’s. The general sources is the Gazette of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (1991-date, irregularly, about six times a year), which contains usually the procuratorial interpretations, circulars, documents and typical criminal cases. The full text of the Gazette from 2000 is available online at http://www.jcrb.com.cn/ournews/asp/zazhi/gb/index.htm. Other procuratorial documents prior to 1991 can be tracked using the Procuratorial Handbook (China Procuratorial Press, 1979-date, yearly).

Law Reports

Official Publication

The legal system of China is considered part of the Continental Legal System, and court decisions are not the source of Chinese law and do not have the legal binding effect in judicial practices, which is different from that of Anglo-American legal system. But some publications, including judicial reports in both official and commercial editions, have been published since 1990 for the purpose of instructing the work of lower courts and procuratorates. The major official ones are the Selected Cases of the People’s Court (People’s Court Press, 1992-, Quarterly) and the Series of Criminal Cases (China Procuratorial Press, 1991). The former, compiled by the China’s Applied Law Institute, are subject to the authorization of the Supreme People’s Court and are published regularly. They consist of many big and puzzling cases involving criminal, civil, economic, administrative, marine ones. The cases compiled are usually chosen from the courts of all levels and special courts, and each case is composed of three parts, including fact of case, adjudication, theoretical analysis and experiences and lessons, which plays an important role in directing courts to hear the similar cases. Its bound edition, Selected Cases of the People’s Court: 1992-1999 (China Legal System Press, 2000), incorporates the reported cases into seven volumes, covering respectively criminal, civil, commercial, intellectual property, maritime, transportation, administrative and state compensation cases. The latter, containing about 6,000 cases selected from those prosecuted by the national procuratorial institutions at deferent levels since 1979, when the Penal Code was enacted, has been published in 23 chapters, and the cases, selected from about 100 crimes, were classified into scores of titles and each chapter includes several cases.

Gazette of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China is another authoritative source in respect to the court decision. Each issue carries several leading cases. In order to bring into fully play the directive role of typical cases, the Editorial Department of the Gazette edited a case book, A Complete Collection of Leading Cases From the Gazette of the Supreme People’s Court: 1985.1-1999.2 (Police Officer Press, 1999), which contains about 300 cases that have appeared in the Gazette during the period 1985-1999.

In recent years, some local courts at the provincial level have also compiled case books for the purpose of improving the trial quality of basic courts and the ability of judges to handle specific cases, and to raise the scholastic levels of judges. So, a number of local law reports have been published one by one, such as:

  • Selected Cases Adjudicated in the Courts of Guangdong Province (Guangdong People’s Press, 1997);
  • Selected Cases Decided by the Courts of Qingdao City (Law Press, 2001);
  • Selected Cases Tried by the Courts of Tianjin Municipality (Law Press, 2001);
  • Noted Cases Adjudged by the Courts of Beijing Municipality (Law Press, 2001);
  • Annotated Cases Handled by the Courts of Hebei Province (Law Press, 2001).

Among the local case publications which deserve to be praised is the case book series entitled Selected Cases Adjudicated in the Courts of Shanghai (Shanghai People’s Press, 1994-date, yearly). Published under the direction of the Higher People’s Court of Shanghai, each year it includes about 100 or more cases selected carefully from more than 600 cases recommended by different levels of courts in Shanghai. These cases cover a wide range of dimensions and are typical in each type of cases. They reflect the new types of cases appeared in recent years’ social, economic and legal transactions.

Judicial Document Selections of the People’s Court (Law Press, 2001-date) is another official series of court judgments which consists of a dozens chapters including the full text of written judgments, awards and mediation documents selected by the higher people’s court of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government.

English Version

Presently, most of law reports are still available in Chinese only, but case publications in English have already emerged and will continue to grow. The higher people’s court of Shanghai municipality, for example, in 1999 compiled a Chinese-English Edition case book, Protection of Intellectual Property Rights cases and Comments (Law press, 1999). This book includes a dozen typical cases on intellectual property, some noted cases about copyright disputes are reported, such as:

  • Wu Guanzhong v. Shanghai Duoyunxuan & Hong Kong Yongcheng;
  • Qian Zhongshu and People’s Literature Press v. Xu Zhifen and Sichuan Literature &Art Press;
  • Feng Chuyin et al. (successors of Zhang Leping) v. Jiangsu Sanmao Group Inc.

Of the fourteen cases selected, four are disputes involving at least one foreign party; three involve a party from Taiwan or Hong Kong; six are copyright disputes; four are disputes concerning the right to the exclusive use of trademarks; two are disputes of unfair competition; one is a dispute over a patent infringement; and one involves the theft of technical secrets. The judgments for many of these cases have been affirmed by the Supreme People’s Court or published in the Supreme Court’s Gazette or cited by the Supreme People’s Court in its news release. The character of this book is that there are comment attached to each judgment written by the presiding judges and thus adding more authenticity and authority to the judgments.

Commercial Publication

In addition to those case books compiled by courts, there are some commercial editions have been published among which the most significant and scholastic one is China’s Court Judgments Study (China Renmin University Press, 1992-date, yearly). Compiled Jointly by the Training Center of Senior Judge of China and the Law School of Renmin University of China, it is a large and voluminous case book published continuously since 1992 and the cases involved cover the every field of law and are selected carefully by the legal experts from the cases sentenced by all levels of courts. Each year it includes about more than 300 cases; and in each case, the judgment gives a clear report of the fact, the trial process and the reasoning. In addition, there is also a brief comment written by legal scholars in the end of the judgment.

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Reference Sources

Judicial Yearbooks

A yearbook is a very useful reference source chronologically recording the events and important documents each year. Presently, there are three legal yearbooks which are national in scope in China. They are:

China Law Yearbook (China Law Yearbook Press, 1987-date);
This publication is the most comprehensive legal reference work that consists of selections from a wide range of legal sources, including descriptive commentaries on legal construction, major laws and regulations, judicial instruments, court decisions, judicial statistical data, and general conditions of legal science and legal education. The first issue of law yearbook was also published in English from which the readers abroad can read many translated materials for the first time about China’s legal construction since 1979.

Yearbook of People’s Court (People’s Court Press, 1989-1992);
This is a reference book chronologically recording the events and materials in the area of justice work each year. It usually contains:

  • Work reports of the Supreme People’s Court and courts of province, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government;
  • Survey of national justice work involving criminal, civil, economic and administrative trial;
  • Major laws and judicial interpretations;
  • Selection of documents for the administration of justice issued by the Supreme People’s Court;
  • Important Speech of state leaders and of present, vice-present of the Supreme People’s Court;
  • Report on important meeting;
  • Selection of cases;
  • Chronicle;
  • Judicial Statistical data.

Regrettably, it ceased to publish in 1993.

Procuratorial Yearbook of China (China Procuratorate Press, 1988-date).
This is a comprehensive reference book which records the information and materials about the procuratorial work of China each year. The columns in the book commonly include:

  • Speech and reports delivered by leaders of state or the Supreme People’s Procuratorate;
  • Work reports of people’s procuratorates of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government;
  • Selection of the procuratorial documents;
  • Typical cases;
  • Foreign exchange and cooperation in procuratorial area;
  • Research of theory, newspaper and magazine and press;
  • Statistical data, etc.

Historical Judicial Materials

China Today: the People’s Judicial Work (two volumes, China Today Press, 1993). This book is an essential work on China judicial history. It records mainly the judicial work and significant events of China from 1949 to 1989 and provides a wealth of historical data about developing process, achievements, experiences and lessons of courts. The content of the book encompasses six parts plus a preamble which expound, in detail and accurately, the justice activities of national courts in different period and aspects, including some major events in the history such as:

  • Punishing the criminals of breaking finance and engaging in commercial speculation to stabilize commodity Prices and the People’s Life in the initial period of New China;
  • Punishing the criminals of committing embezzle and theft exposed during the movements against the “Three Evils” and the “Five Evils” to eliminate the bad influence of the old society;
  • Handling the Japanese war criminals;
  • Handling ten principal criminals of Lin-Biao and Jiang-Qing counter-revolutionary cliques.

In 1999, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, a number of publications pertaining to the history of the people’s court have been published among which the significant ones are as follows:

Collection of Historical Data Regarding Judicial Statistics of National People’s Courts: 1949-1998 (Law Press, 2000). This is the most useful judicial statistical source book ever published in China. Compiled by the Research Department of the Supreme People’s Court, it collects a wealth of valuable data of judicial statistics recording chronologically the various kinds of cases tried by national courts at different levels from 1949 to 1999. Many statistics, especially those in the period of “Culture Revolution” (1966-1976), are published for the first time in this book. The whole book consists of three volumes according to the type of cases. The first volume contains criminal cases; and the second, civil, economic and administrative cases; and the third, cases decided by higher courts at provincial level. Each volume contains two parts, the first part involves the consolidated figures of the cases sentenced by national courts of all levels and the second part, the primary data reported by courts of whole country.

Another historical book is the Collection of Report on the Work of the Supreme Peoples’ Procuratorate (China Procuratorial Press, 1999) which embraces work reports delivered by the chief procurators of the Supreme Peoples’ Procuratorate at all the previous National People’s Congress from 1955 to 1999 and is an authoritative source searching for the historical documents and events of national procuratorial work in the past 50 years.

Local Judicial Chronicles

Annals is a very useful information sources recording historical events and documents. China has a fine tradition in compiled chronicles. From 1990s the publication of judicial annals have mushroomed everywhere in China. Many courts at different levels compiled their own annals and in some provincial annals there is also a judicial volume within it. Here is a list of judicial annals below:

  • Court Annals of Baotou City (Inner Mongolia People’s Press, 1990);
  • Court Annals of Chengdu City (Sichuan People’s Press, 1997);
  • Court Annals of Chuxiong Prefecture (Yunnan University Press, 1997);
  • Justice Annals of Xianyang City (Shaanxi Peeople’s Press, 1997);
  • Justice Annals of Yulin Prefecture (Shaaxi People’s Press, 1999);
  • Court Annals of Jinhua City (Annals Press, 1999);
  • Court Annals of Jingjiang District of Chengdu City (Sichuan Dictionary Press, 1999);
  • Court Annals of Wuyi County (Zhejiang People’s Press, 2000);
  • Court Annals of Jinan City (Shandong People’s Press, 2002);
  • Henan Provincial Annals: Vol.20: Justice and Administration of Justice Chronicle (Henan People’s Press, 1993);
  • Jiangsu Provincial Annals: Justice (Jiangsu People’s Press, 1997);
  • Sichuan Provincial Annals: Public Security & Justice (Sichuan People’s Press, 1997);
  • Hubei Provincial Annals: Justice (Hubei People’s Press, 1998);
  • Shandong Provincial Annals: Justice (Shandong People’s Press, 1998).

These annals commonly records the historical materials and events about local justice work, and chronicle the changes and development of judicial organs, adjudication, brief biography of judge, historical documents and photos. They mirror from one side the justice work of China.

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Online Sources

On 22 January, 1999, CHINA TELECOM and the Information Center of State Economic & Trade Commission (http://www.setc.gov.cn/), combined with another forty or more central governmental institutions responsible for information work, sponsored jointly an e-government project called the Online Government Programme (http://www.gov.cn), for the purpose of promoting the information construction of the government. From that point on government agency sites on the Internet have proliferated rapidly. Today, over 2,400 governmental web sites, at both central and local levels, have been set up, among which are included nearly 100 court and Procuratorate web sites. The major ones are as follows:

Court Website

The Supreme People’s Court (In Chinese) http://www.court.gov.cn/.
This site includes many columns such as Greetings of President, Organizational Structure of Court, Judicial Interpretation, Announcement of Hearing, Judgments, Typical Cases, Press and Information, etc. and includes a lot of authoritative judicial information. In the column of Judicial Interpretation it contains the judicial documents issued by the Supreme People’s Court in recent years; and in Judgments it includes nearly one hundred and fifty written judgments involving civil, criminal and administrative cases decided by the Supreme People’s Court from 1999 to the present; and in Typical Cases it carries in full text some of the latest appeal cases tried by the Supreme People’s Court.

The Court Network of China (In Chinese, summary In English) http://www.chinacourt.com.cn/ (also try http://en.chinacourt.org)
Sponsored by the Supreme People’s Court, this site is a gateway to judicial information whose emphasis is on reporting the judicial news. In the Chinese edition it offers a wide range of information involving judicial news, resume of grand justices, courts information, legal service, judicial explanation, announcement of court, adjudication documents, and so forth. From this site, user may read the latest judicial document of the Supreme People’s Court and judgments of some typical cases of the first instance or second instance of the whole country. It also provides links to courts sites through the Court Online. In the English edition it provides the information on judicial news, grand justices, judicial system, laws and regulations, glossary of legalese, files of trial. The full text of about one hundred laws and regulations involving foreign matters in English are available from this English web page.

Network of China Foreign-related Commercial and Maritime Trial (In Chinese and some in English), http://www.ccmt.org.cn/ . A commercial and maritime trial information access site. Includes information on: Trial News, Adjudication Documents, Announcement on Web, Typical Cases, latest legislation, etc. Also provides links to provincial higher courts and maritime courts. In the English edition, it provides the full text of some typical commercial and marine judgments tried by the Supreme People’s Court and maritime courts.

Beijing Court Network (In Chinese), http://www.bjgf.gov.cn/ . Sponsored by Beijing higher people’s court and as a part of the Window of Capital, Beijing government network, this site provides information on judicial news, a list of Beijing courts, a law database including the latest laws and regulations, guide for lawsuit, appraisal of justice, and some typical cases decided by the courts of Beijing region.

Shanghai Court Network (In Chinese), http://www.hshfy.sh.cn/ . Provides information on: survey of courts of Shanghai, court activities, adjudicated cases. Also provides links to other court sites in Shanghai. In addition, this site includes full text of many court decisions involving criminal, civil, economic, administrative, marine, intellectual property, enforcement, adjudication supervision cases tried by courts at different levels in Shanghai.

Procuratorial Website

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate of China (In Chinese), http://www.spp.gov.cn/gzdt/. This site provides information on: procuratorial activities, organs and functions, work report, laws and regulations, selected cases, online accusation, and links to other procuratorates of whole country. It offers the work reports in full text delivered to all the previous People’s Congress from 1957 to the present which is of great value for scholars interested in research on the history of China’s procuratorate since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In addition, it also includes eighty or so typical cases among which the most are on bribery.

Beijing Procuratorate Network (In Chinese) , http://www.bjjc.gov.cn/. The site is a gateway to procuratorial information of Beijing Municipality which contains information on: prcuratorial work display, guide for lawsuit, crime prevention, pictures and news. It also provides links to other procuratorates in Beijing.

The People’s Procuratorate of the Shanghai Municipality (In Chinese), http://w ww.shjcy.gov.cn/. Includes information on: procuratorial news, procuratorial activities, procuratorial work display, online accusation.

First Branch of the People’s Procuratorate of Tianjin Municipality (In Chinese), http://www.tjjchy1.gov.cn/. Provides information on: procuratorial news, cases summary, inquiry hotline.

Sites of procuratorates at provincial level are listed below, which are all in Chinese:

The People’s Procuratorate of Hebei Province (In Chinese), http://www.he.jcy.gov.cn/

The People’s Procuratorate of Hei Long Jiang Province (In Chinese), http://www.hl.jcy.gov.cn/

The People’s Procuratorate of Jiangsu Province (In Chinese) , http://www.js.jcy.gov.cn/

The People’s Procuratorate of Anhui Province (In Chinese), http://www.ahjcy.gov.cn/ (not available on September 30, 2002)

The People’s Procuratorate of Hainan Province (In Chinese) , http://www.hi.jcy.gov.cn/

The People’s Procuratorate of Gansu Province (In Chinese), http://www.jcy.gansu.gov.cn/

The People’s Procuratorate of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (In Chinese),
http://ltjf.nethome.com.cn/ (not available on September 30, 2002)

Commercial Sites

The People’s Court Daily (In Chinese) http://www.rmfyb.com/. Provides comprehensive judicial information including central and local legal news, full text of judicial interpretations, the latest laws and regulations, and over 150 written judgments of the Supreme People’s Court.

The Procuratorial Daily of China (In Chinese) http://www.jcrb.com.cn/ournews/asp/index.htm
Provides legal resources including legal news, procuratorate activities, Comprehensive legal database for retrieving laws, regulations, judicial interpretations, local statutes, conventions and treaties, cases, etc.

China Law Net (In Both Chinese and English), http://www.isinolaw.com/. This is a major commercial database site that provides fee-based services. It is considered the most comprehensive and authoritative English legal information source in China, having been provided by the relevant authorities the exclusive right to put on the web the full text of a large number of English translation of statutes, judicial interpretations, cases, arbitration awards and other legal matters. The primary sources in this site include:

  • Court cases and judicial interpretations provided by the Supreme People’s Court;
  • Awards of China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission;
  • Laws of the People’s Republic of China translated by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress of China;
  • Laws and regulations involving foreign trade provided by the International Economic Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Commission (MOFTEC) under the State Council;
  • Maritime Arbitral Awards.

The English judicial information on this site is very abundant. It not only includes the full text of English judicial interpretations issued by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate from 1949 to the present, but also presents many English court judgments adjudicated by the Supreme People Court since 1994. Six prominent cases in which the procedures applied and the outcomes are of particular interest to academics and researchers or useful for reference purposes, are set out for free access. Readers and researchers outside of China will find this site very useful in searching for English judicial materials.

Posted in: Features, International Legal Research