Features – A Complete Research Guide to the Laws of the People's Republic of China (PRC)

Wei Luo is the Director of Technical Services and Lecturer in Law at the Washington University School of Law Library. His responsibilities include managing the technical services department, teaching legal research, and legal reference. Wei holds J.D. and MLS. Wei’s paper entitled How to Find the Laws of the People’s Republic of China: a Research Guide with Annotated Bibliographies, won the New Member Division of AALL Call-for-Paper Competition in 1996. The paper was published in Vol. 88, no. 2, Law Library Journal (Summer 1996). Wei also created and has maintained the Chinese Legal Research Center at http://ls.wustl.edu/Chinalaw since 1996. His recent publications include Competition Law in China, published by Hein in 2002. Wei has been a member of AALL since 1992.

Joan Liu is a librarian at the New York University School of Law Library. In addition to her primary responsibilities on the management of library acquisitions and serials, Joan also works as a faculty liaison on Chinese legal research. Joan holds an LLM from China and an MLS. She wrote Beyond the Border: the Chinese Legal Information System in Cyberspace, International Journal of Legal Information, 29.1 (Spring 2001); its electronic version is on LLRXComparative & Foreign Law Resource Center. Her translations of legal works include: Freedom’s Law: the Moral Reading of the American Constitution by Ronald Dworkin, Oxford Press (1996), Shanghai People’s Press, (2001); Sociology of Law – An Introduction, by Roger Cotterrell, H., London: Butterworths (1984), Beijing Forecast Press (1989). Joan has been a member of AALL since 1995.

Table of Contents

Introduction: the Legal System and Legal Information System of the PRC
I. Basics of the Laws of the People’s Republic of China, the Laws of Hong Kong SAR, and the Laws of Macao SAR
1. Legal Family and Structure
2. Sources of the Laws of the PRC
2. Sources of the Laws of the PRC

II. Legal Information Access in China
Part One: In Print Materials
I. Primary Sources
1. Statutory Law
I. Primary Sources
1.1 In English or in Both English and Chinese
II. Legal Information Access in China
1.2 In Chinese
1.3 In CD-ROM
2. Case Law
2.1 In English or in Both English and Chinese
2.2 In Chinese
II. Secondary Sources
1. Bibliographies and Research Guides
1.1 In English
1.2 In Chinese
2. Loose-leaf Services in English
3. Encyclopedias in English
4. Periodicals in English
5. Periodical Indexes
6. Directories and Dictionaries
III. The Laws of Hong Kong and Macao
1. Primary Sources
1.1 Statutory Law
1.2 Case Law
2. Secondary Sources
2.1 Indexes, Research Guides, and Dictionaries
2.2 Major Law Journals
Part Two: Online Resources
I. Online Resources in English or Bilingual
1. Commercial Services & Full Text Databases
2. Electronic Legal Publications
3. Legal Research Tools and Directorial Websites
4. Research Guides on China Law
5. The Websites by Governmental Agencies
6. Legal Publishers and Vendors
II. Resources in Chinese
1. Commercial Services & Full Text Databases
2. Electronic Legal Publications
3. Legal Research Tools and the Directorial Websites
III. Summary: Features of Online Chinese Legal Resources
1. Coverage of the Contents
2. Authoritativeness
3. Information Management
4. Searching Capabilities
5. Searching Tools
6. Output or Downloading

Introduction: the Legal System and Legal Information System of the PRC

I. Basics of the Laws of the People’s Republic of China, the Laws of Hong Kong SAR, and the Laws of Macao SAR

In a broad sense, the laws of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) should comprise of three components: (1) the laws of the PRC, which was constituted in 1949 when the new government was founded; (2) the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), a former British colony returned to the PRC in 1997, but still employs the common law system; (3) the laws of the Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SAR), a former Portuguese colony returned to China in 1999, but has retained the legal system similar to that of Portugal. The laws of Taiwan, the remaining part of the former Republic of China, has developed its own legal system different from that of the mainland after the Nationalists lost the civil war to the Communists in 1949 and is out of the PRC’s legal scheme. This article will mainly review the legal sources of the laws of the PRC, HKSAR, and Macao SAR in all formats, printing and non-printing, including databases, websites, and CD-ROM products.

1. Legal Family and Structure

When Rene David was reviewing the Chinese codification of the 1930s in his Major Legal System in the World Today: An Introduction to the Comparative Study of Law, he concluded that “Chinese law…can be ranked within the family of laws deriving from the Romanist tradition”. Today, the laws of the PRC to a large degree still share the characteristics of the civil law system rather than those of the common law. As David pointed out, this can be partly attributed to the Europeanization of China between the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition, this is also due to the fact that the PRC has inherited the Chinese legal tradition, where the statutes or codes (written law) were highly valued even back to the Qin Dynasty in 221-207 BC.

Though the Chinese legal system is claimed to be distinct from all other legal systems, jurists of the PRC follow the same rules of the civil law family. The legislation of the PRC reflects a structural similarity to countries within the Romano-Germanic family, for instance, German and France. Moreover, Chinese jurists value legal doctrines and hold written law in high esteem; concrete judicial decisions are not officially considered a source of law.

2. Sources of the Laws of the PRC

In retrospective review, the formation and progression of the modern legal system in mainland China had been disturbed by a series of successive political movements from 1949 to 1976. Before the Criminal Code was enacted in 1979, the Constitution Law passed in 1954 was the only statute for 25 years. The governmental operation largely relied on the policies and orders of the Party. The rule of law was not constructed until the massive legislation enactment of the late 1980s, after the Party decided to adopt the “opening-up policy” to develop the market economic system in the late 1970s. Since then, the skyrocketing development of the economy has led to substantial legislative activities and proliferation of new laws and regulations that have laid the foundation for the modern legal system. Now, China has established a comprehensive scheme of legislation, including national laws, administrative regulations, and local rules.

Among the sources of the laws of the PRC, the statutes enacted by the National People’s Congress (NPC, China’s congress), which includes the constitutional laws, civil codes, and criminal codes, have the highest authority. Administrative regulations by the State Council (China’s cabinet) cannot be in conflict with its statutes. Cases decided by various levels of judicial institutions are not considered official sources of law, though decisions of the Supreme People’s Court are factually used as a guideline in the practice of lower courts when the provision of law is in obscurity. Local laws and regulations are enacted by provincial legislatures and governments.

However, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SAR) are the exceptions from the legal framework in the PRC. Those two special regions were set up directly under the theory of “one country, two systems” by Mr. Deng Xiaoping, the former President of the PRC and a giant of the Party. Right before the PRC resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macao, the NPC of the PRC enacted the Basic Law of the HKSAR (adopted on April 1990) and the Basic Law of Macao (adopted on March 1993), in order to simultaneously keep the state sovereignty and the special economic position of those two regions. From their position and nature, those two laws are national laws, not local laws; therefore, no laws, ordinances, administrative regulations, and other normative documents of the HRSAR and the Macao SAR shall violate the Basic Law. At the same time, the Basic Law of both regions states clearly that the existing capitalist system and the people’s way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years, and the laws previously in force shall be maintained. Hence, the legal system in the regions combined the traditions of both civil and common laws, and the political scheme turned out to be a mixture of the capitalist and socialist systems.

II. Legal Information Access in China

Parallel to the underdeveloped legal system, the legal research and legal information supporting systems were primitive in China before the 1980s. Unlike Hong Kong and Macao, where the legal information resources are sufficient and information structures sophisticated, and where legal research and practice are supported by a sound legal information system, Chinese legal professionals in the PRC were faced with by an exceptional insufficiency of resources.

Twenty years ago, there was little knowledge about legal information profession in China, and few experienced and competent legal information personnel were able to assist fundamental legal research. Moreover, few legal publishers existed before the 1970s because no systematic legislation and legal research existed. Though legal publishers were enlightened after the effect of the rule of law in the late 1980s, standardized and advanced techniques for organizing legal information, such as codification, indexing, cataloging, and superseding, had not yet been implemented by legal publishers. Additionally, all legal institutions had only a meager budget for acquiring materials. Even law schools had very scanty funds to amass a legal collection. Back in the 1980s, law textbooks were the primary sources (even the sole source for some subjects of law) for legal study. To carry out research in thesis work, a graduate student had to allot a significant amount of time traveling around the country collecting data and materials. Within the agencies of law enforcement, the scarcity of legal materials was even worse.

For a long period of time, the difficulty in accessing legal information was the major obstruction to conduct legal research in almost every legal institution. The poor information system is, to some extent, responsible for impeding the construction of a modern legal system and realization of the rule of law in China.

However, the rapid development of economy and Internet technology from the 1980s provides unprecedented opportunities to build up a modern legal information system in China. The Internet has very quickly become a unique vehicle for storing and accessing legal information. Moreover, aggressive construction of telecommunication infrastructures by the government has hastened broader Internet access, which resulted in a revolution in the process of building a new legal information system.

Facilitated with modern technology and aiming to catch up with sophisticated online services, such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, law publishers, online products entrepreneurs, law schools, law firms, and even law enforcement departments, are committing themselves to create comprehensive databases and electronic legal services. Chinalawinfo.com and CEIlaw are two domestic pioneers in the area. On the other hand, some western legal publishers also started making efforts to include China law into their databases which supplement a significant part of information to the current framework.

The zeal and endeavors by people in and out of China have led to the emergence of a virtual China law library in cyberspace. The vast availability of Chinese legal resources, including full text law databases (commercial and non-commercial), online legal publications, websites with research tools including library online catalogs, legal services and the jurists networks, is certainly exhilarating. However, these uncoordinated efforts by different forces have inevitably yielded some negative outcomes, which will be discussed later.

Part One: Printed Materials

I. Primary Sources

As we have discussed, the PRC belongs to the civil law system. Its primary source of law is statutes, including laws passed by the National People’s Congress and the local People’s Congresses or administrative regulations promulgated by the State Council and the local people’s governments. However, as discussed above, judicial interpretations issued by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, and advisory opinions and instructions issued by the State Council and other administrative agencies are also playing a very important role in the Chinese legal system. Therefore, in a broad sense, the primary sources of Chinese law should also include judicial interpretation made by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. Unfortunately, most Chinese law compilations don’t include judicial interpretations. Even in the few that do, the inclusions are not complete. Currently, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate are compiling their interpretations for publishing.

1. Statutory Law

So far there is no codification system for laws or regulations in China. Chinese statutes are arranged in the forms of compilation or collection. Currently, most compilations of Chinese laws include both laws and administrative regulations. Therefore, law and administrative regulations are not going to be listed as two separate categories herein. Rather, they are listed according to the publication’s languages (in Chinese or both Chinese and English) and media (paper or electronic format).

1.1 In English or in Both English and Chinese

When using English versions of Chinese laws, we have to remember that the English translation is not treated as quite as authentic to the Chinese versions under traditional Chinese practice, even though accompanied by the Chinese official translation. Therefore, when there is a conflict between the English translation and the original Chinese language, the original Chinese language will be authentic.

China Laws for Foreign Business

(looseleaf), North Ryde, N.S.W.: CCH Australia Ltd., 1985-. This looseleaf service is a comprehensive compilation of Chinese laws and regulations with respect to the PRC’s foreign business published in English. It consists of seven volumes and three parts: (1) Business Regulation (2) Taxation & Customs and (3) Special Zones & Cities. All the legislation is presented with the Chinese and English texts on facing pages throughout the entire set, which makes it fast and easy to refer from the translation to the official text. It is also easy to access specific current law provisions because this set has a comprehensive English subject index. The main volumes are usually updated five times annually and a special update and alert report in pamphlet form is sent to subscribers almost every month.

The China Law Reference Service

(looseleaf), Hong Kong: Asia Law & Practice Ltd., 1996-, quarterly. This looseleaf service divides Chinese law into five broad subjects: (1) Government, Administration & the Legal System, (2) Economic Law, (3) Tax & Finance, (4) Real Property, Infrastructure & Transport, (5) Trade, Commerce & Industry. It covers all the PRC’s national and regional business law implemented from December 1986 and key economic laws from 1979 to current. The most remarkable features of this looseleaf service are its comprehensive subject indexes with cross-referencing system and its special law digests and editors’ notes. The publisher developed its own numbering and indexing system for this service so that users can use the index volume as a law finder to access the text of the laws/regulations and use the cross references printed in the texts to locate related legislation between volumes. Each law has an editor’s note written by prominent Chinese legal practitioners to highlight and analyze the important points of the law. Each volume also includes a section of law digests explaining all laws in summary form. The publisher also offers a biweekly update service via fax for an extra charge and online version of this publication at http://www.clrsonline.com/.

Laws of the People’s Republic of China

, Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1987-, annually. These English editions of Chinese laws and regulations are chronologically and selectively compiled and translated by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the PRC. The coverage begins with 1979. In 1995, this publication was taken over by Legal Publishing House.

Laws and Regulations of the People’s Republic of China Governing Foreign-Related Matters

, Beijing: China Legal System Publishing House, 1991-, annually. The first three volumes of this publication cover major Chinese laws and regulations promulgated between 1949 and1990. The laws and regulations in the publication have been selected, translated and compiled by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC.

Statutes and Regulations of the People’s Republic of China

(looseleaf), Hong Kong: The Institute of Chinese Law (Publishers) Ltd. and University of East Asia Press, 1987-1990, irregular. This compilation consists of six looseleaf volumes, with a bound index published annually. The coverage is from 1950. The index is very comprehensive but the publication ceased in 1990.

Commercial, Business, and Trade Laws of the People’s Republic of China

(looseleaf), Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1982-1991, irregular. This publication is the first comprehensive English translation of Chinese law. Unfortunately it ceased in 1991.

1.2 In Chinese

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fa Lu Fa Guei

(Laws and Regulations of the People’s Republic of China) (looseleaf), Beijing: Publishing House of Law, 1995-. As the first of its kind, this Chinese law compilation is published by the PRC government in looseleaf format to facilitate regular updating. It is compiled by the editorial board of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and published by the Legal Publishing House in Beijing. This looseleaf service consists of six volumes which contain the 1,435 laws and regulations currently in force and promulgated by the National People’s Congress and the State Council respectively from 1949. Each volume has a comprehensive index for law finding. The service will be supplemented bimonthly to add new laws and regulations or delete certain items according to decisions made at the six sessions of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress or the Plenary Meeting of the State Council. The sole agent for overseas distribution is Joint Publishing (Hong Kong) Ltd.

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fa Lu Quan Shu

(Collection of the Laws of the People’s Republic of China), Changchun: Jilin People’s Press, 1989-, annually. This publication has been compiled by a group of Chinese legal experts. It includes laws, administrative regulations, legally binding interpretations1 and the international treaties to which China is a party. The provisions that are no longer effective are annotated with notes or references to the new laws or regulations. The distinguishing features of this compilation are its inclusion of substantial legally binding interpretations and documents (wenjian) that used to be in the category of “internal documents” which were not available to the general public before. The table of contents is also in English. Though not an official compilation, it is the most thorough collection of Chinese laws and regulations.

The first volume was published in 1989 and collected the laws, regulations and normative interpretations that were promulgated between October 1, 1949 and April 4, 1989 and were still effective by April 4, 1989. The first supplement was published in 1990 to cover the laws, regulations and normative interpretations that were failed to collected in the first volume. At the beginning, there were no plans for its continuation. In 1992, the same editorial board and the same publisher compiled and published the second supplement to collect the laws, regulations and normative interpretations promulgated between 1990 and 1992. Between 1992 and 1999, a supplementary volume was published annually. Due to the growth of Chinese legislation, two supplementary volumes have been published annually since 2000 (the first volume covers laws and regulations promulgated the first six months of that year while the second volume covers the rest of month of that year).

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Xian Xing Fa Luo Xing Zheng Fa Guei Hui Bian

(Compilation of the PRC’s Laws and Administrative Regulations in Effect), Beijing: Zhongguo Fa Zhi Chu Ban She (Chinese Legal System Publishing House), 1995-. This is the only authoritative and official publication which consolidates and compiles all the Chinese national laws and administrative regulations which were still in effect when they were published. This publication is compiled by the Legislative Affairs Office (formerly the Legislative Affairs Bureau before 1998) of the State Council, which is responsible for drafting, promulgating, recording, and compiling administrative regulations, drafting laws on the behalf of the Chinese executive branch, and consolidating and compiling national laws as well. The first two volumes of this publication were published in 1995 to include 237 pieces of the laws and 619 pieces of the administrative regulations which were promulgated by the Chinese central government from September, 1949 to 1994 and were still in effect in 1995. The first supplement was published in 1998 to include 66 pieces of the laws enacted by the National People’s Congress and 102 pieces of the administrative regulations promulgated by the State Council. The laws and regulations are compiled chronologically. A subject oriented list of laws and regulations is included at the end of each volume. And a list of abolished laws and regulations is also included at the very end of 1995-1997 volume.

Zhong Yang Ren Min Zheng Fu Fa Ling Hui Bian

(Collection of the Laws and Decrees of The Central People’s Government), Beijing: People’s Press and China Law Press, 1952-1955, annually. This publication was compiled by the Legal Committee of the People’s Central Government of the PRC (Zhongyang Renmin Zhengfu Fazhi Weiyuanhui) comprising five volumes. The coverage is from 1950 to 1954. This set was succeeded by Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Fa Guei Hui Bian (Collection of the China Laws and Regulations), Beijing: Legal Publishing House, 1955-1965, 1985-, annually. This publication has been compiled by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC since 1955. However, due to “the Culture Revolution, the publication was interrupted for 20 years. Thus, there is a gap between 1964 and 1978. In 1985, publication was resumed and the laws and regulations promulgated during 1979-1984 were compiled and published retrospectively. These two sets can be considered the most thorough official compilation of the Chinese laws and regulations in the chronological manner.

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Xian Xing Fa Guei Hui Bian,

1949-1985 (Compilation of the PRC’s Laws and Regulations in Effect between 1949 and 1985), Beijing: Jen Min Chu Pan She (People’s Press), 1987. This set was compiled by the Legislative Affairs Bureau of the State Council. The compilation collects all the administrative regulations that were promulgated or approved by the State Council during 1949-1985 and still effective or valid by the end of 1985. The compilation consists of seven volumes upon seven subject categories: 1) Caimao (Finance and Trade), 2) Nonglin (Agriculture and Forest), 3) Waishi waijingmao (Foreign Affairs, Foreign Economy and Trade), 4) Gongjiao Chengjian (Industry, Transportation and Construction), 5) Laodong Renshi (Labor and Personnel), 6) Kejiao Wenwei (Science, Education, Culture and Health), 7) Zhenfa (Politics and Law Enforcement).

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Xin Fa Guei Hui Bian

(Compilation of New Laws and Regulations), Beijing: Chinese Legal System Publishing House), 1988-, quarterly. At the beginning this publication was published by Xinhua Publishing House. It has been compiled by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, and includes laws and regulations promulgated by the central and local governments. The compilation is divided into four main categories: (1) law and administrative regulations, (2) regulations listed by the promulgating administrative agency, (3) local laws and regulations, and (4) laws and regulations listed chronologically.

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guo Wu Yuan Gong Bao

(Gazette of the State Council of the PRC), Beijing: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Guo Wu Yuan Ban Gong Ting (the General Office of the State Council), 1954-, irregular (published 3-4 times per month since 1984). This gazette has been edited and published by the State Council of the PRC since 1954. It was suspended during the “Culture Revolution” and resumed in 1979. Since September 29, 1990, the table of contents of the gazette has also been published in English. The gazette includes all laws, regulations and orders, notices and other policy pronouncements made by the government. Because the gazette is published frequently, it can be used to update the Chinese laws and regulations.

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Quan Guo Ren Min Dai Biao Da Hui Chang Wu Wei Yuan Hui Gong Bao

(Gazette of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the PRC), Beijing: Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Quan Guo Ren Min Dai Biao Da Hui Chang Wu Wei Yuan Hui Ban Gong Ting (the General Office of the NPC’s Standing Committee of the PRC), 1957-, irregularly. All laws enacted and resolutions passed by the National People’s Congress are reported in this gazette. It also includes legislative explanations so this publication is good for Chinese legislative history research.

Zhanghua Renmin Gongheguo Zui Gao Ren Mi Fa Yuan Si Fa Jie Shi Quan Ji

(Complete Collection of the Judicial Interpretation of the People’s Supreme Court of the People’s Republic of China), Beijing: Jen Min Fa Yüan Chu Pan She, 1994 and 1997. The second volume of the same title covering between July 1993 and June 1996 was published in 1997. This official publication includes not only the judicial interpretation but also a great number of typical cases.

1.3 In CD-ROM

Beida Fabao

(Legal Treasure of Peking University)

This is a series of Chinese legal CD-ROM products produced and published by Chinalawinfo Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Peking University Law School. This series includes a product called China Law Retrieving System Bilingual Version, which contains English translation of Chinese laws and regulations related foreign business as well as some cases. The data in the Chinese Legal Research System Professional Version is duplicated from the Laws and Regulations Center of Chinalawinfo Company’s website at, which includes Chinese national, local, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese laws and regulations, international agreements and treaties that China is a party, and cases. The coverage of Chinese laws is from 1949. This series probably is the most comprehensive Chinese laws published in CD-ROM. The series uses its own proprietary software and searching engine. All the products of this series are updated bimonthly e-mail.

Guojia Fagui Shuji

(Chinese Laws and Regulations Databank on CD)

This database on CD is developed and published by Ceilaw.com.cn, a subsidiary of the State Information Center of the PRC, which is a government agency under the State Council of the PRC. All the Chinese legal documents published one year and six months ago are free for searching and retrieving on its website. For the new legal documents published within the last eighteen months, only the subscribers can retrieve them from its website.


The CHINALAW Computer-Assisted Legal Research Center (the new name is the Center for Legal Information) of Peking University used to sell its ChinaLaw database which consisted of the English translations of some of the PRC national and provincial laws and regulations (mainly in economic aspects, relevant to dealing with foreign businesses in China) to WESTLAW and LEXIS. However, the Center stopped the transaction and launched www.Chinalawinfo.com in 1997 to market its Chinese law database on the Internet (Chinalawinfo is discussed below). WESTLAW has deleted the ChinaLaw database recently, but it is still available on LEXIS’ ASIAPC/CHINAL file. However, the CHINAL file on Lexis has not been updated since 1994. Some of the Chinese laws in English full text can also be located in LEXIS’ ASIAPC/BBCSWB file. BBCSWB stands for the BBC Summary of World Broadcasts and Monitoring Reports. This database does not specialize in law but contains a significant number of Chinese laws, some of which cannot be found in its CHINAL database.

Chinese Patent Abstracts in English

is available on WESTLAW. The database identifier is CHNPATABS. This database is provided by A K-R Info., Inc. and is originally produced by the Patent Documentation Center of the People’s Republic of China. Document records provide bibliographic information and English language titles and abstractions of all patents published in the People’s Republic of China since the opening of the Chinese patent office. Coverage begins with April 1985, and the file is updated nightly.

2. Case Law

There is no comprehensive official or unofficial reporting system of case law in China. Only some important cases are reported in the Gazette of the Supreme People’s Court of the PRC. In recent years, a few selective collections of cases have been compiled and published in China. However, it is still very difficult to access current cases and judgments.

2.1 In English or in Both English and Chinese

China Legal Precedents (Cases) Database (available in both Chinese and English). This database is part of China Law Retrieving System Bilingual Version (CD-ROM) published by Chinalawinfo Co. Ltd. There were about 115 important cases being translated into English on this database as of May 16, 2002. Its online version is available only for its subscribers.

China Law Reports, Hong Kong:

Butterworths Asia, 1995-, irregularly. This series is the English edition of Chinese Significant Adjudicated Case Reports (Zhongguo Shen Pan An Li Yao Lan) (discussed below). The cases reported in this series were selected and edited by the Senior Judges Training Center (a subsidiary of the Supreme People’s Court) and the People’s University of China. The cases reported are adjudicated from different levels of courts in China. The first four volumes covering some cases adjudicated in 1991 was published in 1995. The second publication of four volumes covering some cases adjudicated between 1992 and 1994 were published in 2001. Each volume covers cases on Civil, Criminal, Administrative, and Economic Law. The pros of this series are well edited and translated while the cons are slow in publishing and very expensive.

China Law

, Hong Kong: China Law Magazine Co. Ltd., 1994-, bimonthly (since 2000). This magazine is published in both Chinese and English. Every issue of this magazine usually reports two prominent cases.

China Law & Practice

, Hong Kong: Asia Law & Practice Ltd., 1987-, ten times a year. This periodical often reports important Chinese cases related to Chinese business law practice.

2.2 In Chinese

Ren Min Fa Yuan An Li Xuan

(Selective Compilation of the People’s Courts Cases), Beijing: Jen Min Fa Yüan Chu Pan She (People’s Court Press), 1992-, 4 issues annually. This is an official compilation of cases published by People’s Court Press. The Supreme People’s Court authorized the Chinese Practicing Law Institute (Zhongguo Yingyong Faxue Yanjiu Suo), a subsidiary of the Supreme People’s Court, to select and compile this publication from the influential, important, or controversial cases which were tried and decided by various level of courts. Every case collected in this publication consists three segments: facts, judgments, and commentaries. The publication does not have an index system but have a table of cases for each issue, which are divided by seven major categories: criminal, civil, economic, intellectual property rights, maritime, and administrative. These seven major categories are further divided into many subcategories. In 1997, four volumes cumulative compilation covering cases adjudicated between 1992 and 1996 were published. In 2000, seven volumes of cumulative compilation covering cases adjudicated between 1992 and 1999 were published.

Dian Xing Yi Nan An Li Ping Xi

(Commentary and Analysis of Typical and Difficult Cases), Beijing: Zhongguo Jian Zhe Chu Pan She (Chinese Procuratorate Press)1999-, twice a year. This publication is edited by the Law and Policy Research Institute of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.

Zhongguo Shen Pan An Li Ya Lan

(Chinese Significant Adjudicated Case Reports), Beijing: Zhongguo Ren Min Da Xue Chu Pan She (the People’s University of China Press, 1992-, annually. This publication is compiled and edited by the Senior Judges Training Center (a subsidiary of the Supreme People’s Court) and People’s University School of Law and published by Chinese People’s Public Security University. Between 1992 and 1996, the compilation committee has selected and compiled some important cases in which final decisions have been entered in the previous years, and published them in a volume annually. Every case in this publication includes not only facts and holdings but also plaintiffs’ and defendants’ arguments, legal reasoning of judges and the editorial commentary. The cases collected in this publication are divided into four major categories: Criminal Cases, Civil Cases, Economic Cases, and Administrative Cases. Since 1997, its annual publication consists three volumes. For the English translation of this publication, see above China Law Reports.

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Zui Gao Ren Min Fa Yuan Gong Bao

(Gazette of the Supreme People’s Court of the PRC), Beijing: Zui Gao Ren Min Fa Yuan Ban Gong Ting, 1985-, quarterly. This gazette is edited and published by the general office of the Supreme People’s Court. It includes important cases, the Supreme People’s Court’s advisory opinions, instructions, and judicial interpretations. The table of content is also in English.

Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Zui Gao Ren Min Jian Cha Yuan Gong Bao

(Gazette of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of PRC), Beijing: Zhongguo Jian Cha Chu Pan She (Chinese Procuratorate Press), 1989-, quarterly. This gazette is edited by the general office of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. Like the Gazette of the Supreme People’s Court, it also includes some important Chinese cases, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate’s advisory opinions, instructions and judicial interpretations.

Min Shang Fa Xin Lei Xing An Li Jing Xuan

(Selection of New Typical Civil and Commercial Law Cases), Beijing: Jen Min Fa Yüan Chu Pan She, 1996. Although this publication is not an official collection of cases, the editorial board consists many Chinese judges. Five hundred cases are collected in this volume. The specialty of this publication is every case has an in-depth legal analysis.

Zhonghua Renmin Gonghegou 12 Fa An Li Hui Lan

(Compilation of the Cases about the PRC’s 12 Laws), Beijing: Zhongguo Zheng Fa Da Xue Chu Pan She (Chinese University of Politics and Law Press), 1992. This Chinese case law collection was selected and annotated by a group of Chinese legal experts. The cases collected in this publication were divided into twelve main legal topics: (1) constitutional law, (2) administrative law, (3) general civil law provisions, (4) family law, (5) heirloom law, (6) economic law, (7) military law, (8) criminal law, (9) administrative procedure law, (10) civil procedure law, (11) criminal procedure law, and (12) international law. Each case consists of three parts: (1) main facts, (2) holdings, and (3) analysis. The analyses were not written by judges, but by the editors with references to the statutory sources. The cases are real, but the editors intentionally omitted the names of parties and places for most of the cases and did not give the original citations. Therefore, the usefulness of this publication for lawyers is limited.

II. Secondary Sources

Due to the immense amount of literature on Chinese law, only a few important bibliographies, encyclopedias, dictionaries, journals, periodicals, and loose-leaf services about Chinese law are listed below, with emphasis on literature published in English.

1. Bibliographies and Research Guides

The following bibliographies are compiled in reversed chorological order.

1.1 In English

Joan Liu, Beyond the Border: Chinese Legal Information in Cyberspace, 29 International Journal of Legal Information 120-43 (2001). This article revealed some insides about Chinese legal information website development in China and gave a comprehensive annotated list of major Chinese legal websites. This article can also be found at LLRXComparative & Foreign Law Resource Center.

Wei Luo, How to Find the Law of the People’s Republic of China: a Research Guide and Selective Annotated Bibliography, 88 Law Library Journal, Summer 402-426 (1996).

Josephine M.T. Khu, Selected Bibliography of English-Language Materials on the Law of The People’s Republic of China, 28 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 531-575 (1990).

Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores, Foreign law: Current sources of codes and basic legislation in jurisdictions of the world (looseleaf), Littleton, Colo.: F.B. Rothman, 1989-, irregular. Volume 3 has a section on China. This section has a very good introduction to the PRC legal system. The bibliographies are selective and arranged by legal subjects.

James L. Kenworthy, A Guide to the Laws, Regulations and Policies of the People’s Republic of China on Foreign Trade and Investment, Buffalo, New York: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 1989. This book begins with a good commentary on PRC law publishing, lists most titles of Chinese laws and regulations on foreign business by subjects, and includes a selective bibliography on Chinese law published in English.

Constance A. Johnson, Chinese law: a bibliography of selected English-language materials, Washington, D.C.: Far Eastern Law Division, Law Library of Congress, 1990. The coverage is from the middle of 1985 through the middle of 1989. This bibliography is intended to serve as a continuation of the 1985 Law Library publication compiled by Jeanette L. Pinard entitled, The People’s Republic of China: A Bibliography of Selected English-Language Legal Materials, reprinted in volume 3 of the China Law Reporter (1985, P. 46-143).

MonYin Lung, Annotated Bibliography of Selected English-Language Literature on Chinese Law, 6 Legal Reference Services Quarterly 95-121 (1986). This bibliography lists and annotates the most important materials on Chinese law published in American legal literature between early 1983 and early 1986.

Joni J. Langevoort, Chinese law in English: a selected bibliography, 14 International Journal of Legal Information 111-154 (1986). This bibliography includes most articles and books on Chinese law dated from 1980 to 1986, and provides a subject-keyword index.

Phillip Yun, etc., Annotated Bibliography (China Legal Development), 22 Colum. J. Transnational L. 175-232 (1983). This bibliography evaluates English literature on Chinese law, particularly on various aspects of China’s foreign business law.

Tao-Tai Hsia, Guide to Selected Legal Sources of Mainland China, Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1967. The guide includes a brief survey of the PRC’s justice system; lists the titles and passing dates of the Chinese laws, decrees, and regulations published in Collection of Laws and Decrees of the Central People’s Government September 1949 to September 1954 and in Collection of Laws and Regulations of the PRC September 1954 to December 1963; and includes a selective list of periodical legal literature published in English and Chinese before 1967.

Fu-shun Lin, Chinese law, past and present; a bibliography of enactments and commentaries in English text, New York: East Asian Institute, Columbia University, 1966. This bibliography includes a part on “Communist Chinese Law” which covers only materials written in English or translated into English from other languages. Some entries are annotated with a brief comment. It also lists the enacting information about Chinese laws and regulations promulgated before 1966.

1.2 In Chinese

Zhang Boyuan, Fa Lu Wen Xian Xue (Legal Bibliography), Hangzhou: Zhejian Ren Min Chu Pan She (Zhejian People’s Press), 1999.

Chen Guangxin, et al., Fa Xue Wen Xian Qing Bao Jian Suo Ji Chu (Legal Research Basics) Chongqing: Chongqing Da Xue Chu Ban She (Chongqing University Press), 1993.

Zhongguo Fa Xue Zhu Zuo Da Ci Dian

(Encyclopedia of Chinese legal works), Beijing: University of China Politics and Law Press, 1992. This comprehensive annotated bibliography primarily collects bibliographical information about legal works published in China between 1949 and 1991. Each title is annotated with an abstract or table of contents.

Zhongguo Fa Lu Tu Shu Zong Mu (Comprehensive Bibliography of Chinese law books)

, Beijing: Zhongguo Zhen Fa Da Xue Chu Pan She (Beijing: Chinese University of Politics and Law Press), 1991. This work was compiled by the Library of University of China Politics and Law. This comprehensive bibliography covers the law books including foreign law books distributed in China between 1911 and 1990.

Zhongguo Fa Xue Tu She Mu Lu (Bibliography of Chinese law books)

, Beijing: Chun chung chu pan she, 1986. This is a union list of law books held by 40 major Chinese libraries and law school libraries by the end of 1983.

Bao Kan Zi Liao Suo Yin, Di 2 Fen Ce, Zheng Zhi, Fa Lu

(Index to Periodicals. 2nd Part, Politics and Law), Beijing: Periodical Information Press of Chinese People’s University, 1983-, annual. The second part indexes Chinese political and legal articles published in Chinese periodicals.

2. Loose-leaf Services in English

Doing Business in China

, Yonkers, NY: Juris Publishing, Inc., 1995-. This loose-leaf service used to be published by Mathew Bender between 1990 and 1994. The general editors were changed in 1996. The articles in this publication are contributed by many Chinese legal scholars and practitioners in the United States and Hong Kong. This treatise incorporates discussion of a broad range of important issues from institutional structures and investment policy, to business vehicles, specific practice areas, and dispute resolution options, to the various industry sectors relevant to foreign business and organizations active in China. It also includes separately numbered newsletter: Doing Business in China newsletter, which highlights and analyzes current legal issues and summarizing major regulatory developments affecting investment in China. This treatise is a must for lawyers who practice Chinese law.

China Business Law Guide

(loose-leaf), North Ryde, N.S.W.: CCH International, 1991-, quarterly updating. The guide explains China’s business laws and the implications for foreign business operations in China and foreign trade with China. The Guide has been prepared for CCH by Michael Moser and a panel of Chinese law specialists. Michael Moser is an American lawyer and one of a few foreign nationals appointed by the Chinese Government to the Panel of Arbitrators of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission in Beijing.

China Tax Guide,

Singapore: CCH Asia Ltd, 1997-, quarterly update. This treatise provides business professionals, tax managers, legal counsel, financial controllers and managers with a systematic explanation of China tax laws.

Corporate Counsel’s Guide to Doing Business in China,

Chesterland, Ohio: Business Laws, Inc., 1995-. This guide also includes substantial information about China’s business laws and regulations.

3. Encyclopedias in English

Encyclopedia of Chinese Law

, Hong Kong: Asia Law & Practice Ltd., 1993-. As of the end of 1995, this title includes two volumes. Volume I spans 1987 to 1993, while Volume II spans June 1993 to December 1994. This encyclopedia comprises thousands of digests of Chinese laws which impact foreign investment and trade in China. All laws digested in the Encyclopedia are originally published in China Law & Practice, a monthly journal also published by Asia Law & Practice Ltd. This book is very well organized for instant and easy access to Chinese laws. It features two sections, one for national legislation, and one for regional. Within each section, the digests are chronologically listed under alphabetical topic headings. The major topics are divided into subheadings, introduced in a detailed index. For Chinese law research, this title is a very good source with which to start.

Encyclopedia of Chinese Commercial Law

, Hong Kong: Leisure Overseas Education, 1995. This title consists of 12 subjects in Chinese civil and commercial law and is published in two loose-leaf volumes. Each subject is written by faculty at the School of Law, Wuhan University, PRC. The editor and English translator is Sung Chow Wing, Barrister-at-Law at Sino Link Strategy Limited, a consultant firm in Hong Kong. The information in this title has been used as course material for the postgraduate diploma program on Chinese Commercial Law offered by the School of Law of Wuhan University for people who cannot read Chinese.

China Business: the Portable Encyclopedia for Doing Business with China

, San Rafael, CA: World Trade Press, 1994. This encyclopedia includes some of China’s basic business laws and government policies.

4. Periodicals in English

China Law and Practice

, Hong Kong: China Law and Practice Ltd., 1987-, 10 issues per year. This publication translates documents and analyzes business and legal developments in the PRC. Each issue includes full translations of key laws side by side with the original Chinese text and a full set of Editors Note’s. Its Case Digest column outlines recent Chinese court decisions on issues arising out of the practice of Chinese law. All the Chinese legal digests published in this journal are later recompiled and published in the Encyclopedia of Chinese Law. Any subscriber to this periodical can receive three full texts of laws in Chinese or English (depending on the original source) free of charge every month.

China Economic News

(in both English and Chinese), Hong Kong: Economic Information & Consultancy Co., 1983-, weekly. This weekly periodical usually includes full text of newly promulgated laws and regulations related to foreign economic and commercial activities. This is one of the best sources for updating some Chinese laws and reference materials because it is published weekly and can be received soon after publishing.

China Law

(in both Chinese and English), Hong Kong: China Law Magazine Ltd., 1996-, quarterly. China Law magazine is a product of the China Legal Service (Hong Kong) Co. Ltd., which emphasizes providing information about new Chinese legislative, judicial, legal service and law research to foreign lawyers and businessmen who are doing business with China. This magazine has two remarkable features. The first is that there is a column recording events in China as data with reference to current reports on the existing and developing status of Chinese laws. The second feature is a listing of major service institutions in China such as law offices, public notary offices, tax agents, intellectual property agents, etc. Therefore, this magazine can serve as a good reference source for Chinese law practitioners.

China Law Quarterly

, Hong Kong: Baker & McKenzie, 1985-, quarterly. This publication summarizes recent legal developments in China.

China Law Reporter

, Chicago, Ill.: American Bar Association, Section of International Law, 1980-, quarterly. This is a scholarly journal about Chinese law and China’s legal system.

Journal of Chinese Law

, Lincoln, Nebraska: the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, Columbia University School of Law, 1987-, semiannual. This journal usually publishes scholarly research articles related to the law of China (including mainland China and Taiwan).

China Patents & Trademarks

, Hong Kong: China Patent & Trademark Publications, quarterly, 1985-, quarterly. This publication focuses on issues of Chinese patent and trademark law and practice. New Chinese legislation in English relating to patent and trademark is often published in this periodical.

The Chinese Business Review

, Washington, D.C.: National Council for US-China Trade, 1977-, bimonthly. This publication often features analytical articles on current legal issues of Chinese foreign trade and investments, or commentaries on new Chinese legislation.

Chinese Law and Government

, White Plains, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1968-, quarterly. This publication translates articles relating to Chinese law and government issues from Chinese publications.

China Law for Business

, Hong Kong: FT Law & Tax Asia Pacific, 1996-, monthly. It continues China law briefing. This new periodical briefs new Chinese laws and regulations.

Hong Kong Lawyer,

Hong Kong: Legal Business in Asia Ltd, 1993-. This publication has a section called China Law Update. Many international law firms put job ads related to Chinese practice in this periodical.

China Law Yearbook

(English ed.), Boston: Butterworths, 1989. This is the English edition of China Law Yearbook which consists of English translations of selected articles published in the Chinese edition of China Law Yearbook. It also combines legislative digests with descriptive commentary, statistics and other information about China’s contemporary legal system. It only published 1987 edition in 1989 then stopped.

China Current Laws

, Hong Kong: Longman, 1987-1993, quarterly. Like China law quarterly, this publication covers new developments in Chinese laws.

5. Periodical Indexes

Current Law Index

, Foster City, Calif.: Information Access Company, Jan. 1980-, monthly updating.

Current Law Index

is an extensive index to articles that have appeared in more than 850 journals from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. Its coverage includes legal periodicals, such as law reviews, bar association journals and legal newspapers, as well as selected legal articles from newspapers and periodicals that generally cover subjects other than law, indexed after December 1979. All the legal articles about China are listed under the main entry of China and then indexed under different subject terms in its subject indexes. The electronic version of Current Law Index is also available in CD ROM (InfoTrac─LegalTrac Database) and on WESTLAW and LEXIS (Legal Resource Index). The ability to search using groups of words, fields, and combinations of searches makes using the Legal Resource Index on WESTLAW and LEXIS easier and more flexible.

Index to Legal Periodicals

, [New York, etc.]: H.W. Wilson Co., Jan. 1908-, monthly updating, except September.

H.W. Wilson’s Index to Legal Periodicals provides an index to articles from more than 500 legal journals, yearbooks, institutes, bar association organizations, university publications, law reviews, and government publications. The indexed items originate from the United States, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Unlike Current Law Index, Index to Legal Periodicals does not have geographic terms in the main subject entries. Therefore, to search for the legal articles about China in Index to Legal Periodicals, one has to look for the subject in which he is interested and then look for the geographic term, China under a certain subject.

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals

, Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press for the American Association of Law Libraries, [etc.], 1960-, quarterly updating (three supplements and one bound cumulative index yearly).

This index covers six Chinese legal periodicals that are published in Chinese vernacular. They are Zhongguo guojifa niankan (Chinese Yearbook of International Law), (Legal Science Review), Faxue yanjiu (Studies in Law), Xiandai faxue (Modern Law Science), Zhongguo faxue (Chinese Legal Science) and Zhongguo shehui zhuyi jianshe (Chinese Socialism Construction). Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals has a subject index and geographical index for convenient research access.

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals

(1984 to date) is now available on WESTLAW as the IFLP database. However, the IFLP database is not available to academic/educational subscribers to WESTLAW.

6. Directories and Dictionaries

China’s Top 200: a Guide to the World’s Top Advisors on Investing and Doing Business in the PRC

, Hong Kong: Asia Law & Practice Ltd., 1997-. This directory is divided into three sections: legal services, financial services and consulting. Each section begins with a detailed overview, focusing on the role of foreign and local service firms in their specific sectors and offering commentary based on research and discussions with relevant service providers. The introduction is followed by an alphabetical directory of profiles of foreign and local firms serving international clients in each sector.

A Chinese-English Dictionary of Law

, Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1995. Most of the entries of this dictionary are drawn from Chinese local legal terms with English translation.

Ying Han, Han Ying Fa Lü Ci Hui = English-Chinese &Chinese-English Dictionary Of Law,

Beijing: Fa Lü Chu Ban She, 1999. This is a two-way law dictionary from English to Chinese and from Chinese to English.

Ying Han Fa Lü Ci Dian = English-Chinese Dictionary of Law

, Beijing : Fa Lü Chu Ban She, 1999.

III. The Laws of Hong Kong and Macao

1. Primary Sources

According to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong may maintain its traditional legal system. Therefore, Hong Kong is still a common law jurisdiction. Thus, the sources of law in Hong Kong include cases, statutes, and ordinances.

1.1 Statutory Law

Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Gazette

(formerly, Hong Kong Government Gazette), Hong Kong: Government Printer, 1998-, weekly. All Hong Kong ordinances and regulations are first published in this publication. The Gazette is published in bilingual (English and Chinese) and consists of one main volume and seven supplementary volumes. These seven volumes consist of Legal Supplement No. 1: ordinances, Legal Supplement No. 2: regulations made under ordinances, Legal Supplement No. 3: Bills, Legal Supplement No. 4: directories and lists of government official appointments, Legal Supplement No. 5: treaties and international agreements, Legal Supplement No. 6: public notices under the Companies Ordinance or notices relating to trademarks, and Legal Supplement No. 7: declaration orders and notices including all authorized Chinese translations of ordinances.

Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong

(loose-leaf), Hong Kong: Butterworths Asia (Hong Kong), 1997-. This looseleaf service is published in English and Chinese in parallel columns. A subject index and a chronological index are included in Volume 1. To search Hong Kong statutory law, you could use this loose-leaf service first and then consult the Government Gazette and Legal Supplements discussed above.

Xianggang Tebie Xingzhengqu De Tiao Li = Ordinances of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the Year

, Hong Kong: Hong Kong Government Printer, 1998-. This serial is a compilation of Hong Kong ordinances and published in Chinese.

1.2 Case Law

In Hong Kong, the lower judicial bodies include the District Court (which has limited jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters), the magistrate courts (which exercise jurisdiction over a wide range of criminal offenses), the Coroner’s Court, the Juvenile Court, the Lands Tribunal, the Labor Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Obscene Articles Tribunal. The High Court is composed of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance. The highest court is the Court of Final Appeal.

Hong Kong Law Digest

, Hong Kong : Hong Kong Legal Publications, 1989-1996. This is used to be a monthly publication with a subject arrangement of digests of significant cases decided. Its annual accumulation is called Hong Kong Law Digest Yearbook.

Hong Kong Law Reports

, Hong Kong: Printed and Published by the Government Printer, 1905-1996.

The Hong Kong Law Reports & Digest

, Hong Kong: Pearson Professional Asia Pacific, 1997- monthly. This publication merges and continues Hong Kong Law Digest and Hong Law Reports. It provides a complete coverage of Hong Kong judicial decisions by reporting relevant cases and digesting cases of lesser important. It serves both case reporter and case finder. It is also available in CD-ROM format. If you are searching cases decided before 1997, you have to use Hong Kong Law Reports.

The Authorized Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Reports

, Hong Kong: Sweet & Maxwell Asia, 1998-. Sweet & Maxwell has been authorized by the Hong Kong judiciary to provide the official reporting service of Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. This publication also includes translations of headnotes, subject index, and index of cases and table.

Hong Kong Cases

, Hong Kong: Butterworths Asia, 1946-. This serial publication is a comprehensive selection of the most significant decisions of, and appeals from, Hong Kong courts, from its founding as a colony through to its transition to Chinese sovereignty. It is also available in CD-ROM.

2. Secondary Sources

2.1 Indexes, Research Guides, and Dictionaries

Consolidated Index to All Reported Hong Kong Decisions

, Hong Kong : Butterworths Asia, 1996-. This is a complete consolidated index to the Hong Kong Law Reports, Hong Kong cases, and twenty other series of law reports worldwide, in which Hong Kong judicial decisions have been reported. A comprehensive index is to be used to find cases.

Jill, Cottrell, Legal Research: a Guide for Hong Kong Students, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1997.

English-Chinese Glossary of Legal Terms, 3 ed.,

Hong Kong: the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice, 1998.

Chinese-English Glossary of Legal Terms

, Hong Kong: the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice, 1999.

Glossary of Terms Used in Electoral Legislation

, Hong Kong: the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice, 1998.

Note: the above three glossaries are also available on the web at http://www.justice.gov.hk/glossary/index.htm.

2.2 Major Law Journals

Journal Of Chinese And Comparative Law = Zhong Guo Fa Yu Bi Jiao Fa Yan Jiu,

Hong Kong: Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law of the City University of Hong Kong, 1995-.

Hong Kong Lawyer = Xianggang Lu Shi

, Hong Kong : Legal Business in Asia Ltd., 1993-. This is the official publication of Hong Kong Bar Association.

Hong Kong Law Journal

, Hong Kong: Hong Kong Law Journal Ltd., 1971-. This is the law journal of Hong Kong University Faculty of Law.

Part Two: Online Resources

In the common law system, legal sources are normally classified into two categories: primary and secondary. However, online resources will not be divided as printing materials in this article due to their complicated nature.

Among the online resources available on China law, legal online services are usually commercial services that provide systems similar to computer-assisted legal research (CALR) to legal professionals. These services usually consist of comprehensive databases with a systematic updating process, standardized data retrieval systems, and powerful technical support, all of which are operated by professional information institutions. Electronic publication is another type of database that covers specific subjects and topics. While online legal services focus on primary legal sources such as statutes, regulations, case reports, and other core legal documents, electronic journals supply the most current briefing on changes in China law. The remaining online resources are grouped as “research tools and directorial websites.” Though some of these websites may also maintain databases covering a significant amount of law, the databases usually lack systematic updating and standardization, thus, they are regarded as mainly providers of bibliographic and directorial information. The major sites for research guides, governmental sites, and legal publishers and vendors are also listed and annotated in this part.

I. Online Resources in English or Bilingual

1. Commercial Services & Full Text Databases

Chinalawinfo – the English interface and the Chinese interface.
The Chinalawinfo is provided by Chinalawinfo Co., Ltd., which was formally founded in the summer of 1999 by Peking University Law School. Its Chinese Law Database and retrieval system originated from the Chinalaw Database, which was developed by the Legal Information Center of Peking University Law School since 1985. The retrieval system has both English and Chinese versions that can be accessed via its website. The full text of Laws & Regulations is a fee-based service and the materials are updated biweekly. The Free Law provides free access to some national statutes and regulations. The Cases offers free access to a list of selected cases that are confirmed by the Supreme People’s Courts. The system also provides the capability of keyword search to the index of the “four big gazettes”, namely the Gazette of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress, the Gazette of the State Council, the Gazette of Supreme People’s Court, and the Gazette of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
Some new features were added into the service in the summer of 2002: the provisions of the laws and the regulations are hyper-linked to the annotation for related legislations or cases reports; also e-mail notices as “Chinalawinfo.com Database New Updates” are periodically distributed to subscribers.
This bilingual commercial database has expansive coverage on the laws and regulations of the PRC and Hong Kong. It probably is the best place to find English versions of newly enacted laws or regulations for the PRC and Hong Kong for the time being. Its Bilingual Split Screen is a unique and good tool. Database retrieval and downloading are user-friendly. This online service recently started notifying its subscribers of current updates via e-mail.
The CLRSonline is produced by Asia Law & Practice in Hong Kong. The electronic version of its publications can be accessed via the web under paid subscription, The China Law Reference Service (loose-leaf service) — a major source for newly enacted laws of the PRC in English. The database is equipped with advanced searching capabilities. BLIS stands for Bilingual Laws Information System, a database of the laws of Hong Kong. This official legal online service is located at the web site of the Department of Justice of the HKSAR. It is available to the public without fee. BLIS contains the statutory Laws of Hong Kong and selected constitutional documents in both English and Chinese. Some cases from the Court of Final Appeal are reported at the same site, but the information is not up-to-date. The section of the Current Ordinances corresponds to the printing version of the Ordinances as published in the Loose-leaf Edition of the Laws. In International Agreements section, both bilateral agreements and multilateral treaties are listed. This database provides the most up-to-date version of the Laws of Hong Kong SAR, and currently it is kept updated to within an average of two weeks after the publication of the Gazette.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Gazette can be accessed in full text, but the database is not archived, and only the latest issue of the Gazette is available from the database. The laws of the Macao SAR can be found at the website of the Government Printing Office in Macao. The database contains the complete laws of Macao and some national laws of the PRC in Chinese and Portuguese. It is archived and up-to-date.
Sinolaw is the first commercial online legal service in English in China. The model and layout of the database has likely been taken as the template for other online databases in English . This Internet-based database is run by a Chinese information service agency in Beijing and consists of both Sinolaw Legal Online (SLO) and China Government Guide (CGG). Though SLO emphasizes commercial and business laws, it also consists of basic laws, major statutes, and regulations of the PRC as well.
Lexis-Nexis Online Service has a database on China laws and regulations of the PRC which consists of selected laws and regulations from the PRC. The materials were translated by the Chinalaw Assisted Legal Research Center, Beijing University in the 1980s, and have not been updated since January 1994. The e-version of Hong Kong Law Journal is also available at Lexis-Nexis.
World News Connection
This is an U.S. official foreign news service that covers extensive reports on politics and laws of the PRC. It collects most of the important sources, including Daily Report China, which was published by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and was taken over by WNC in 1996. Some of the laws of the PRC are available in this database. The documents can be searched via various searching methods.

2. Electronic Legal Publications

China Academic Journals amasses the most comprehensive range of research articles including legal literatures. This commercial database has an English index and Chinese full text. The articles archived are available back from 1994.

China Daily This is the online version of the Chinese official daily newspaper, China Daily, which covers legal news among others. The online database allows free access in full text and allows a keyword search. The contents are archived for about three months.

China Law and Practice is the electronic version of the journal under the same title published by Asian Law and Practice in Hong Kong. The commercial journal offers the most up-to-date reports, translations, and commentaries on the new laws and legal development in China.

China Legal Change is an electronic journal on China law published by Legal Support Services Limited bi-weekly from 2000-2002. The journal focuses on the discussion of current Chinese law development. The service also offers full text of the new laws, regulations, and interpretations publicized by central and local government bodies in Chinese.

Legal Forum This electronic publication acts as a bridge between the lawyers in China and Great Britain. It is associated with the Beijing University Law School, the Tsinghua University Law School, The College of Law, and the SOAS Briefing Office in London. The section of Legal Articles publishes research articles on the laws of mainland China and Hong Kong. The Reference section collects major Chinese laws in both English and Chinese, but access is restricted to members only.

The Peoples Daily (see also the mirror site) The Peoples Daily is an official paper of the Party and contains reports on legislation and legal development. New law is usually first released in full text in this newspaper. The newspaper is archived and the database provides multiple search options.

South China Morning Post This is a Hong Kong based newspaper which reports a considerable amount of news on the legal practice of the laws of PRC and Hong Kong. The database has advanced search capabilities.

3. Legal Research Tools and Directorial Websites

China Law Net

This highly praised listserv offers a forum for legal professionals to discuss Chinese law and related issues. The archived discussion and other pertinent information can be accessed via the website.

China Today: Law, Justice and Legal Services

This website is created and maintained by InfoPacific Development Co., Canada and Kompass International Information Service Co. Ltd., China. The site contains the laws and regulation of the PRC; it also has directorial information on governmental agencies and judicial institutions. The contents are not current and no search functions are available.


It is a free accessible Internet resource which collects major Chinese laws in both Chinese and English. The website also contains extensive links to other China law related websites and databases available in the Internet.


ChinaOnline is developed by ChinaOnline, LLC. The Legal section covers the full text of the laws and regulations of the PRC in both English and Chinese and is accessible free via the website. The contents are up to date, but not searchable.


This directory has links to some China law related websites.

China Civil Law Forum

This web service is sponsored by Babelcom, it covers information on China’s property law, contract law, company law, partnership law, and sole proprietorship law in English. This offers free access to full text of the laws. It also contains briefs and discussion on the subject.

Directory of law firms

The Hieros Gamos’s website compiles a directory of law firms in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao.

4. Research Guides on China Law

Internet Chinese Legal Research Center

is created and maintained by Wei Luo, a law librarian at Washington University. This website compiles a list of links and guides for doing legal research on China laws. The content covers laws of the PRC, the Hong Kong Special Administrative region, and Taiwan. Each link is annotated.

Beyond the Border: Chinese Legal Information in Cyberspace,

29 International Journal of Legal Information 120-43 (2001). The e-version is at LLRX. The article compiles a comprehensive list of major Chinese legal websites.

Chinese Law at WashLaw Web is created and maintained by Washburn University School of Law Library. It links to various Internet sources on Chinese law, including full text of the Constitution Law of the PRC and some general introduction to the laws of the PRC.

Through the Guide to Law Online (GLIN) by the Library of Congress, the major primary and secondary sources for the PRC, the HKSAR, and the Macao SAR can be located.

Judicial Information of the People’s Republic of China: A Survey, by Zhai Jianxiong, offers a good guide for the research on Chinese judicial system.

5. The Websites by Governmental Agencies

The website of CIETAC & CMAC & BCC contains official information on the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, the Maritime Arbitration Commission, and the Beijing Conciliation Center. It provides introductions and states arbitration rules for each agency.

The English version of the website of the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China. The currently available information includes an introduction about the agency and the full text of the Patent Law of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese version of the website contains all intellectual property related laws, regulations, and other legal documents. It also provides useful statistics on the Chinese IP process. However, the database is neither up-to-date nor searchable.

The website of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation has a bilingual introduction to the agency. The Regulations and Policies section provides free access to a full text of laws related to foreign trade and business.

The bilingual website of the Ministry of Education contains the laws and regulations on education and networking technology. It also offers extensive statistical information on the Chinese education system. The compilation of the linkages to the library offers a gateway to the sites of the public libraries and the colleges/university libraries in China.

The website of the United States-China Business Council covers information on US-Chinese business related agreements and regulation. The sources are grouped into several sections including trade, foreign investment, and the economy of China. It also provides statistics and analysis on these topics.

The bilingual websites of the governmental agencies of the HKSAR are well developed and the contents are up to date. The Department of Justice hosts a well organized online service, BLIS. The Legislative Council provides general information about the Council and lists the legislative proposals, inclusive of bills and subsidiary legislation. The webpage of the Judiciary contains the detailed information on the current judicial scheme in the HKSAR. It also stores the statistical records for all the level of Hong Kong court system during the last five years. The site of the Executive branch supplies inclusive information for the governmental documents and activities.

The site of Government of the Macao SAR contains governmental information and activities in Chinese, English, and Portuguese.

6. Legal Publishers and Vendors

China Books and Periodicals is a San Francisco based book jobber. It accepts subscriptions for Chinese legal serials.

The webpage of Asia Law & Practice provides significant bibliographic information on China law. It is a useful resource for acquiring research materials on this jurisdiction.

The bilingual website of China International Book Trading Corporation, the sole Chinese official distributor for the publishers of the PRC, offers information on legal publication in China. This Chinese jobber handles standing orders for the laws of the PRC and accepts subscriptions for all Chinese law reviews and journals.

Guide to Doing Business in/with China has bibliographic information on a set of Guide to Doing Business in/with China, but the contents of the set is not retrievable from the site. The set covers laws of the PRC from 1949 to current, in both paper and CD-ROM formats.

II. Resources in Chinese

1. Commercial services & full text databases


This online service is part of the China Economic Information (CEI) network, which is hosted by the State Information Center, a central government agency. Its legal online information system contains the most comprehensive and authoritative Chinese legal resources. The databases are available online or in CD-ROM format. The search capabilities of the service via the web are not yet as well developed as chinalawinfo.com: the databases can only be searched by keywords of the title, the enactment date of the law, and the name of the legislative body. Contents of the laws are not indexed, therefore, they are not searchable.


It is maintained by Xihu Bookstore has expansive coverage on Chinese legal information. It offers e-mailing service to deliver all new enacted national laws with no charge. The database on laws and regulation is archived and searchable.

Law Online

This commercial online legal service is formerly known as the Law-On-Line/Asia-Pacific On-Line database system, which was originally created by the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong, and recently merged with the Great China Web. Law-On-Line offers The National Law and Regulations at both the central and local government levels from 1949 to current and the Legal News and Information in bilingual format. It also contains the electronic version of the Asian Commercial Law Review and vernacular of China Legal Daily. Another acclaimed database, Civil Litigation Court Case, collects the cases from all courts including the Supreme Court, District Court, and Bankruptcy, from 1989 to current. The databases can be accessed by various search approaches via its website.

2. Electronic Legal Publications

The Legal Daily

Legal Daily Online is the online version of the Legal Daily which is published by the Political and Legal Commission of the Central Committee of the Party. It was originally the official paper of the Ministry of Justice and was taken over by the Party at the middle of the 1980s when it became an influential newspaper. The newspaper is archived up to 6 months and searchable. The most valuable column is “Release of New Laws” which publishes the full-text of new laws, and contains legal interpretation from legislature, judicial, and administrative agencies.

The People’s Court Paper

The electronic version of the newspaper is published by the Supreme People Court. It is a good source for the Supreme People Court’s new decisions, juridical interpretation, and policies. The content of the newspaper is searchable.

3. Legal Research Tools and the Directorial Websites

China Judge Web Site

This resourceful webpage is maintained by a young judge in China. The site compiles sources on China legal study and practice including judicial reports, a brief catalog of major law journals, and legal research articles. The most valuable part of the database is the collection of the legal anthologies by eminent jurists in China.

Chinese Legal System

This legal Internet service is developed and run by the Law Society of Fujian Province and Fujian Bamin Telecom IT Co., Ltd. It provides legal news, introduction of governmental agencies, and current laws and regulations. On the Legal Aids section, it offers free legal counseling by volunteers with expertise; various samples of legal forms are also provided.

Government Online Project is a platform for all governmental information. The site is searchable.

Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the PRC

Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the PRC

introduces the Chinese Procuratorate system and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. It collects major national laws, case analysis, and the working reports of the National People’s Congress from 1987 to 2000, which are rarely covered in the other databases. The databases, however, are not searchable.

Library Online Catalogs

This site contains comprehensive links to online library catalogs nation-wide. In China, the majority of law libraries has adopted the library automation system. The card catalogs have been converted into electronic format with an integrated library system developed by either domestic or foreign vendors. For instance, the Beijing Library , the national library of the PRC, has developed its own ILS that has also been used by a number of law libraries, while the Shanghai Public Library implements its automation system via the Horizon system from the U.S. Both the national library of China and the Shanghai Public Library have extensive law collections and their bibliographic information is accessible world-wide. Both systems have advanced search capabilities. Beijing University Law Library online catalog is the first online law library catalog in the Internet. From the site of Ministry of Education, the entry for library has probably the most complete linkage to the online catalogs by both public and academic libraries.

Law Firm 500 provides news on business and law in China and also has a searchable directory of law firms.

Joint Publishing Co. lists its publication on China law on this site. It is coded in Big 5 format.

III. Summary: Features of Online Chinese Legal Resources

1. Coverage of the Contents

The majority of the commercial databases in Chinese vernacular languages described above have a quite comprehensive coverage on laws of the PRC from 1949 to present. However, the relative completeness of the coverage of these databases might differ in some aspects. Though both CEI and Chinalawinfo have similar contents and structure, Chinalawinfo collects more legal documents than CEI does. Secondary sources such as references, directorial information, legal research articles and treatises are not yet well developed in online databases. Moreover, online services in English usually have smaller scope in coverage than their Chinese counterparts.

2. Authoritativeness

According to the law of the PRC, legal compilation and electronic publishing should be examined, approved, and then published by a specific governmental agency assigned by the legislature. The sole lawful publisher for the national laws should be the Legal Affairs Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the Legislative Affaires Office of the State Council. However, for the purpose of research and study, the compilations of laws are also published by non-official publishers, such as research institutions and commercial publishers. Because of lacking adequate quality control on legal publishing, the accuracy and authority of the existing commercial online databases are sometimes doubtful. Furthermore, law databases produced by volunteers or less qualified commercial agencies also undermine the reliability and authenticity of the online legal resources.

3. Information Management

The modern techniques and standards for organizing information have been greatly adopted and utilized in the production of Chinese legal databases. However, there are yet some problems in the databases obstructing online access capabilities. The weakness of online law catalogs is only one example. Due to the deficiency of professional resources on law librarianship, the immaturity of the domestic automation system, and financial constraints, most law libraries are unable to follow cataloging standards in converting bibliographic data retrospectively from cards to online. Though a number of law libraries utilize the USMARC record, many materials are either not fully cataloged or do not abide by the standards. The problems become more visible and severe when local online catalogs are launched on the Internet.

In addition, due to different implementation algorithms of the web interface, some online catalog systems only allow a limited number of results to be retrieved. Users with remote access, therefore, would be unable to practice exhaustive searching. Moreover, there are several subject classification schedules in China, the major ones being set by the Beijing Library, the national library in China, and the Chinese Academia of Science. The unification of the various classification systems will be essential in the future for standardized information access and sharing.

The disorganization is not just manifested in the substance of the online databases, but also reflected in the composition of the databases. A number of online services strive to create a “one-stop shopping mall” for Chinese legal information. However, the services have lost their simplicity of layout, appearing to be poorly managed warehouses. Also because of the access problem for the vernacular language, one popular approach is to display the heading in the vernacular language as images in addition to other picture files. This, however, causes the files to be extremely big, leading to an extremely slow retrieval process.

4. Searching Capabilities

As another aspect of the weakness of the information organization, the primitiveness of searching capabilities undermines database retrievals. Except for Chinalawinfo, other major online Chinese legal services can only be searched using the title of the laws, the date of promulgation, and the promulgation bodies. For example, both CEI and CRS online databases can only be searched using a combination of the name of the documents and the date of enactment. There is no advanced Boolean search or Nature Language search algorithms implemented, despite the fact that both services provide complete searching functions for their CD-ROM products.

5. Searching Tools

All legal resources in Chinese on the web can be searched via browsers such as Netscape and Explorer. Understanding the coding systems of the Chinese characters is the key to configure the right setting to access vernacular databases. There are several different systems for coding Chinese characters, such as Big5, EACC, GB, HZ, and Unicode. Generally, databases based in Taiwan and Hong Kong are coded in traditional Chinese characters using the Big5 system and databases produced in mainland China, Singapore, and elsewhere adopt the simplified Chinese characters using the GB coding system. EACC is a coding system for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters, which is mainly used by ILS, for instance, INNOPAC. The HZ code system has the same standard as GB, and is widely used for web-based electronic journals or newspapers. Unicode is not a commonly used code system.

Web browsers usually have plug-ins for reading Chinese characters. However, since many documents are encoded using a non-standard code or a mixture of several code systems, in order to have the input capability and to ensure the quality of downloading the search results, you need to select a right encoding from your web browser or use a Chinese reader interface, such as the simple reader Unionway, or even more advanced applications of the Chinese reader interface, such as Cstar, Twinbridge, or NJStar. If you use MS Internet Explorer, you will click on “View” then “Encoding” and select “Chinese Simplified (GB2312)” for websites of Mainland China or “Chinese Traditional (Big5)” for websites of Hong Kong or Taiwan. If you use Netscape Navigator, click on “View” then “Character set” and choose “Simplified Chinese.”

6. Output or Downloading

Although downloading from online databases can be carried out with a Chinese reader application, the trashy characters due to non-standardized coding are sometimes unavoidable. Reload or refresh is needed after changing the configuration for different Chinese coding systems. Downloading directly to the printer demands a printer equipped with a big buffer, and that is usually more time-consuming.


1“Legally binding interpretation” is literally translated from the Chinese legal terms of “falu guifanxing jieshi” which includes the judicial interpretations and instructions made by the Supreme People’s Court and the administrative interpretations and instructions made by the Chinese administrative agencies.

Copyright by Wei Luo and Joan Liu, 2002-2003.

Posted in: Features, International Legal Research