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Court System in China


Court System in China


1. Structure of the Court System in China

Supreme People’s Court

The Supreme People’s Court, as the highest judicial organ of the State, has four primary functions:

interpretation of law,



administration of the judiciary.


            Higher People’s Courts

            Each province, directly administered city, and autonomous region has a higher people’s court .

            Higher court hears certain first instance and appellate cases involving civil, administrative and criminal matters and has jurisdiction over certain other 
            In commercial matters, for example, a higher court hears first instance cases with a large amount of money in dispute and bankruptcy cases, such as the
        company involved received its business license from the provincial level State Administration for Industry and Commerce


            Intermediate People’s Courts

            An intermediate people’s court, located in a municipality, has original and appellate jurisdiction in criminal, civil, economic and administrative cases.


            Basic People’s Courts

            Basic people’s courts, located in rural counties or municipal districts, have original jurisdiction in certain civil, economic, administrative and criminal
       cases. Some basic level courts have established people’s tribunals to deal with minor civil and criminal matters.

2.       Internal Structure of a Court

Institutional Divisions

The substantive divisions include the following:

l         criminal

l         civil

l         economic

l         administrative

l         case filing

l         judicial supervision

l         intellectual property

l         juvenile

l         enforcement

The administrative divisions include:

l         Research office

l         Compensation committee office

l         Technical office

l         Judicial police;

l         General office;

l         Supervision office;

l         Planning, finance, and facilities section;

l         Institutional affairs management section; and

l         Political department.

Divisional Jurisdiction and Scope of Operations

Criminal Divisions

First and second instance criminal cases.

Economic Divisions

Domestic and foreign contract disputes, tort cases involving companies, disputes regarding futures, stock and bonds, as well as bankruptcy cases.

Civil Divisions

Family law, inheritance, real estate (including disputes over land use, housing, and forestry), tort cases, labor, as well as contract, property, and tort disputes between natural persons.

Administrative Divisions

Disputes regarding decisions made by administrative agencies, including penalty decisions made by administrative organs involving intellectual property rights.
Intellectual Property Divisions

Copyright, patent, trademark, unfair competition, and technology contracts cases.
Enforcement Divisions

Enforcement divisions enforce judgment, orders, mediation decisions, arbitration awards, and certain other legal documents.

Case-filling Divisions

3.       Internal Structure of the Judiciary

Court Presidents

Court president, as head of a court, is in charge of substantive, administrative affairs.

Court Vice Presidents

Most court presidents deputize their vice presidents, who generally number between three and five, to act as coordinators of substantive divisions.

Judicial Committees

Each court has a judicial committee. The court president presides over the committee, whose members, selected by the president, include vice president, division chiefs, and occasionally other senior members of the court. The judicial committee is considered an internal court organization and has the highest authority. The task is to “sum up judicial experience and to discuss important or difficult cases or other issues relating to judicial work.” Because such committees “practice democratic centralism,” the decisions of the committee are binding on the collegiate panel which heard the case.

Chief Judges of Divisions

A chief judge of a division is in charge of the substantive work of his division.

Collegial Panels

First instance cases shall be tried by a collegial panel of judges or of judges and people’s assessors and that appealed or contested cases are handled by a collegial panel of judges.

Judges and Assistant Judges

The judge has limited authority. A decision by a single judge is not official by itself.

For order or judgment to be official, it must be approved by the head of the division, even if it was issued by a single judge.


Clerks are often asked to engage in substantive duties, including participation in collegial panels.

People’s Assessors

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