Paralegal Guide: Chinese Law
Having been traced back to as early as 2500 BCE, the Chinese legal tradition is arguably the oldest continuing legal system. Over thousands of years, this system has been acted upon by myriad factors which have resulted in the challenging Chinese legal system as we know it today. One of the many resources available to you in our legal studies collection, the Guide to Chinese Law provides useful references which address the development, significant influences, and controversies of Chinese law. A practical tool for those studying the topic and a strong reference for legal researchers, this guide offers a diverse collection of quality sources.
Overview of the History of Chinese Law
With a philosophical foundation steeped in Confucianism and Legalism, the development of the legal system of China stretches back thousands of years. Early in the history of China, the legal system was tailored to address pressing issues faced in an agrarian society. While in recent years Western thought and society has influenced the shape of Chinese law, it continues to be a unique legal system that faces many obstacles.
- The Rule of Law in Traditional China and Vietnam – Ta Van Tai writes this article that extends past the philosophical debate between Legalism and Confucianism in traditional China, and addresses legal practices of the time. From there, this discussion examines Traditional Vietnamese law as influenced by the Chinese model.
- China: A Legal History reaches back to the earliest days of Chinese civilization in its historical summary of law in China. At times, relating this history to the development of other societies’ legal systems, this article provides some international context.
- Recent History of the Chinese Legal System can be found in this overview of China provided by the U.S. Department of State. Discussion includes the development of rule of law and recent legal reformations undergone.
- Timeline of the History of the Chinese Legal System – In the format of a timeline, this presentation of China’s legal history provides links to articles which discuss specific legal events. A graph of instances visually represents the amount of information available for certain time periods.
Originally based on historical Chinese principles, law in China has continually been acted upon by outside influences and changing internal societal factors. Having formerly been made to fulfill the needs of dynasties, Chinese law would begin its reformation after the revolution of 1911. While once landed gentry had controlled agriculture, the Agrarian Law Reform saw the redistribution of farming land to the lower class. This change is symbolic of the socially oriented legal reforms undergone after the middle twentieth century. To this day, Western concepts such as rule of law, continue to be incorporated into Chinese law.
- Agrarian Reform Law – Symbolic of the dramatic change undergone in the Chinese legal system, the Agrarian Reform Law that was enacted in 1950 helped ease class tensions. By redistributing land that had been owned by the wealthy to rural peasants, this act countered what was an almost feudal system.
- The Legal Systems in India-China: a comparative perspective juxtaposes the histories of the Indian and Chinese legal systems. Both systems respond heavily to international economic pressures, though different historical factors explain some differences in approach.
- The Developing Rule of Law in China is an article that was originally published in Harvard’s Asia Quarterly. This document explains the growing influences of Western legal thought on Chinese law. Zhenmin Wang explains the historical and societal context that lead to the creation of earlier Chinese laws, and how society shapes law to fulfill specific needs.
- Socialist System of Laws Established – Having struggled with creating a comprehensive set of laws since 1949, China has achieved the establishment of a socialist system of law. Displaying important characteristics of China, the establishment of this system is a social and cultural milestone.
Chinese Law Today
Contemporary Chinese law is an amalgamation of Chinese history, society, and external legal influences. Despite its recently increasingly Western trends, Chinese law remains indicative of Chinese culture. Having very recently achieved the establishment of a socialist system of laws, China has undergone dramatic legal reform.
- The Dawn of the Due Process Principle In China addresses the development of due process in the Chinese legal system. A major criticism, the lack of due process is seen as a violation of human rights for many.
- China Today offers this collection of administrative bodies, legal associations, and legal references. International discussion of Chinese law is also provided in the “International Sources” section.
- Basic Law of HK SAR – Including a full text of the basic law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the basic law website provides resources which explain its interpretations, significant facts, and implications. Recent publications and press releases regarding the basic law are also hosted.
- Legal Daily – An online version of the print edition, Legal Daily archives up to 6 months of previous content. Primary documents of new laws are provided in full, in addition to legal interpretations.
- The Supreme People’s Court of the PRC provides current judicial events, laws and regulations, and explains the composition of the Supreme Court. Grand Justices of the Supreme People’s Court are also included with pictures and short biographical overviews.
- US China Law Society – A group of lawyers, legal scholars, and policy makers dedicated to promoting legal reform in China. The “Law Society” publishes an academic journal that examines legal issues of China, while also remaining directly involved in higher legal education.
- Asia Law lists legal news stories categorized by practice area. Postings have been archived for the last four years, allowing for research into laws as they developed.
- EPA China Environmental Law Initiative – The Environmental Protection Agency provides links to Chinese legislation which corresponds to environmental regulations and pollution. Sections on air pollution, food safety, and water are among the many issues considered.
- State Intellectual Property Office of P.R.China – Dealing with intellectual property, this website explains laws related to patents and trademarks. SIPO is available in Chinese, though the English version is currently under construction.
Civil Rights and Rule of Law in China
While Chinese law and concepts of rule of law are being reformed, a number of controversies and concerns have arisen from the international community. The global community along with human rights groups express great concern over laws that restrict civil liberties including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press. Dissidents and activists experience high levels of harassment from government officials and have been known to be imprisoned for their beliefs. Further, certain aspects of the Chinese legal system, including ambiguous concepts of due process, and conflicting laws result in human rights violations.
- International Religious Freedom Report – The United States Department of State explores issues surrounding religious freedom in the People’s Republic of China as well as Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau. The status of religious freedom is discussed, including restrictions, abuses and attempted conversion.
- China and Execution – Indian Express discusses state execution in China, explaining that more people were legally executed in China than the rest of the world combined. Further, this article considers changes in the law which are aimed at reducing executions.
- Human Rights Watch World Report 2011: China – This newest issue of the World Report explores challenges to human rights in very recent history. International activities that display China’s increasingly indifferent actions on a global level are also considered.
- Black Jails – Secret prisons known as “black jails” are believed to exist throughout China. Humanitarian organizations claim that security firms and government officials have collaborated in order to silence protesters.
- Human Rights Report: China – Documenting a number of human rights issues, this report explains significant issues the country faces regarding civil liberties. Unlawful deprivation of life, stifling of freedom of speech, and government corruption are a few concerns among the many listed.
- Forbidden Zones – Human Rights Watch investigates issues of media freedom and obstacles that correspondents and journalists face in China. Much attention is also given to Tibet, and the government’s attempt to control access to the region.
- Amnesty International monitors human rights violations and issues in the People’s Republic of China. Frequently updated, this resource follows issues as they develop, and raises advocacy for their resolution.
Studying and researching Chinese legal matters can be a daunting task, but the following resources provide highly valuable information. Within this section you will find guides written on how to best research, as well as the highly informative sources that can be used to carry out this research. Other law related listings such as practicing Chinese law firms, and academic resource collections have also been included. Comprised of primary legal documents, court rulings, legal databases and leading institutions, this section includes essential references for understanding Chinese law.
- Washington University Chinese Law Collection – The third largest collection of Chinese law in the United States, Washington University has over 3,500 titles and 6,500 volumes. While the print collection is beginning to lessen in growth, the university continues to acquire online journal articles.
- Peking University Law School – A leading Chinese institution in the study of legal matters. PKU’s law library hosts a collection of 85,000 volumes of books, and a large virtual library.
- The Law Library of Congress provides this Chinese law research guide which includes references for judicial, legislative and executive branches and other helpful resources. The “Legal Guides” section of this reference list is especially helpful for learning how to research Chinese law.
- World Law LII offers a database that covers legislation in the PRC. Here you can browse laws by region, topic, or an advanced search option. This collection includes national and local laws.
- Ministry of Justice – The official website of the Ministry of Justice hosts content that is available in both English and Chinese. Here you can read about organs of the State, legal services, and legal education.
- The Hong Kong Department of Justice presents the laws of Hong Kong, an overview of the legal system, and prosecution policies. An archive that contains official speeches, publications and press releases has also been included.
- China Law Info – A massive Chinese language database providing almost all primary legal documents of China. Both national and local legislation is included, as well as approximately 300,000 published court cases.
- Expert Guides includes a search feature that will allow users to find law firms and practicing lawyers. This resource is searchable by city, area of practice and firm name.
- CNLaw.net is a yellow page resource for practicing lawyers in China. Presented in Chinese, it is possible to view listings by geographical location or through a search.
- Chinese Law Firms – HG Worldwide Legal Directories lists the law firms of China. Searchable by an advanced search option and categorized by region or specialization, this collection gives information on law firms that operate within China.
- Chinese Legal Research contains sections focused on providing the most valuable resources for researching Chinese legal information for a variety of media. The Chinese Legal Research guide includes the most significant sources of legal information as well as usage advice.
- The China Knowledge Resource Integrated Database is an extremely large database comprised of academic journals, dissertations, conferences, and core newspapers. An advanced search option allows for targeted examination of these records.
- University of Heidelberg Institute of Chinese Studies provides this collection of legal resources which discuss laws in China and its special administrative regions. Links come with English descriptions, which are accompanied by Chinese.