Summary of Contents
1. GENERAL INFORMATION
1.1. Form of government
China is a unitary country. In terms of the legal system, China has unified national constitution. In terms of state institutions, there is only one central legislature nationwide—the National People’s Congressand its Standing Committee. One central government—the State Council. In terms of citizenship, dual nationality is not permitted. With regard to the division of rights between the central and local governments, all provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, Special Administrative regions (Hong Kong and Macao) and Taiwan are inalienable parts.
1.2. Basic data
- Total population of Chinese Mainland (by 31 December, 2018)：1,395,380,000. Among them, 713,510,000 are male, 681,870,000 are female.
- China has 56 ethnic groups, the predominant ethnic group is the Han. The official language is mandarin Chinese; the predominant religion is Buddhism.
- China’s GDP over the past decade is shown in the following figure:
Chart 01. China GDP (2009-2018)
- The per capita GNI of China is 15270 US dollars.
- The inequality index of China is 14.2. Total population of the indigent people in rural areas (in December 31, 2018)：16,600,000 (based on the standard of Per-capita Annual Disposable Income below 2300 RMB). The percentage of indigence in the population is 1.19%.
- In 2018, the average life expectancy of Chinese people is 77.0 years.
- The Expected years of schooling for Chinese citizens is 13.8 years, and the mean years of schooling is 7.8 years.
- China’s HDI in 2017 was 0.752.
2. Legal system
2.1. Legal system with civil law tradition
The legal system of the People’s Republic of China, officially referred to as the “Socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics”, is the legal regime of China, with the separate legal traditions and systems of Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Despite the official definition, however, China’s legal system is based primarily on the model of Civil Law. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China is the highest law within China. Unlike common law jurisdictions, there is no strict precedential concept for case law and no principle of stare decisis. Courts in the PRC do not have a general power of judicial review which enables them to strike down legislation.
Since 2011, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate have issued a certain number of guiding cases annually, requiring local courts and procuratorates at all levels to apply. Although these guiding cases are not considered to acting as ‘case law’ both theoratically and practically, they do influence the decision of the court in lower hierarchy and exercise the effects of model case.
2.2. The court system
The court system is divided into four levels, top from the Supreme People’s Court, the High People’s Court, the Intermediate People’s Court to the Basic People’s Court (also known as Primary People’s Court or Grass-roots People’s Court). As the common law court system, there are a number of specialized courts, such as Maritime Court, Intellectual Property Court, Military Court etc. In recent years, new types of courts such as Internet Court and Financial Court have emerged. People’s Courts at all levels set up juvenile trial tribunals, but independent juvenile courts have not yet been established.
Chart 02. China’s Court System
Within the Chinese court system, People’s Courts can set up criminal divisions, civil divisions, economic divisions and other divisions, which are specifically responsible for the trial of different cases. The level of the court is inversely proportional to the number of cases. In 2018, for example, the Supreme people’s Court tried 34794 cases and local people’s courts at all levels tried 28 million cases.
In China, there are two major jurisdictions: territory-based jurisdiction and hierarchy-based jurisdiction
Hierarchy-based jurisdiction represents which court are the first instance cases should be tried. The Basic People’s Courts have right to deal with both civil and criminal cases. The Intermediate People’s Courts have right to deal with following cases: (i) civil case: grave foreign-related cases (including cases involving Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan); cases of significant political or economic influence in jurisdiction; cases designated by the Supreme People’s Court. (ii) criminal case: cases of endangering national security and terrorist activities; cases that may be sentenced to life imprisonment or death. The High People’s Courts shall have jurisdiction as courts of first instance over cases of significant influence in jurisdiction. The Supreme people’s Court shall have jurisdiction as courts over cases of great influence throughout the country and cases that it believes it should try.
The structure of the intermediate courts is shown in the following figure, which reflects the basic structure of the local courts at all levels:
Chart 03. Intermediate Court
Territory-based jurisdiction divides the authority and function among the people’s courts at the same level nationwidely on one specific first instance civil cases. Territory-based jurisdiction mainly determines the court of jurisdiction according to residence of people involved, subject matter of the action or the place where the legal facts (including the crime) occurred. The Territory-based jurisdiction is basically in line with the administrative division.
2.4. Other Dispute Resolution Organizations
In Chinese justice system, there are no religion, clan and other informal justice structures. However, apart form the justice system, China set up People’s Mediation Committee. People’s Mediation Committee is not a justice structure, but an autonomy organization at basic level with the self-discipline nature.
People’s Mediation Committee works under the guidance of the People’s Governments and the Basic People’s Courts and uses mediation to resolve general civil disputes and minor criminal cases. The mediation agreement reached through the mediation of the People’s Mediation Committee, with the contents of civil rights and obligations, and signed or sealed by both parties, shall have the nature of a civil contract. The parties shall perform their obligations in accordance with the agreement and shall not alter or rescind the agreement without authorization. If the parties are unwilling to mediate, fail to mediate or regret after mediation, one or both parties may bring a suit in a People’s Court.
According to articles 11 and 12 of Administrative Regulations for the Practice of Law by Lawyers, there are two kinds of lawyer: full-time lawyers and part-time lawyers. They have the same rights and obligations when performing their duties as lawyers.
Director of a law firm must be qualified as a lawyer. Article 10 of the Measures for the Administration of Partnership Law firms stipulates that “A partner refers to a lawyer who joins a partnership law firm, participates in the internal management of the partnership law firm, and bears unlimited joint and several liability for the debts of the partnership law firm.” Article 11 stipulates that “a partner shall meet the following requirements: first, he must obtain a full-time lawyer’s lawyer’s practice certificate in accordance with the law; secondly, he shall have more than five years of practice experience; and finally, he shall not be subject to administrative punishment above suspension of practice within three years prior to becoming a partner.”
By the end of 2018, there were more than 423,000 practice lawyers in China. There were 18 provinces with more than 10,000 lawyers, eight provinces with more than 20,000 lawyers. Beijing and Guangdong had more than 30,000 lawyers. As for the types of lawyers, China had more than 364,000 full-time lawyers, accounting for 85.89%; more than 12,000 part-time lawyers, accounting for 2.87%; more than 31,000 public lawyers, accounting for 7.43%; more than 7,200 corporate lawyers, accounting for 1.71%; more than 7,400 legal aid lawyers, accounting for 1.75%; 1,500 military lawyers, accounting for 0.35%.
2.6. Restrictions on the practice of trainee lawyers
Law on Lawyers prohibits persons who have not yet obtained a lawyer’s practice certificate from engaging in legal services in the name of a lawyer. Article 25 of Regulation on Safeguarding the Right of Lawyers to Practice in Accordance with the Law, which was issued in September, 2015, stipulates that assistant lawyers shall be led by lawyers to appear in court and can only engage in auxiliary work in the trial.
2.7. Coverage of Legal Aid
In China, parties to criminal, civil and administrative cases have the right to apply for legal aid, but the scope of aid is different. The details can be found in part four of this report. In China, in addition to legal aid centers, legal aid foundations, social organizations and other organization also provide certain legal aid services. Among them, China Legal Aid Foundation has “Central Special Lottery Public Welfare Fund Legal Aid Project”, providing legal aid to migrant workers, the disabled, the elderly, women and juveniles who meet the standard for financial difficulties.
The requirement of mandatory representation by the lawyer in China is mainly applicable to criminal cases. According to articles 35 and 278 of the Criminal Procedure Law, “if a criminal suspect or defendant who may be sentenced to life imprisonment or death, or a criminal suspect or defendant who is a juvenile or a blind, deaf or mute person, or a mental patient who has not completely lost the ability to identify or control his own conduct, doesn’t have a defender, the People’s Courts, People’s Procuratorates and Public Security Organizations shall notify legal aid institutions to appoint lawyers to defend.”
Article 12 of the Judges Law stipulates that “a judge must acquire the following qualifications: (1) Have citizenship ; (2) Uphold the Constitution, and uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system; (3) Have good political and professional character, and moral standard; (4) Have the physical capacity to perform their duties normally; (5) Have an undergraduate degree in law from an college and have a bachelor degree or higher degree; or have an undergraduate degree or above from a full-time college in a subject other than law, and have received master’s degree in law or jurisprudence; or have an undergraduate degree or above from a full-time ordinary college, have received the corresponding degree, and have specialized legal professional knowledge; (6) have engaged in legal work for five years. Of these, the number of years engaging in legal work may be expanded to four or three years respectively for those that have obtained a masters in law or jurisprudence, or obtained a JSD. (7) Judges serving for their first post shall obtain legal professional credentials through the National Unified Legal Professional Qualification Examination. In areas where there are real difficulties meeting the academic requirements specified in item 5 of the preceding paragraph, upon review and confirmation by the Supreme People’s Court, the academic requirements for judges may be relaxed for a period of time to include bachelors degrees from colleges.” However, according to Article 13 of the Judges Law, “a person shall not serve as a judge if he or she has been subject to criminal punishment for committing a crime, been dismissed from public office or had his lawyer’s practice certificate or notary’s practice certificate revoked, or been removed from the arbitration committee.”
The judge selection committees established within the People’s High Court in charge of reviewing of the professional abilities of persons who are appointed as judges for the first time. First-time judges are generally to take positions in the basic level people’s courts. Judges of higher level people’s courts are usually to be selected incrementally up through the levels; judges of the Supreme People’s Court and High People’s Courts may be selected from two levels below of people’s court. Judges participating in higher level people’s courts’ selection shall have served a definite number of years in the lower level people’s court, and have work experience corresponding to the new post.
Judges of courts at all levels are appointed and removed by the people’s congresses at the same level. The President of the Supreme People’s Court is elected and removed by the National People’s Congress, and its vice-presidents, adjudication committee members, division heads, deputy division heads, and other adjudicators are appointed or removed by request of the court president to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The appointment and removal of division heads and deputy division heads of Supreme People’s Court circuit court divisions is by request of the president to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The president of all levels of local people’s court are elected and removed by that level of People’s Congress, and its vice-presidents, adjudication committee members, division heads, deputy division heads, and adjudicators, are appointed or removed by request of the court president to the Standing Committee of that level of People’s Congress. The presidents of intermediate courts established in provinces, autonomous regions, and directly governed municipalities, are selected and removed by the Standing Committee of the provincial, autonomous region, or directly governed municipality people’s congress; the vice-presidents, adjudication committee members, and adjudicators are removed upon request of the President of the High People’s Court to the Standing Committee of the provincial, autonomous region, or directly governed municipality. The appointment and removal of court presidents, vice presidents, adjudication committee members, division heads, deputy division heads, and adjudicators of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and specialized courts, are to be in accordance with relevant provisions of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
In China, judges who meet the retirement age or completely lose their working capacity shall retire. Normally, the retirement age for judges is 60.
Judges may be transferred or exchanged across administrative regions, or they may be selected from lower courts to serve in higher courts.
There are about 120,000 judges in the national court system.
According to the tradition of procuratorial system in civil law countries, procuratorial organization in China implement the principle of procuratorial integration. Therefore, different from the independence of the trial grades of the court, the procuratorial organs at higher and lower levels are the hierarchical relationship between the leader and the led. Within the procuratorial organizations, all procuratorial departments shall carry out their work under the unified leadership of the chief procurator. However, prosecutors to some extent enjoy independence in handling specific cases.
According to Public Procurators Law, the conditions for the post, appointment and removal procedures, retirement system, and cross-region transfer of public procurators are the same as those of judges.
There are about 67,000 public procurators in the national procuratorial system.
2.10. The shortcomings of the existing legal system
In China, the shortcomings of the existing legal system includes:
- The independence of the court remain to be reinforced. In justice practice, public opinion, especially online public opinion, has a certain impact on judgement of cases.
- The contradiction between number of cases and number of practitioners is prominent, judges and prosecutors are under great pressure to handle cases.
- The regional distribution of lawyer resources is uneven, and there is a great difference between the east and the west part of China.
- Lawyers’ profession skills and ethics remain to be strengthened.
3. PROCESS AND PROCEEDINGS: OVERVIEW
3.1 Criminal procedure
3.1.1. The institution of criminal investigation.
In China, the authorities that enjoy the power of criminal investigation in accordance with law include public security authorities (police authority), self-investigation departments of procuratorial authorities, customs, state security authorities, military security departments and prisons. Among them, public security authorities are the main subjects of investigation of ordinary criminal cases; other authorities have the right to investigate specific types of criminal cases in accordance with legal authorization. In addition, the supervisory authority shall be responsible for investigating the criminal acts of suspected corruption of state public officials.
3.1.2. The conditions of custody (Ju Liu and Dai Bu)
A. Arrest (Ju Liu in Chinese)
In China, arrest is a compulsory measure of deprivation of personal freedom in case of emergency. In accordance with law, Public security authorities shall make the decision on arrest. In accordance with Article 82 of Criminal Procedure Law, under any of the following circumstances, a public security authority may first detain a person who is committing a crime or is a major criminal suspect: (i) the person is preparing to commit a crime, is committing a crime, or is discovered immediately after committing a crime; (ii) a victim or an eyewitness identifies the person as the one committing the crime; (iii) criminal evidence is discovered from the person’s body or residence; (iv) the person attempts to commit suicide or escape after committing a crime or is fugitive; (v) the person may destroy or forge evidence or make a false confession in collusion; (vi) the identify of the person is unknown because the person refuses to disclose his or her true name and residence address; or (vii) the person is a strongly suspected of committing crimes from place to place, repeatedly, or in a gang. Deeming that a detainee needs to be custodied for a long time, a public security authority shall, within three days after arrest, file a custody request with the people’s procuratorate for examination and approval. Under special circumstances, the time limit for filing such a request may be extended for one to four days. For a person committing crimes from place to place, repeatedly, or in a gang, the time limit for filing the request for examination and approval may be extended to 30 days.
B. Custody (Dai Bu in Chinese)
In China, custody is a compulsory measure of deprivation of personal freedom of a criminal suspect or defendant for a long time. In accordance with law, a people’s court and a people’s procuratorate shall make the decision on custody. The case in which people deemed to be custodied by a public security authority, in accordance with law, shall be submitted to a people’s procuratorate for examination and decision. A people’s court and a people’s procuratorate have rights to decide on custody of handling criminal cases themselves. custody shall be executed by a public security authority.
In Article 81 of Criminal Procedure Law , “where there is evidence to prove the facts of a crime and a criminal suspect or defendant may be sentenced to imprisonment or a heavier punishment, if residential confinement is insufficient to prevent any of the following dangers to society, the criminal suspect or defendant shall be custodied: (1) the criminal suspect or defendant may commit a new crime; (2) there is an actual danger to national security, public security, or social order; (3) the criminal suspect or defendant may destroy or forge evidence, interfere with the testimony of a witness, or make a false confession in collusion; (4) the criminal suspect or defendant may retaliate against a victim, informant, or accuser; or (5) the criminal suspect or defendant attempts to commit suicide or escape”. “In the process of approving or deciding a custody, the nature and circumstances of the suspected crime, the admission of guilt, and the acceptance of punishment, among others, of a criminal suspect or defendant shall be considered as factors of a possible danger to the society”. “Where there is evidence to prove the facts of a crime and a criminal suspect or defendant may be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of 10 years or a heavier punishment or there is evidence to prove the facts of a crime and a criminal suspect or defendant who once committed an intentional crime or has not been identified may be sentenced to imprisonment or a heavier punishment, the criminal suspect or defendant shall be custodied”. “Where a criminal suspect or defendant waiting for trial on bail or under residential confinement seriously violates the provisions on bail or residential confinement, the criminal suspect or defendant may be custodied”. According to Article 81, the custody divides into three types: First, statutory custody. Who meets statutory evidence conditions (‘where there is evidence to prove the facts of a crime’) and a criminal suspect or defendant may be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of 10 years or a heavier punishment or there is evidence to prove the facts of a crime and a criminal suspect or defendant who once committed an intentional crime or has not been identified may be sentenced to imprisonment or a heavier punishment, the criminal suspect or defendant shall be custodied. Second, discretionary custody. Except statutory conditions mentioned above, there are three more conditions need meeting: conditions based on evidence (‘there is evidence to prove the facts of a crime’); conditions based on criminal sentence (“a criminal suspect or defendant may be sentenced to imprisonment or a heavier punishment”) conditions based on necessities (‘if residential confinement is insufficient to prevent any of the following dangers to society’). Third, special custody. After on bail or under residential confinement, a criminal suspect or defendant seriously violates Article 71 and Article 77 related to provisions on bail or residential confinement of Criminal Procedure Law , the criminal suspect or defendant may be custodied.
The period of custody during criminal investigation after a criminal suspect is custodied shall not exceed two months. If the investigation of a complicated case cannot be closed within the period, the period may be extended for one month with the approval of the people’s procuratorate at the next higher level. In addition, in accordance with Article 157 to 160, the period of custody during criminal investigation of special cases may be extended for longer time with the approval.
C. The examination of the necessity of custody
People’s procuratorates are responsible for the examination of the necessity of custody. In Article 95 of Criminal Procedure Law, “After custodying a criminal suspect or defendant, a people’s procuratorate shall continue to examine the necessity of custody. If custody is no longer necessary, it shall suggest a release of the arrestee or modification of the compulsory measure for the detainee. The relevant authority shall notify the people’s procuratorate of the handling result within 10 days”.
D. The term of criminal investigation
In China, there is no time limit for criminal investigation. If the criminal suspect arrested into custody need to be investigated longer than the period of criminal investigation, a compulsory measure may be modified and a bail or residential confinement is necessary.
Chart 04. Criminal investigation
3.1.3. Procedure for prosecution
A. The subject of prosecution
In China, only procuratorial authorities have rights to prosecute criminal cases for public prosecution. In accordance with Article 169 of Criminal Procedure Law , “Any case requiring initiation of a public prosecution shall be subject to the examination and decision of a people’s procuratorate” . In addition, when investigating a duty crime case, procuratorial authorities deem that criminal liability is necessary to be investigated and the case shall be transferred to a people’s procuratorate at the same level for examination. However, in accordance with Article 210 of Criminal Procedure Law , the victim has rights to directly prosecute to people’s courts in cases of private prosecution.
The examination of procedure for prosecution. People’s procuratorates have rights to comprehensively examine the cases transferred by public security authorities and procuratorial authorities to decide on public prosecution. In accordance with Article 173 of Criminal Procedure Law , “a people’s procuratorate shall, when examining a case, interrogate a criminal suspect, hear the opinions of the defender or duty lawyer, the victim, and the victim’s litigation representative, and record their opinions. The written opinions, if any, of the defender or duty lawyer, the victim, and the victim’s litigation representative shall be attached to the case file”. Where a people’s procuratorate deems that the facts of a criminal suspect’s crime are clear, that evidence is hard and sufficient, and that the criminal suspect shall be subject to criminal liability, it shall make a decision to initiate a public prosecution; and, according to the provisions on trial jurisdiction, initiate a public prosecution in a people’s court and transfer the case file and evidence to the people’s court. Where a criminal suspect admits guilt and accepts punishment, the people’s procuratorate shall inform the criminal suspect of his or her procedural rights and the provisions of law on admission of guilt and acceptance of punishment, hear the opinions of the criminal suspect, the defender or duty lawyer, the victim, and the victim’s litigation representative on the statutory matter.’ Where a criminal suspect voluntarily admits guilt and agrees with the sentencing recommendation and the applicable procedures, the criminal suspect shall sign a recognizance to admit guilt and accept punishment in the presence of the defender or duty lawyer. When public prosecution is initiated, the people’s procuratorate shall offer a sentencing recommendation according to the recognizance to admit guilt and accept punishment on the principal penalty, accessory penalty, and whether probation applies, among others, and transfer the recognizance to admit guilt and accept punishment and other materials along with the case.
If, upon examination, the people’s procuratorate deems that the case does not meet the conditions for a prosecution, it shall make a decision not to initiate a prosecution based on doubt and law; if there is no necessity to prosecute, it shall make a decision not to initiate a prosecution based on minor crime and additional conditions, etc.
Time limit of the examination of prosecution. A people’s procuratorate shall, within one month, make a decision on a case transferred by a supervisory authority or public security authority for prosecution, and in a significant or complicated case, the period may be extended by 15 days; or if the criminal suspect admits guilt and accepts punishment, and the conditions for the application of the fast-track sentencing procedure are met, the decision shall be made within 10 days, and the period may be extended to 15 days if the criminal suspect may be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of more than one year.
Where the jurisdiction of a people’s procuratorate over a case being examined for prosecution is changed, the period of examination and prosecution shall be counted from the day when the people’s procuratorate having jurisdiction receives the case after the change.
B. The conditions of custody (detention, arrest)
In China, procuratorial authorities have rights to make a decision on arrest. During the period of examination of prosecution, people’s procuratorates shall examine whether there are other people being subject to criminal liability. (See conditions of arrest in 3.1.2-B)
3.1.4 Procedures for trial
In China, there three types of procedure for trial: common procedure; summary procedure; fast-track sentencing procedure. The case shall be tried if the conditions for the application of the procedure for trial in absentia are met.
A. Common procedure
Common procedure includes three stages: pretrial review; pretrial preparation; court trial. Procedural review mainly refers to procedural review as whether the authority has jurisdiction over the case; whether relevant evidence and materials shall be transferred. In accordance with Article 186 of Criminal Procedure Law , “after examining a public prosecution initiated, a people’s court shall decide to hold a court session to hear the case if the charges in the indictment are based on clear facts.” After making a decision on holding a court session, a people’s court shall determine the members of the collegial panel, serve a copy of the indictment of the people’s procuratorate upon the defendant and the defender thereof and notify a witness etc. In addition, in accordance with Article 187 of Criminal Procedure Law, in order to ensure a smooth court session, the collegial panel “may call together the public prosecutor, parties, defenders, and litigation representatives to gather information and hear opinions on trial-related issues, such as disqualification, a list of witnesses to testify in court, and exclusion of illegally obtained evidence”. In judicial practice, when the accused party applies the exclusion of illegal evidence, the court shall generally held a pretrial meeting to decide whether the evidence should be excluded.
People’s courts shall hear cases in open court in principle. According to the provisions of Criminal Procedure Law , the procedure for a court session divides into five stages: open a court session, conduct an investigation in court, debate in court, the defendant delivers his or her closing statement, deliberate and announce. The court investigation draws lessons from Anglo-American Adversarial System, led by the prosecutor and the defendant, allowing the both sides to investigate and verify evidence one by one according to charges. The investigation in court includes following stages: the public prosecutor reads the indictment; the defendant and the victim deliver their statements in terms of charges in indictment; question the defendant; question a witness or an identification or evaluation expert; adduce physical evidence and read documentary evidence; both parties apply for the submission of new evidence; the court investigates and verifies evidence. In accordance with Article 51 of Criminal Procedure Law, the burden of proof of guilty of the defendant in a public prosecution case shall fall on the people’s procuratorate. In accordance with the provisions of Criminal Procedure Law (2018 Amendment), where a defendant admits guilt and accepts punishment, “the presiding judge shall inform the defendant of his or her procedural rights and the provisions of law on the admission of guilt and acceptance of punishment, and examine the voluntariness of the admission of guilt and acceptance of punishment and the authenticity and legality of the recognizance to admit guilt and accept punishment.”
On the basis of court investigation, court debate is conducted by both two parties on whether any crime of the defendant is committed, what kind of crime, heavy or light criminal liability, application of law such as how to sentence and conviction and sentencing. In judicial practice, most defendants raise no objection to charges, thus the key is sentencing.
After the investigation and debating in court, the court will, “based on the established facts and evidence and according to relevant legal provisions, render a sentence as follows”: a guilty sentence; an acquittal sentence; an acquittal sentence stating that the charges are denied for insufficient evidence. What needs special attention is that for a case where the defendant admits guilt and accepts punishment, the people’s court shall generally adopt the charges filed by and sentencing recommendation from the people’s procuratorate, except under any special statutory circumstances.
A people’s court shall announce a sentence for a case of common procedure within two months.
Chart 05. Common procedure
B. Summary procedure
Where a case is under the jurisdiction of a Basic People’s Court (except cases regarding a crime punishable by life imprisonment or death penalty) shall be subject to summary procedure if it meets Article 214 and Article 215 of Criminal Procedure Law . In accordance with Article 219 of Criminal Procedure Law , “the trial of a case under summary procedures shall not be subject to the provisions of Section 1 of this Chapter regarding the time limit for service of process and the procedures for questioning the defendant, witnesses, and identification or evaluation experts, adducing evidence, and debating in court. However, before a sentence is announced, the closing statement of the defendant shall be heard.”
For a case under summary procedures, a people’s court shall close the case within 20 days after accepting the case.
C. Fast-track sentencing procedure
In accordance with Article 222 and Article 223 of Criminal Procedure Law, the fast-track sentencing procedure may apply to a case under the jurisdiction of a Basic People’s Court where the defendant may be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, provided that the facts of the case are clear, the evidence is definitive and sufficient, and the defendant admits guilt, accepts punishment, and agrees with the application of the fast-track sentencing procedure, and the case shall be tried by a sole judge. In accordance with Article 224 of Criminal Procedure Law , the trial of a case under the fast-track sentencing procedure shall not be subject to the provisions of Section 1 of this Chapter regarding the time limit for service of process, and investigation and debating in court are generally not conducted; however, before a sentence is announced, the opinion of the defender and the closing statement of the defendant shall be heard. For a case tried under the fast-track sentencing procedure, the sentence shall be announced in court.
For a case under the fast-track sentencing procedure, a people’s court shall close the case within 10 days after accepting the case; or if the defendant may be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of more than one year, the above period may be extended to 15 days.
D. Trial in absentia
“Confiscation Procedures for Illegal Income in Cases Where a Defendant Escapes or Dies” was added into Criminal Procedure Law (2012 Amendment), Procedure for trial in absentia was established in Criminal Procedure Law (2018 Amendment).
In accordance with Article 291 of Criminal Procedure Law, “where the criminal suspect or defendant is outside China in a case regarding a crime of embezzlement or bribery, or in a case regarding a crime of seriously compromising national security or terrorist activities that requires a timely trial as confirmed by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, if the supervisory authority or public security authority transfers the case for prosecution, and the people’s procuratorate deems that the facts of the crime have been substantiated, the evidence is definitive and sufficient and the criminal suspect or defendant shall be held criminally liable in accordance with the law, it may file a public prosecution with the people’s court’. A case of trial in absentia shall be tried by a collegial panel of the intermediate people’s court at the place of commission of the crime, at the place of the defendant before his or her departure from China, or designated by the Supreme People’s Court. Where a people’s court tries a case in absentia, the defendant shall have the right to retain a defender, and a close relative of the defendant may retain a defender on behalf of the defendant. If the defendant and his or her close relatives do not retain such a defender, the people’s court shall serve a notice on a legal aid agency requiring the designation of a lawyer to defend him or her.
In addition, in accordance with Article 298 of Criminal Procedure Law, “where, in a case regarding a serious crime such as embezzlement, bribery, or terrorist activities, a criminal suspect or defendant escapes and cannot be present in court after being wanted for a year, or a criminal suspect or defendant dies, if his or her illegal income and other property involved in the case shall be recovered in accordance with the Criminal Law, a people’s procuratorate may file an application with a people’s court for confiscation of illegal income”. An application for confiscation of illegal income shall be heard by a collegial panel formed by the intermediate people’s court at the place of crime or place of residence of a criminal suspect or defendant.
3.1.5. Appeal system of second instance
In China, where the defendant is unsatisfied with the sentence of first instance, he or she has right to appeal the sentence to the people’s court at the next higher level; where the people’s procuratorate is of the opinion that there is any definite error in a sentence (including acquittal sentences), it shall file an appeal with the people’s procuratorate at the next higher level.
In accordance with Article 233 of Criminal Procedure Law, second instance needs conducting a comprehensive review. “The people’s court of second instance shall conduct a comprehensive review of the facts found and application of law in the sentence of the people’s court of first instance, without limitations to the extent of appeal.” At the same time, in order to guarantee rights of a defender to prosecute, punishment in a sentence of second instance shall not be aggravated. That is a people’s court of second instance which hears a case appealed by a defendant or his or her legal representative, defender, or close relative shall not aggravate the criminal punishment on the defendant. In a case remanded by the people’s court of second instance to the original trial court for retrial, the original trial court shall not aggravate the criminal punishment on the defendant, unless there is any new crime and the people’s procuratorate has initiated a supplementary prosecution. The limitations as mentioned in the preceding paragraph shall not apply to a case appealed by a people’s procuratorate or a private prosecutor.
3.1.6. The system of review of death sentences
In China, death sentences mainly divide into death sentences with immediate execution and death sentences with a suspension. Where the defendant is sentenced to death penalty, the sentence shall be reviewed no matter the defendant initiates a prosecution or not. In accordance with Article 246 and Article 248 of Criminal Procedure Law, death sentences with immediate execution shall be subject to the approval of the Supreme People’s Court; where a defendant is sentenced to death penalty with a two-year suspension, the sentence shall be subject to the approval of a higher people’s court.
The Supreme People’s Court reviewing a death sentence shall arraign the defendant and, if the defense lawyer files a request for presenting an opinion, hear the opinion of the defense lawyer.
Compared with relevant provisions of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, especially Article 9 and Article 14, current criminal procedure system of China meets the requirements of due process.
(i) Criminal Procedure Law stipulates a series of criminal procedure laws with international practice such as presumption of innocence (see Article 12), privilege against self-incrimination (see Article 52), principle of open trial (see Article 11), independence of trial (see Article 5), the separation of prosecution and trial (Article 3) and burden of proof undertaken by the public prosecutor (Article 52). What needs more attention is that Constitution clearly stipulates criminal procedure laws such as principle of open trial, a defendant having the right to defense and independence of trial as well.
(ii) Criminal Procedure Law was amended to draw lessons from Anglo-American Adversarial System in 1996 and then the trial mode dominated by prosecutor and defendant was introduced. As the establishment of adversarial trial mode, modern judicial concepts such as the protection of human rights, equality between prosecutors and defendants and the fairness of a trial are increasingly accepted by the public and provide motivation and direction for subsequent amendment of Criminal Procedure Law. For example, in Criminal Procedure Law (2012 Amendment) “respect and protect human rights” was added; rights of criminal suspect and defendant to obtain help from lawyers was strengthened; evidence system was improved, privilege against self-incrimination was clarified and the rule of exclusion of illegal evidence was established; compulsory measures were improved and non-custodial measures such as granting bail were advocated; investigation measures were improved and technical investigation measures were normalized; etc. In Criminal Procedure Law (2018 Amendment): the provisions of law on leniency if a criminal suspect confesses to his or her crime were established; procedure for trial in absentia was stipulated; Legal Aid Lawyers on Duty System was established; etc.
3.2. Civil Procedure
In China, the procedures for all non-criminal cases mainly divided into two types: (i) Civil Procedure is applicable to civil lawsuits concerning the disputes over the status of property and persons among citizens, legal persons or other organizations respectively and mutually between citizens, legal persons and other organizations, such as disputes over personality rights, disputes over inheritance of marriage and family, property disputes, disputes over contradiction, no-causing management and unjust enrichment, intellectual property and competition disputes, labor disputes and personal disputes, maritime disputes, civil disputes related to companies, securities, insurances and negotiable instruments, tort liability disputes and civil cases subject to special procedures etc. (ii) Administrative procedure is applicable to lawsuits when a citizen, a legal person or any other organization considers that his or its lawful rights and interests have been infringed upon by a specific administrative act of an administrative organ or its personnel.
3.2.1. Procedures for civil cases
In China, procedure for trial of civil cases includes procedure at first instance, procedure at second instance, special procedures and trial supervision procedure. The people’s court shall try voter eligibility cases, missing person declaration and death declaration cases, cases of determining civil incompetency or limited civil competency of citizens, cases of determining unclaimed property, cases of confirming mediation agreements and cases of security interest realization in accordance with special procedures. For cases tried under special procedures, the trial results are not appealable. A collegial bench consisting of judges only shall be formed to try a voter eligibility case or a significant or difficult case; and any other case shall be tried by a sole judge.
Common civil cases shall be subject to “finalization after two trials”. In accordance with Article 164 of Civil Procedure Law, against a first instance ruling of a local people’s court, a party shall have the right to file an appeal for a second instance with the people’s court at the next higher level within 10 days from the date of service of the written ruling. Where an effective judgment, ruling or consent judgment of a civil case meets the review requirements of Article 200 of Civil Procedure Law , trial supervision procedure shall be started for correcting the error in accordance with provisions in Chapter 16 of Civil Procedure Law.
A. Procedures for “first instance” hearing
Procedures for first instance of Common civil cases include formal procedure at first instance and summary procedure. Where a Basic People’s Court and its detached tribunals try civil cases with “clear facts, unambiguous rights and obligations and minor disputes” or “the parties may agree on the application of summary procedure”, summary procedure shall apply. A summary procedure shall be tried by a sole judge.
Formal procedure at first instance is the basic trial procedure of civil cases. Following are specific stages:
- Registration. The registration ot civil cases shall be subject to Article 119, Article 120 and Article 121 of Civil Procedure Law. In China, mediation shall be conducted first in civil cases. In accordance with Article 122 of Civil Procedure Law, “Where mediation is appropriate for the civil dispute involved in an action instituted by a party in a people’s court, mediation shall be conducted first, unless the parties refuse mediation.”
- Docketing and reviewing a case and accepting an action. Only procedural review shall work during the period of docketing and reviewing a case, which means all actions instituted under Article 119 of Civil Procedure Law must be accepted. Where the action which fails to meet the conditions for instituting an action is not accepted, the plaintiff may appeal against the ruling.
- The respondence of defendant by a written statement: After docketing a case, the people’s court shall serve a copy of the written complaint on the defendant; and the defendant shall submit a written statement of defense within 15 days after receiving the complaint. The people’s court shall, within five days after receiving the written statement of defense, serve a copy of it on the plaintiff. The defendant’s failure to submit a written statement of defense shall not affect the trial of the case by the people’s court. The defendant has rights to submit an objection on jurisdiction of the court which accepted the action. Where a party raises no objection to jurisdiction and responds to the action by submitting a written statement of defense, the people’s court accepting the action shall be deemed to have jurisdiction, unless the provisions regarding hierarchical jurisdiction and exclusive jurisdiction are violated.
- Determining the applicable procedure: In accordance with Article 133 of Civil Procedure Law, a people’s court shall handle accepted cases according to different circumstances: (i) Initiating the procedure for urging debt repayment at the court’s discretion, if the parties are not in dispute and the prescribed conditions are met for initiating the procedure for urging debt repayment. (ii) Resolving disputes in a timely manner through mediation, if pre-trial mediation is allowed. (iii) Determining the application of summary procedure or formal procedure according to the circumstances of a case. (iv) Clarifying the focus of disputes by requiring the parties to exchange evidence and other means, if it is necessary to hold a court session.
- Apply formal procedure to hold a court session: The court trial of formal procedure includes: sending a notification or an announcement of a court session; making pretrial preparation; conducting an investigation in court; conducting a debate in court; pronouncing a judgment. Court investigation shall be conducted in the following order: (i) The parties each present a statement. (ii) Witnesses are notified of their rights and obligations, witnesses testify, and the statements of absent witnesses are read. (iii) Documentary evidence, physical evidence, audio-visual recordings, and electronic data are adduced. (iv) Expert opinions are read. (v) Transcripts of survey are read. Court debate shall be conducted in the following order: (1º) The plaintiff and the litigation representative thereof present their case. (2º) The defendant and the litigation representative thereof present their arguments. (3º) A third party and the litigation representative thereof present their case or their arguments. (4º) Debate among the parties. At the end of court debate, the presiding judge shall ask each side’s final statement in the order of plaintiff, defendant and third party. After the end of court debate, a judgment shall be entered in accordance with law. Where mediation is possible before a judgment is entered, mediation may be conducted; and if mediation fails, a judgment shall be entered in a timely manner.
Chart 06. Procedure for civil cases
B. Specific procedures for urgent matters
- Property preservation before litigation. The applicable conditions: Where the lawful rights and interests of an interested party will be irreparable damaged if an application for preservation is not filed immediately under urgent circumstances, the interested party may, before instituting an action or applying for arbitration, apply to the people’s court at the place where the property to be preserved is located or at the place of domicile of the respondent or a people’s court having jurisdiction over the case for taking preservative measures. The applicant shall provide security and, if the applicant fails to provide security, the people’s court shall issue a ruling to dismiss the application. After accepting an application, a people’s court must issue a ruling within 48 hours; and if it rules to take a preservative measure, the measure shall be executed immediately. Where the applicant fails to institute an action or apply for arbitration in accordance with law within 30 days after the people’s court takes a preservative measure, the people’s court shall remove preservation.
- Property preservation in litigation. The applicable conditions: For a case where, for the conduct of a party or for other reasons, it may be difficult to execute a judgment or any other damage may be caused to a party, a people’s court may, upon application of the opposing party, issue a ruling on preservation of the party’s property, order certain conduct of the party or prohibit the party from certain conduct. After accepting an application, a people’s court must, if the circumstances are urgent, issue a ruling within 48 hours; and if it rules to take a preservative measure, the measure shall be executed immediately. If no party applies, the people’s court may, when necessary, issue a ruling to take a preservative measure. In order to guarantee rights of the other side, a people’s court may order the applicant to provide security for taking a preservative measure and, if the applicant fails to provide security, shall issue a ruling to dismiss the application.
- Advance enforcement. Before making a judgment, in order to meet the urgent needs of one party’s life or production, the people’s court may, on the basis of the application, issue a ruling on the other party to pay the applicant a certain amount of money or goods or stop carrying out a certain act immediately. In accordance with Article 106 of Civil Procedure Law , a people’s court may, upon application of a party, issue a ruling on advance enforcement for the following cases: (i) Cases to recover support for elderly parents, support for other adult dependants, child support, consolation money or medical expenses. (ii) Cases to recover labor remuneration. (iii) Cases requiring advance enforcement under urgent circumstances.
- Restraining orde In accordance with Chapter 4 of Anti-domestic Violence Law , where cases involving domestic violence, a party suffering from domestic violence or facing the real danger of domestic violence shall apply to a people’s court for restraining order. After accepting an action, the Basic People’s Court at the place of domicile of the applicant or appellee and the violence shall issue a restraining order or dismiss the application within 72 hours; if the circumstances are urgent, issue an order within 24 hours.
C. Alternative dispute resolution before or during the procedure
In accordance with Article 9 of Civil Procedure Law, civil cases shall be subject to principle of mediation first. When trying civil cases, the people’s courts shall conduct mediation under the principles of free will of the parties and legality; and if mediation fails, shall enter a judgment in a timely manner. Chapter 8 of Civil Procedure Law clearly stipulates provisions on principles, forms, agreements of medimediationation and consent judgment. In addition, in accordance with Article 122, Article 133, Article 142 and Article 172, where mediation is appropriate for the civil dispute during the period of docketing a case and before a court session or a judgment, mediation shall be conducted first; mediation shall be conducted as well in the procedure at second instance.
- Labor dispute. In accordance with Labor Law , for labor disputes, a party may file an application for mediation by the labor dispute mediation committee according to law; if mediation fails, he or she may submit the case to labor dispute arbitration committee for arbitration; against the arbitration, a party may institute an action in a people’s court. In accordance with Article 77 of Labor Law, principle of mediation applies to arbitration and civil procedure.
- Divorce cases. In accordance with Article 32 of Marriage Law, a people’s court shall conduct mediation when trying marriage cases. Thus mediation is a compulsory procedure for a people’s court trying a marriage case. If mediation fails, a judgment may be entered.
- Special civil disputes. In judicial practice, prepositive mediation is encouraged to apply to special civil disputes, which means mediation shall be conducted first in a court session. In accordance with Article 14 of Provisions involving the application of summary procedure in the trial of civil cases (legal interpretation  NO. 15) by the Supreme People’s Court, “A people’s court shall conduct mediation first in a court session in the following civil cases: (1) cases of disputes over inheritance of marriage and family; (2) cases of disputes over labor contract; (3) cases of compensation disputes over clear jural relations in traffic accidents and industrial accidents; (4) cases of disputes over homestead and adjacent relation; (5) cases of partnership agreement disputes; (6) cases of disputes over which the subject matter of the action is relatively small.”
D. The extent of participation of the judge
In civil procedures, a party shall be responsible for evidence collecting, evidence exchange in court, investigation of evidence in court and court debate. In accordance with Article 129, Article 130 and Article 131 of Civil Procedure Law, judges shall be responsible for investigating and collecting evidence. However, in judicial practice, it is mainly done by both plaintiff and defendant. Judges shall not investigate and collect evidence generally.
In the trial of civil cases, judges tend to be “ managers of the procedure” and “neutral adjudicates” who shall be responsible for ensure the civil procedure with fairness, justice and effectiveness.
3.2.2. Administrative procedure
According to Article 12 of Administrative Procedure Law, “The people’s courts shall accept the following complaints filed by citizens, legal persons, or other organizations: (1) A complaint against any administrative punishment, such as administrative detention, suspension or revocation of a license or permit, ordered suspension of production or business, confiscation of illegal income, confiscation of illegal property, a fine, or a warning. (2) A complaint against any administrative compulsory measure, such as restriction of personal freedom or seizure, impoundment, or freezing of property, or administrative enforcement. (3) A complaint against an administrative agency’s denial of, or failure to respond within the statutory period to, an application for administrative licensing or any other administrative licensing decision made by the administrative agency. (4) A complaint against an administrative agency’s decision to confirm the ownership or the right to use any natural resource, such as land, mineral resources, water, forest, hill, grassland, wasteland, tidal flat, or sea area. (5) A complaint against a decision on expropriation or requisition or a decision on compensation for expropriation or requisition. (6) A complaint against an administrative agency’s refusal to perform, or failure to respond to an application for the administrative agency to perform, its statutory duties and responsibilities in respect of protecting personal rights, property rights, and other lawful rights and interests. (7) A complaint claiming that an administrative agency has infringed upon the plaintiff’s autonomy in business management, right in the contractual operations on rural land, or right in operations on rural land. (8) A complaint claiming that an administrative agency has abused its administrative power to preclude or restrict competition. (9) A complaint claiming that an administrative agency has illegally raised funds or apportioned expenses or illegally required performance of other obligations. (10) A complaint claiming that an administrative agency has failed to pay consolation money, minimum subsistence, or social insurance benefits according to the law. (11) A complaint claiming that an administrative agency has failed to perform according to the law or as agreed upon, or illegally modified or rescinded, an agreement, such as a government concession agreement or a land and building expropriation compensation agreement. (12) A complaint claiming that an administrative agency has otherwise infringed upon personal rights, property rights, or other lawful rights and interests.” “In addition to those as set out in the preceding paragraph, the people’s courts shall accept administrative cases which may be filed as prescribed by laws and regulations.”
The accused administrative agency has the burden of proof for the administrative cases. In accordance with Article 60 of Administrative Litigation Law , “In the trial of an administrative case, a people’s court may not conduct mediation, unless the case involves administrative compensation or indemnity or involves an administrative agency’s exercise of discretionary power prescribed by any law or regulation.”
3.2.3. Diversified dispute settlement mechanism
In the practice of civil trial, the court system has always attached importance to mediation in civil disputes. In 2016, the Supreme People’s Court issued Opinions on People’s Courts to Further Deepen the Reform of Diversified Dispute Settlement Mechanisms, requiring that the construction of diversified dispute settlement mechanism should be led by mediation system. At the beginning of 2019, the Supreme People’s Court issued Opinions on Deepening the Comprehensive Reform of Judicial System of the People’s Court-the Fifth Five-Year Reform Outline of the People’s Court (2019-2023). The document once again emphasizes “the reform of diversified dispute settlement mechanism”. It is required to “generally carry out the reform of the mechanism of ‘case distribution, mediation, fast adjudication and quick trial’, improve corresponding information system and promote a timely and fast settlement of disputes”; “improve the diversified dispute settlement system in which mediation, arbitration, administrative adjudication, administrative reconsideration and litigation are linked and coordinated”; “further promote the role of professional mediation”; “for cases with mediation basis, in accordance with principles of voluntariness and legality, improve the working mechanism of advance mediation and delegated mediation, and guide and encourage parties to choose non-litigation methods to resolve disputes”; “establish a unified online platform for resolving disputes in multiple ways and achieve online consultation, evaluation, distribution, mediation and confirmation. Promote the judicial confirmation model combining online and offline to ensure that mediation works on the spot and disputes are resolved on the spot.”
In accordance with 2019 work report of the Supreme People’s Court, in 2018, courts at all levels closed a total of 3.135 million cases by means of mediation on the basis of the national court system adhering to the principle of voluntary mediation.
Civil Procedure Law stipulates the principle of equality of parties, punishment, good faith, voluntary mediation and other basic principles of civil actions, fully respecting the status of parties as subjects of litigation. Since 2013, the Supreme People’s Court has promoted the construction of three major platforms for judicial disclosure, which have realized the disclosure of trial process, judicial documents and enforcement information. The reform of the case registration system in 2015 ensures that the parties fully enjoy the right to access to justice. The reform of judge quota system in 2017 ensured the professional ability and professional conduct of judicial judges and laid a solid foundation for just adjudication.
3.3. Alternative Dispute Resolution
3.3.1. The compulsory diversion of disputes
In accordance with Labor Law, for labor disputes, a party may submit the case to labor dispute arbitration committee for arbitration, against the arbitration, he or she may institute an action in a people’s court.
3.3.2. The voluntary or consensual diversion of disputes
In judicial practice, where a civil action is instituted, except court mediation, there are people mediation, mediation in arbitrary and other types of mediation out of lawsuit. The parties may also reconcile of their accord.
Where a case is mediated by the court, the consent judgment shall have the legal effect of compulsory execution after being signed and received by both parties. Mediation out of litigation or conciliation between the parties does not have a binding force; If the party reneges, he or she may institute an action in court again.
3.3.3. The policy supporting the development of ADR processes
In cultural tradition, China has always had the concept of “no litigation” and “peace is most valuable”. Therefore, the diversified dispute settlement mechanism based on mediation system has a profound cultural foundation. In recent years, the Supreme People’s Court has encouraged courts at all levels to settle cases through mediation in order to effectively address the pressure of “too many cases but few judges” in the judicial system.
3.4. Simplification of law and by-passing legal processes
3.4.1. Criminal field
- Plea guilt and leniency system. In 2018, Criminal Procedure Law stipulates regulations where a criminal suspect admits guilt and accepts punishment and relevant regulations. In accordance with Article 174 of Criminal Procedure Law, if the investigation of a criminal case is completed and during the period when it is transferred to procuratorial authorities for a trial, where a criminal suspect voluntarily admits guilt and agrees with the sentencing recommendation and the applicable procedures, the criminal suspect shall sign a recognizance to admit guilt and accept punishment in the presence of the defender or duty lawyer. Where a criminal suspect voluntarily admits guilt, no arrest may be made, the case may be dealt with quickly through a fast-track procedure, and lenient sentence may be given.
- Procedures for public prosecution cases where parties have reached settlement. In 2012, Criminal Procedure Law stipulates procedures for public prosecution cases where parties have reached settlement and encourages crime suspects and defendants to reach settlement with victims. In accordance with Article 288 of Criminal Procedure Law, in the cases of public prosecution that meet the statutory conditions, if the criminal suspect or defendant has showed genuine repentance and obtained forgiveness from the victim by making compensation or an apology to the victim, and the victim voluntarily agrees on a settlement, both parties may reach a settlement. For a case where a settlement agreement is reached, a public security authority may provide a leniency suggestion to the people’s procuratorate. A people’s procuratorate may provide a leniency suggestion to the people’s court; and, if the circumstances of a crime are minor and no criminal punishment is necessary, may make a decision not to initiate a public prosecution. A people’s court may render a lenient sentence to a defendant in accordance with the law.
3.4.2. Civil field
- Cases of small claims. Where a Basic People’s Court or its detached tribunal tries a simple civil case, if the amount of subject matter is lower than 30 percent of the previous year’s average annual wages of workers in a province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government, small claims procedure shall be applicable.
The procedure of small suit is more simplified and free and the time limit of proof is less than 7 days generally; if the facts have been confirmed by both parties, no evidence or cross-examination may be given; judgment instruments can be simplified; the adjudication of the Basic People’s Court or detached tribunal at first instance shall be final.
- Internet court. China’s first internet court was established in Hangzhou, Zhejiang in August, 2017. Internet courts were established subsequently respectively in Beijing and Guangzhou. In 2018, the Supreme People’s Court issued Provisions on certain issues concerning the trial of cases by Internet courts. In accordance with the provisions, internet courts shall try a case online and procedures may be conducted online, including accepting an action, service of process, mediation, exchange of evidence, pre-trial preparation, court trial and pronouncing a judgment etc. Internet courts have jurisdiction over civil and administrative disputes related to internet: disputes over online shopping contract; disputes over contract of online service, financial loan and petty loan provided through internet; disputes over intellectual property in internet field; disputes over violating personal rights of others, property rights and other civil rights; etc.
In China, strict (no-fault) liability rules for defective products and no-fault compensation rules have established for a long time. However, the law does not allow the judge, tribunal, arbitrator, or other adjudicatory body substantially to abandon the usual statutory or precedential rules and to base the decision upon an appraisal of the equities of the individual dispute (with regard to small, modest, or otherwise socially significant claims). There is not automobile accident compensation law.
4. ACCESS TO JUSTICE, EQUAL ACCESS TO COURT AND FAIR TRIAL
4.1. The rights in national law
From the perspective of international legislation, although the requirements of international normative documents regarding legal aid cannot be directly applied in China, they greatly influence the legal aid legislation and policy-making process in China. The Chinese government has signed or acceded to a series of international conventions, such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (signed in October 1998, but not adopted by the National People’s Congress) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (acceded to). Chinese government also approved a series of UN legal documents, which are binding and consultative in China, i.e. Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, Beijing Rules (United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice), Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of Their Liberty, Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Guiding Principles for Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in the Context of Development and A New International Economic Order, etc. The Chinese government has also signed 43 bilateral treaties (or agreements) on criminal or civil judicial assistance with more than 30 countries, all of which contain mutual legal obligation on the provision of legal aid in accordance with the principle of national treatment.
From the perspective of domestic legislation, the main legal provisions on legal aid system are as follows: 1. The Regulations of Legal Aid System promulgated by the State Council in 2003, which is the first administrative regulation on legal aid in China. In addition, provinces and municipality with legislative power also have special laws and regulations on local legal aid; 2. Articles 35, 36 and 278 of the Criminal Procedure Law stipulate the scope of criminal legal aid; 3. Provisions on Procedures for Handling Legal Aid Cases promulgated by the Ministry of Justice in 2012.
4.2. Political commitment
“Improving the legal aid system” is an important political commitment of China communist Party (hereafter CPC). In 2013, the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee put forward the reform task of “improving the legal aid system”. In 2014, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee adopted The Decision of the CPC Central Committee on Several Major Issues of Comprehensively Promoting the Rule of Law. The Decision requires to improve the legal aid system, expand the scope of assistance, and improve the judicial assistance system, so as to ensure that timely and effective legal assistance could be provided to those faces legal problems or rights have been infringed.
In 2015, the general office of the CPC Central Committee and the general office of the State Council issued The Opinions on Improving the Legal Aid System, which outlined the basic framework for further improving the legal aid system in China. In 2018, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress included the Legal Aid Law into the legislation programme.
4.3. Government body responsible for access to justice policy
China has a dual management system for legal aid. The Department of Public Legal Services of Ministry of Justice (hereafter MoJ) used to be the Department of legal aid, the administrative organization in charge of making macroscopical policy regarding national legal aid work. It is responsible for guiding and supervising the national legal aid work. The judicial administrative departments of the local governments at each levels supervise and guide the work of legal aid within their jurisdiction.
The National Legal Aid Center of the MoJ is the implementing agency of legal aid services established in 2008. The center is responsible for supervising and standardizing the legal aid work carried out nation-widely, which include four functions generally:
- Publicity of legal aid, organization of legal aid training,
- Quality assessment of legal aid cases, communication and cooperation of international legal aid projects,
- management of national “148” legal aid hotline service, and theoretical research in terms of legal aid.
According to Article 5 of the Regulations of Legal Aid System, “The judicial administrative departments of the municipal or county governments shall determine the legal aid institutions of their respective administrative regions as needed. Legal aid institutions shall be responsible for accepting and examining applications for legal aid, appointing or arranging personnel to provide legal aid to citizens who meet the provisions of these regulations.” Accordingly, local legal aid centers are agencies to provide legal aid services within their administrative district. Local legal aid centers are independent non-departmental public bodies.
4.4. Government policy of access to justice
In China, government policy of access to justice is not just focused on the functioning of the courts. Legal aid service is a part of commitment of national public services system since 2019, although the free legal presentation, legal advice still are the main functions of legal aid service. According to the Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of the Public Legal Service System issued by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council in 2019, “the goal of the construction of the public legal service system is to basically form a modern public legal service system by 2022 which covers urban and rural areas, and is convenient, efficient, equal and inclusive. Specifically, the public legal service system have been continuously improved, the service platform has played an effective role; the facilities to provide legal service have been fully covered and interconnected; the standardization system of public legal services has been basically formed; the equalization of basic public legal services in urban and rural areas has been continuously promoted; and the quality and level of basic public legal services enjoyed by the people have been increasingly improved.” “By 2035, a public legal service system will be basically formed that is compatible with the goal of building a country, a government and a society under the rule of law.” Among them, in order to promote the balanced development of basic public legal services, the following issues will be focused on: allocating the basic public legal services resources in urban and rural areas evenly; strengthening the construction of public legal services in undeveloped areas; guaranteeing the right of special groups to basic public legal services.
4.5. The problems in ensuring equal access to justice for special groups
In order to meet the needs of legal aid services for migrant workers, the elderly, the disabled, women, minors and other special groups, the Chinese government set up special legal aid projects with special legal aid fund, with China Legal Aid Foundation in charge of its operation. The project was implemented in 2009. As of December 20th 2019, the project has invested 936 million RMB in legal aid, funded more than 540 thousand legal aid cases, and recovered more than 31.9 billion RMB of economic losses for more than 830 thousand people in need, with an investment return ratio of more than 1:34.
In order to meet the challenge of lawyer shortage in Northwest China, the state established “1+1” China Legal Aid Volunteer Action in 2009. Lawyers and university students who from provinces with abundant lawyer resources in the East China, were selected as volunteers to provide legal aid services in the northwest provinces. By the end of December 2019, the “1+1” action has sent more than 1,800 volunteers to more than 400 counties in 19 provinces in the central and western China, handled more than 74 thousand legal aid cases and resolved more than 10 thousand collective disputes.
When it comes to the legal aid practice in China, the main problem is not the legal aid for special groups, but the poor service quality caused by the lack of lawyers in the Northwest. Especially in the minority areas, such as Tibet, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia etc, where people mainly use minority languages, only limited lawyers can speak the local language fluently, making it difficult to meet the large demands of legal aid.
4.6. Public or scholarly debates
4.6.1 Debates on the quality of legal aid services
In China, there are many factors affecting the quality of legal aid services. For example, the low subsidy standard for legal aid lawyers, which is not attrative for excellent lawyers to advocate in legal aid cases; the insufficient professional training; less lawyers in the northwest; and so on.
4.6.2. Debates on related issues of criminal legal aid system
Firstly, the nature of the duty solicitor. In 2018, the Criminal Procedure Law established the duty lawyer system. However, there is no consensus on the issues such as what legal aid services should be provided, what rules should be played by duty lawyers.
Secondly, research on the full coverage of criminal defense. According to the current Criminal Procedure Law, the scope of criminal legal aid cases is relatively limited. In order to ensure that more suspects and defendants can have access to legal aid services, the MoJ and the Supreme Court implemented the pilot of full coverage of criminal defense in 2017. However, the pilot showed that the number of criminal lawyers, the investment of legal aid funds, the professional ability of criminal legal aid providers and the support of judicial organs will directly affect the smooth progress of the pilot.
4.6.3. Legal aid legislation
Around the legislation of legal aid, scholars have conducted extensive research on topics, such as the establishment of legal aid institutions, the guarantee system of legal aid funds, the scope of legal aid and requirements for applicants, and the quality assurance system of legal aid.
5. LEGAL AID SYSTEM
5.1. History of legal aid
In China, the Criminal Procedure Law of 1996 clearly defined the right to legal aid in criminal cases for the first time. Regulations of The People’s Republic of China on Legal Aid in 2003 established the legal aid system featuring integration of criminal and civil cases , and at the same time defined the scope and conditions of legal aid in civil and administrative litigation cases.
In China, the development and improvement of the criminal legal aid system keeps pace with the development of the criminal procedure system, which is mainly reflected in the continuous expansion of the scope of legal aid. And in terms of litigation stage, legal aid is gradually advanced. The development of civil legal aid is greatly influenced by the local economic development. In the economically developed areas of southeastern China, the scope of civil legal aid has been expanding rapidly in recent years because of sufficient lawyer resources and legal aid funds.
At present, China’s legislature is drafting the law of legal aid. In addition, in the field of criminal legal aid, in order to meet the needs of criminal justice reform, the criminal legal aid system has also made great progress. For example, in order to meet the needs of the reform of system for imposing lenient punishments on those confessing to their crimes and accepting punishments and to ensure that the accused confess voluntarily, the duty lawyer system has been valued by policy makers and scholars. In the trial-centered reform of the criminal procedure system, expanding the scope of criminal legal aid is also paid widespread attention.
The history of China’s legal aid system can be found in the following important events:
- In 1994, when discussing the draft Law on lawyers, Xiao Yang, the minister of Justice, put forward the idea of building a legal aid system in China.
- In February 1995, Guangzhou Legal Aid Center, the first legal aid center approved by the government, was established.
- In March 1996, the revised Criminal Procedure Law stipulated the content of “legal aid” for the first time. According to the article 34, if a case is to be brought in court by a public prosecutor and the defendant involved has not entrusted anyone to be his defender due to financial difficulties or other reasons, the People’s Court may designate a lawyer that is obligated to provide legal aid to serve as a defender. If the defendant is blind, deaf or mute, or if he is a minor, and thus has not entrusted anyone to be his defender, the People’s Court shall designate a lawyer that is obligated to provide legal aid to serve as a defender. The lawyers Law passed in the same year also clearly stipulates that lawyers should provide legal assistance to parties who are in financial difficulties and unable to pay for legal services.
- In December 1996, the Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice was established. It is an administrative institution directly under the Ministry of Justice; under the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, it is specifically responsible for guiding and supervising the legal aid work throughout the country on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.
- In September 2003, the Regulations of the people’s Republic of China on Legal Aid issued by the State Council came into effect. This is China’s first national administrative regulation on the legal aid system. the Regulations of the people’s Republic of China on Legal Aid define the legal aid system as a national system in the form of administrative legislation.
- In March 2012, Article 34 of the revised Criminal Procedure Law expanded the scope of legal aid by advancing access to legal aid services to the first investigation and interrogation, making it clear that legal aid lawyers were uniformly assigned by legal aid center and so on.
- In 2012, the Ministry of Justice formulated Provisions on the Procedures for Handling Legal Aid Cases.
- In November 2013, the third Plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee decided that, under the title of “promoting the construction of China under the rule of law”, as one of the specific requirements of “improving the judicial protection system of human rights”, the reform task of “improving the legal aid system” was clearly put forward.
- In October 2014, the fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee decided to further propose “the construction of a complete legal service system…… China will improve the legal aid system, expand the scope of assistance, improve the judicial assistance system, and ensure that people receive timely and effective legal assistance when they encounter legal problems or when their rights are infringed. “
- In October 2018, the standing Committee of the Thirteenth National people’s Congress, decided to include legal aid legislation in the Legislation Plan of the Standing Committee of the Thirteenth National People’s Congress (Projects of Category II).
- In March 2018, the revised Criminal Procedure Law established the system of duty lawyers and further expanded the scope of legal aid.
- In December 2018, the Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Justice issued the Expanding the Scope of the Pilot Program of Full Coverage of Defense by Lawyers in Criminal Cases , which stipulates that in cases of first instance, second instance or cases in accordance with trial supervision procedures, defendants without defenders can receive legal aid for criminal defense.
5.2. Legislative framework for legal aid
In China, the right to legal aid is mainly reflected in the Constitution, Criminal procedure Law, the Regulations on Legal Aid and other laws and regulations. Among them, Article 2 of the Regulations on Legal Aid of 2003 stipulates that any and all citizens that meet the requirements as provided for in the present Regulation shall be entitled to obtain gratuitous legal services according to the present Regulation, including legal consultation, agency, criminal defense, etc.
5.2.1. Provisions of the Constitution
Article 33 of the Constitution stipulates that “all citizens of the People’s Republic of China are equal before the law.” The state respects and protects human rights. Article 130 of the Constitution stipulates that “a defendant shall have the right to obtain defense. The Constitution does not specify the right to legal aid, but it is generally believed that the constitutional principle of “equality before the law” and “the state respects and protects human rights” is the constitutional basis of the legal aid system.
5.2.2. Provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law
The Criminal Procedure Law stipulates the right of criminal suspects and defendants to receive legal aid. Articles 35, 278 and 293 of the Criminal Procedure Law define the scope of criminal legal aid. One is discretionary legal aid based on the means test. “Criminal suspects and defendants that have not retained a defender because of economic hardship or other reason, and their families, may apply to a legal aid institution. Where the requirements for legal aid are met, the legal aid institution shall appoint a lawyer to provide a defense.” The other is mandatory legal aid based on the merit test. The people’s courts, procuratorates, and public security organs shall notify the legal aid organization to appoint a lawyer to provide a defense for, if no defenders have been retained, criminal suspects or defendants who are blind, deaf, mute or a mentally ill person who has not totally lost the capacity to recognize or control his conduct, criminal suspects or defendants might be sentenced to indefinite imprisonment or death who have not retained a defender, juvenile criminal suspects and defendants, criminal suspects and defendants in trials in absentia. Article 36 defines the duty lawyer system. “Legal aid institutions may station duty lawyers in people’s courts and detention centers. Where criminal suspects or defendants have not retained a defender, and the legal aid institutions have not appointed a lawyer to provide them with a defense, the duty lawyer is to provide the criminal suspects or defendants with legal assistance such as legal consultation, suggestions on procedural selection, applications for modification of compulsory measures, and submitting opinions on the case handling. People’s courts, people’s procuratorates, and detention centers shall inform criminal suspects or defendants that they have the right to meet with duty lawyers, and facilitate criminal suspects or defendants’ meetings with duty lawyers.”
5.2.3. The Regulations on Legal Aid
The Regulations on Legal Aid of 2003 clearly defined the right of citizens to receive legal aid for the first time, and made provisions on the scope of legal aid in civil and administrative litigation cases, application and examination procedures, and the implementation of legal aid.
According to it, legal aid is an act of the state or the government, which is organized and implemented by legal aid agencies established by the government. Article 3 stipulates that “it is the responsibility of the government to provide legal aid. The people’s governments on the county level and above shall take active measures to promote the work of legal aid, provide financial support to legal aid, and to ensure that legal aid progresses in coordination with the economy and social progress. The funds of legal aid shall be used for the purpose of legal aid only, and shall be subject to the supervision of the departments of public finance and auditing.” The Regulations on Legal Aid establishes an integrated legal aid system (see articles 2, 10, 11, 12); local governments at the primary level are responsible for the protection of legal aid funds.
5.2.4. Local version of the Regulations on Legal Aid
As local laws and regulations, the regulations on legal aid formulated by various provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government) and some areas that enjoy local legislative power stipulate the standards of economic difficulties and the scope of legal aid cases in the region.
5.3. Institutional framework for legal aid
5.3.1. Legal aid institution
In China, legal aid has a dual management system featuring the administrative department of legal aid and the agency for implementing legal aid services ( i.e., Legal Aid Center).
The Bureau of Public Legal Services Administration of the Ministry of Justice is the administrative department of legal aid affairs, which is responsible for guiding, coordinating and supervising the work of legal aid throughout the country. The Bureau of Public Legal Services Administration of local judicial administrative organs at various levels are the administrative departments in charge of local legal aid work. The Bureau of Public Legal Services Administration of judicial justice organs at various levels have the administrative relationship of leader and the led.
The legal Aid Centre is the agency for implementing legal aid services. The Ministry of Justice has established its Legal Aid Center. The justice administrative departments of the local people’s governments at various levels establish legal aid centers, which are specifically responsible for the organization and implementation of legal aid services within their respective jurisdictions. There is only a professional guidance relationship between legal aid institutions at all levels, but not an administrative subordination relationship.
5.3.2. The organizational system
A. The administrative and management structure
The legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice is an non-departmental public body, affiliated to the Ministry of Justice. Local legal aid centers are established by the local justice administrative organs and have independent legal person status. There is no administrative subordination relationship between legal aid centres at all levels.
Local legal aid centers have strong independence in organizing and implementing legal aid services..
The legal Aid Centre examines applications for legal aid in accordance with the law and decides whether or not provide legal aid. If it is decided to provide assistance, it is up to the legal Aid Centre to decide which lawyer will provide the aid service. The local legal aid centers generally have special financial accounts for legal aid funds, but the use of the funds is inspected and supervised by the competent departments, financial departments and auditing departments at the same level.
C. The appointment and duty of the director of legal aid center
Directors of the legal aid center shall be appointed by the local justice administrative organs. In general, candidates for director of legal aid centers tend to have administrative leadership experience in lawyer management or other similar positions. As for the staff of Legal Aid Center, they are generally selected through open recruitment. Among them, for posts enjoying the same right as civil servants, it is necessary to take a unified national civil servant examination.
The responsibilities of the director of the legal aid center are as follows: 1. Be fully responsible for the work of the center, timely ask for instructions and report to the superior, consciously accept the leadership and supervision of the justice administrative department at the same level; 2. Preside over the formulation of the work plan of the center, and be responsible for the organization, implementation, inspection and implementation; 3. Organize the learning activities for personnel of the center to improve their ability to work and the political quality; 4. Sum up the work experience to fix the problems in the work in time and improve the ability; 5. Put forward suggestions for rewards and punishments according to the work achievements and mistakes of the staff in a proper manner.
D. The data of legal aid institutions
By the end of 2018, there were 1,020 administrative institutions of legal aid in China. The number of legal aid centers is 3,281. There are 1,931 staff members in the administrative institutions of legal aid. The legal aid center has a total of 13,013 staff, including 9,526 staff majoring in law, accounting for 73.2% of the total; 9,575with bachelor’s degree and 788 with graduate degree or above, accounting for 73.6% and 6.1% of the total respectively.
E. Alternative dispute settlement mechanism
The legal aid centre does not provide mediation services. However, when dealing with legal aid cases, according to the provisions of the relevant procedural law, legal aid lawyers often actively make use of a variety of alternative dispute settlement methods to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the recipients to the maximum extent.
5.3.3. The availability of legal aid
The service providers of legal aid in China are mainly social lawyers, supplemented by full-time legal aid personnel and grass-roots legal service workers. In addition, teachers and students of some law schools can also provide some basic legal aid services.
- The Law on Lawyers stipulates that lawyers have the obligation to undertake legal aid, and the Ministry of Justice’s Opinions on Promoting Lawyers’ Participation in Public Legal Services advocates that each lawyer handle at least two legal aid cases per year. In judicial practice, local legal aid centres often set up a list of legal aid lawyers or legal aid firms. Trainee lawyers shall not handle legal aid cases alone, but may act as auxiliary staff to assist formal lawyers in providing legal aid services.
- If full-time personnel of the legal aid center are qualified to practice as lawyers, they can also provide legal aid services as legal aid lawyers; grass-roots legal service workers (whose requirements for job, assessed by the grass-roots legal service management departments of judicial administrative organs, are relatively low), mainly provide relatively simple non-criminal legal aid, such as consulting, writing, mediation, non-litigation and civil litigation agency.
- Collage Students of law schools may also participate in handling legal aid cases under the guidance of law teachers who are qualified as lawyers. But generally speaking, law school students are mainly engaged in legal advisory services.
By the end of 2018, China had 423,000 social lawyers, more than 7,400 full-time legal aid lawyers and 72,000 grass-roots legal service workers. The regional distribution of social lawyers in China is very uneven, especially in the remote areas of the central and western regions. By July 2013, there were 174 counties without lawyers in China. In order to solve this problem, since 2014, the Ministry of Justice and All China Lawyers Association have begun to take a variety of measures according to the different regional characteristics of non-lawyer counties, such as organizing and arranging excellent law firms to set up branches in non-lawyer counties, carrying out “1+1” Legal Aid Volunteer Initiative, and sending aid lawyers for volunteer practice in non-lawyer counties. Although these measures have achieved great results, there are still some areas where the resources of lawyers simply cannot meet the needs of local legal services.
5.3.4. Strategies for legal aid
According to the Opinions on Improving the legal Aid System issued by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council in 2015, the development strategy of the legal aid system is to “closely focus on economic and social development and the actual needs of the people, implement government responsibilities, constantly expand the scope of legal aid, improve the quality of legal aid, and ensure that people receive timely and effective legal assistance when they encounter legal problems or their rights are violated.”
5.3.5. Legal aid satisfaction survey
There is a lack of national survey data on the satisfaction of legal aid services. Some local governments use different forms counted the satisfaction of the people in their jurisdictions with legal aid. For example, the Bureau of Justice of Haian City, Jiangsu Province, evaluated legal aid cases since 2019 through telephone follow-up and questionnaire surveys, and the satisfaction of the recipients was 97%. The public satisfaction of legal aid in Changshou District of Chongqing in 2018 was 99.8%. Xinghua City, Jiangsu Province conducted a follow-up to the legal aid cases in the first half of 2019, and the satisfaction of the public reached more than 95%. It can be seen that, according to local statistics, recipients’ satisfaction with legal aid work is generally high.
In China, the client community has no right to participate in governance of or setting priorities for legal aid. But the local policymakers always like to listen to the voice of community while they make a priority policy for legal aid.
5.4. Legal aid budget
China’s legal aid funds come from mainly two sources: one is government financial allocation, and the other is social donation. Among them, the proportion of social donations is very low.
Financial allocation includes local grass-roots government allocation and central financial allocation. Generally speaking, local governments at all levels will scientifically calculate the demand for legal aid in the region, the expenditure for handling cases, as well as the amount of funds for legal aid publicity, personnel training, and the construction of business equipment to establish the annual budget for legal aid in the region. The funding of legal aid is independent of that of the justice system.
The funds for legal aid over the years are shown in the table below.
Chart 07. Funds for legal aid
In terms of the specific expenditure of funds, the basic patterns are as follows: first of all, the expenditure of legal aid funds includes personnel funds, office funds and operational funds. Personnel funds refer to the part of funds legal aid institutions used for labor remuneration, living allowances and welfare subsidies for all kinds of personnel; office expenses refer to additional expenses in the course of office work, including stationery, paper expenses, books and materials expenses, post and telecommunications expenses, etc.; business expenses refer to the expenses actually incurred by legal aid institutions in handling cases.
Take 2018 as an example, the total expenditure on legal aid in 2018 was 2.367 billion yuan, the total expenditure was 2.286 billion yuan. Among them, personnel funds, basic public funds and operational expenses are 818 million yuan, 152 million yuan and 1.316 billion yuan respectively, accounting for 35.78%, 6.65% and 57.57% of the total expenditure respectively. Details are shown in the following figure.
Chart 08. The expenditure distribution of legal aid funds.
Of the operational expenditure of 13.16 yuan, the subsidies and expenditure for handling casesis 1.102 billion yuan. Among the subsidies for handling cases, the subsidies for case subsidies and direct expenses, the subsidies for the provision of consulting services and agency services were 961 million yuan, 134 million yuan and 7 million yuan respectively, accounting for 87.21%, 12.16% and 0.63%, respectively.
Among the subsidies and direct costs for cases of 961 million, the amounts of subsidies in criminal cases, civil cases and administrative cases were 362 million yuan, 593 million yuan and 6 million yuan respectively, accounting for 37.67%, 61.71% and 0.62%, respectively.
5.5. Legal aid providers
In China’s justice practice, legal aid providers are mainly private lawyers, full-time legal aid lawyers, grass-roots legal service workers, as well as law teachers and law school students from some law colleges and universities.
5.5.1. Qualification for legal aid providers
Private lawyers can engage in legal aid services when they have practice certificates.
In addition to have practice certificate, a full-time legal aid lawyer is also required to pass the selection examination to become a regular staff member of a local legal aid institution.
Grass-roots legal service workers are required to graduate from colleges and universities with a bachelor’s degree in law, pass the examinations organized by the judicial administrative organs of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, and practice in grass-roots legal service institutes for at least one year. Those with more than two years of other legal professional experience don’t have to meet the above-mentioned requirement.
It is worth noting that although China as a whole has not set special admission standards for persons engaged in legal aid, legal aid centres in some areas have set a higher threshold for legal aid lawyers through the establishment of a list system for legal aid lawyers. For example, when establishing a criminal defense legal aid lawyer library, Wuxi Justice Bureau makes it clear that in addition to obtaining proctice qualifications, lawyers also need to have more than three years (or equivalent qualifications) experience in handling criminal cases, and have the experience and ability to handle legal affairs independently.
5.5.2. The process of becoming a staff member of a legal aid institution
The nature of legal aid centers varies from place to place, so there are great differences in the selection procedures and methods of their staff. In general, staff of local legal aid institutions are not required to be qualified as lawyers, but they often need to pass certain selection examinations. For example, the legal aid institutions as administrative organs, are often staffed by national civil servants, so the selection of their staff must take part in the uniform national civil service examination (including written examinations and interviews). As for the legal aid institution as public institutions, most of its staff are those who belong to official staffing recommendations of public institutions, and generally need to take part in the examination of the public institutions (including written examination and interview). Even those positions that do not belong to any official staffing recommendations also need applicants to pass the written examination and interview set by the legal aid institutions.
5.5.3. Lawyers’ passion for participating in legal aid
Due to the low standard of legal aid subsidies, lawyers generally do not have great passion for legal aid services, although some experienced lawyers may handle a certain number of legal aid cases in the spirit of giving help. Generally speaking, young lawyers have more passion in handling legal aid cases, mainly because young lawyers don’t have enough cases to handle and have to choose legal aid cases to exercise their ability and earn money. In addition, some older lawyers may also be willing to earn a stable income by handling legal aid cases.
5.5.4. Payment of legal aid subsidies
After receiving the materials of closure submitted by legal aid lawyers, the legal aid center shall grant legal aid subsidies according to the standard of subsidy for handling cases. In some places, legal aid centers have begun to implement different way to pay subsidies, which are linked to the quality of services. That is, based on the subsidy standard, according to service quality, determine different levels of subsidy standards, in order to urge legal aid lawyers to improve the quality of service.
5.5.5. Legal aid subsidy standard
Guidance on improving the subsidy standard for legal aid (Notice by the Ministry of Justice  No. 27) jointly issued by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance in 2019 stipulates that according to the different forms of legal aid service, the subsidy standard of legal aid can be divided into case subsidy standard, legal assistance subsidy standard of duty lawyer and legal consultation subsidy standard.
- Case subsidy standardrefers to the standard of subsidy for handling civil, criminal, administrative agency or defense legal aid cases. In terms of civil, criminal or administrative legal aid case, an agency or defense matter shall be taken as a case, which shall be calculated on a case-by-case basis according to the average number of days spent undertaking similar legal aid cases. For the same matter have different stages of legal proceedings, each stage shall be calculated on the basis of one case. If there are two or more service recipients in the same case, the subsidy shall be appropriately increased on the basis of the subsidy standard.
- The legal assistance subsidy standard of duty lawyer refers to the subsidy standards for legal aid agencies stationed in people’s courts, people’s procuratorates and detention centers to provide legal advice to criminal suspects and criminal defendants without defenders, transfer legal aid applications and so on, calculated on the basis of working days. The subsidy standard for the legal assistance provided by the duty lawyer to the criminal suspect or defendant in the case of pleading guilty and punishment shall be calculated on a case-by-case basis or on a working day in the light of the actual local situation.
- Legal consultation subsidy standard refers to the subsidy standard for receiving visits, answering phone calls and answering online consultation services, which is calculated on the basis of working days.
Generally speaking, the standard of legal aid subsidy varies greatly from place to place, and the standard of legal aid subsidy in most areas is relatively low. According to national statistics, in 2018, the average cost of a legal aid case in China was 883.34 yuan. According to the data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on May 14, 2019, the average daily wage of employees in urban non-private units across the country in 2018 was 315.94 yuan. At the same time, according to statistics, the average hourly rate for Chinese lawyers in 2018 is 2792 yuan, including 1576 yuan for junior lawyers, 2198 yuan for senior lawyers and 3481 yuan per hour for senior partners. the managing partner reached 4054 yuan. In general, agreement has been reached that the subsidy for legal aid cases is low.
5.5.6. Independence of legal aid providers
After accepting the assignment of a case, legal aid providers independently provide legal aid services to recipients. Legal aid lawyers have the same independence as social lawyers but are subject to the supervision of the legal aid center.
5.5.7. Special protection for legal aid providers
Generally speaking, legal aid lawyers do not enjoy special institutional protection. However, in order to encourage lawyers to actively participate in legal aid services, some meaningful explorations have been made in some areas. For example, in some areas of Guangdong Province, in order to solve the problem of long time of waiting for criminal legal aid lawyers, legal aid offices have been set up in detention centers to provide green channel for legal aid lawyers.
5.6. Quality assurance
5.6.1. Requirements for legal service providers
At the national level, there are no special basic qualification requirements for legal aid service providers, as long as they are qualified lawyers; full-time personnel of qualified legal aid institutions and grass-roots legal service workers can also engage in legal advice and civil legal aid services. However, local government may set up different admission mechanisms for legal aid providers according to different types of cases. See in 5.5.1 qualification for legal aid providers
5.6.2. The supervition on the quality of legal aid service
At present, a unified national quality supervision, evaluation and guarantee system has not been formed. In 2017, the Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice built a National Center of Legal Aid Case Quality Evaluation and Demonstration in 2017 at the Hangzhou Legal Aid Center, actively promoting the construction of a case quality evaluation system and a case quality control system, and improving peer evaluation standards.
Generally speaking, the quality supervision of legal aid is mainly the responsibility of legal aid centers around the country. The legal aid center generally examines and supervises the case by means of case file evaluation, attendance at the trial, follow-up of recipients, evaluation by judges and prosecutors, and so on. Among them, case file evaluation is the most important means of supervision. That is, the legal aid center will make requirements for the filing materials submitted by legal aid lawyers (for example, they must submit review, interview transcripts, defense statements, etc.) in criminal cases; the staff of legal aid agencies will evaluate the quality of their aid services and grant aid subsidies accordingly through the evaluation of these archived file materials. Peer evaluation system has gradually become a popular means of quality testing.
5.6.3. Continuing education for legal aid service personnel
With regard to the training of legal aid services, a systematic and comprehensive training system has not yet been developed at the national level. Every year, relevant departments of the Ministry of Justice and provincial legal aid centers organize special training for specific areas of assistance or specific legal aid providers.
The Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice also commissioned the National Institute of legal Aid of China University of political Science and Law to record training videos and provide free training services to legal aid providers through distance online education.
5.6.4. Complaints against legal aids
Articles 26 to 30 of the Regulation on Legal Aid of 2003 stipulate the legal liability of persons related to legal aid. In addition, according to the Ministry of Justice’s Measures on the Handling of legal Aid Complaints, for legal aid lawyers under one of the following circumstances, the complainant may complain to the justice administrative organs in charge of the legal aid agency: 1. Violating the regulations when handling the acceptance and examination of legal aid s, or appointing or arranging legal aid personnel in violation of the provisions; 2. After accepting the assignment or arrangement, the legal aid personnel slack in performing or ceases to perform their legal aid duties without authorization; 3. Those who collect money and property in legal aid cases; 4. Other acts that violate the regulations on the management of legal aid.
5.7. Criminal legal aid
5.7.1. Types of criminal legal aid service
Criminal legal aid services include legal advice, legal assistance of duty lawyers, criminal defence and presentation.
- Legal consultation. All citizens can obtain criminal legal advice without the standard examination of financial difficulties and without the restrictions of the types of cases. They can get legal advice by appearing in local legal aid center, or by phone, internet or mail.
- Legal assistance of duty lawyer. It is for the criminal suspects and defendants in criminal cases who are in detain.The legal assistance is provided by the duty lawyer when neither the defender is entrusted nor the legal aid agency provides the defense for them.
- Criminal defense. With regard to the scope of legal aid for criminal defense, the Criminal procedure Law of 2012 made a great deal of changes in the contents of criminal defense compared with that of the 1996 version, specifically in three aspects: the recipients and case of assistance, the stage of legal aid for criminal defense, and the mode of starting legal aid. (Details are shown in the following figure)
- Presentation for victims. Victims and their legal representatives or close relatives in public prosecution cases, and private prosecutors and their legal representatives in private prosecution cases, who can’t retain a private lawyer due to financial difficulties, can apply for legal aid lawyer for presentation.
Chart 09. Comparison of criminal legal aid sevices between Criminal Procedure Law of 1996 and 2012
|Criminal procedure Law of 1996||Criminal procedure Law of 2012|
|The recipients and case of assistance||Designated defense||1. Blind, deaf or mute people
3. People may be sentenced to death
|1. Blind, deaf or mute people
2. A mental patient who has not completely lost the ability to identify or control his own conduct
4. People may be sentenced to death
5. People may be sentenced to life imprisonment
6. Cases of trials in absentia
|Apply for defense||No||Yes|
|Litigation stage||Trial stage||Since the first interrogation or compulsory measures taken by the investigative organ|
|Starting methods||The court appoints the lawyer itself.||Notify the legal Aid Centre to appoint|
In addition, the procedure of trial in absentia was added to the revision of the Criminal Procedure Law in 2018, stipulating that in the trial in absentia in the people’s court, “if the defendant and his near relatives do not entrust a defender, the people’s court shall notify the legal aid institution to appoint a lawyer to defend him.”
It is worth noting that, in December 2018, the Supreme People’s Court and the Ministry of Justice issued the Expanding the Scope of the Pilot Program of Full Coverage of Defense by Lawyers in Criminal Cases , which stipulates that in cases of first instance, second instance or cases in accordance with trial supervision procedures, defendants can receive legal aid for criminal defense. Accordingly, all first-instance cases, second-instance cases, defendants in retrial cases and defendants in trials in absentia are entitled to the defence services of legal aid lawyers. In other proceedings (including investigation, examination and prosecution, execution stage, summary procedure and first instance cases of quick judging procedure, etc.), if the criminal suspect or defendant does not have the assistance of a defender, he shall have the right to legal assistance from a duty lawyer.
In China, victims with financial difficulties have the right to apply for legal aid services, but ordinary witnesses do not have right to legal aid services.
5.7.2. Eligibility criteria for criminal legal aid
Criminal legal aid services in China include legal advice, legal assistance of duty lawyers, criminal defence and criminal case agency. Among them, only lawyers with practice certificate can legal assistance of duty lawyers, criminal defence and criminal case agency.
- Legal advice. There are no restrictions on legal advisory services, and anyone is entitled to free legal advice. In order to provide more accessible legal consultation services, in addition to setting up legal consultation windows in the legal aid center, the Chinese government has also set up a free 12348 telephone consultation hotline and an online consultation platform of the China legal Service Network. In some areas of ethnic minority , legal aid centers also provide legal advice in local languages.
- Legal assistance of duty lawyer. According to article 36 of the Criminal Procedure Law, in criminal proceedings, if a criminal suspect or defendant does not appoint a defender, nor does a legal aid institution designate a lawyer to defend him or her, a duty lawyer shall provide the criminal suspect or defendant with legal assistance at any stages regardless of the seriousness of the charge, whether to plead guilty or not.
- Criminal defense. Criminal defense services are divided into two categories: one is legal aid services provided in accordance with the merit test of justice (for specific scope of cases, see 5.7.1); the other is legal aid services provided in accordance with local standards of financial difficulties.
- Presentation for victims. In criminal cases, victims and their legal representatives or close relatives in public prosecution cases, and private prosecutors and their legal representatives in private prosecution cases, who can’t entruste law agents due to financial difficulties, have the right to apply for lawyers from legal aid institutions to provide criminal agency services. Therefore, such legal aid services require mean tests of financial difficulties standards, and free legal aid services are available only if they meet local financial difficulties standards.
5.7.3 Process for obtaining criminal legal aid
A. Process for obtaining legal advice
Legal advice requires no advanced appointment. People can get access to consultation by e-mail, phone, Internet or directly by the consultation window. If the question is complex, the legal aid institution will make an appointment to answer it.
B. Process for obtaining duty lawyers
In criminal proceedings, if a criminal suspect or defendant does not appoint a defender, nor does a legal aid instituion designate a lawyer to defend him or her, a duty lawyer shall provide the criminal suspect or defendant with legal assistance. Article 36 of the Criminal procedure Law stipulates that people’s courts, people’s procuratorates, and detention centers shall inform criminal suspects or defendants that they have the right to meet with duty lawyers, and facilitate criminal suspects or defendants’ meetings with duty lawyers.”
In justice practice, when a criminal suspect or defendant in custody asks for the help from a duty lawyer, the detention center will promptly notify the duty lawyers or the corresponding legal aid center of their needs. Generally speaking, local legal aid centers will arrange duty lawyers to the detention center on a regular basis according to the needs of local criminal suspects and defendants in custody and lawyer resources. The duty lawyers can take the methods of on-site duty, telephone duty, network duty and so on to perform their duties.
C. Process for obtaining criminal defense and agency services
For the legal aid services provided in accordance with the merit test, the process is relatively simple: the legal aid center assigns legal aid lawyers in time according to the designated defense notices of public security organs, people’s procuratorates and people’s courts.
Applications for legal aid due to financial difficulties need to go through the process of application, examination and approval, assignment and so on. First of all, the recipient makes a written application to the legal aid institution, including application form and the relevant proof of financial difficulties. Secondly, after receiving the application, the legal aid agency examines the case and the financial conditions of the applicant. If the applicants meet standard of the financial difficulties, the legal aid institution will make a decision to grant assistance and inform the applicant; at the same time, it will assign legal aid lawyers to provide legal aid services. If the applicant does not meet the stanard of financial difficulties, the legal aid institutions will make a decision not to grant legal aid. If the applicant has any objection to this decision, he may submit it to the justice administrative organ in charge of the legal aid institution, which shall examine and decide whether assistance should be provided.
In justice practice, there are some differences in the standards of financial difficulties in different places. Legal aid institutions generally do not substantially examine the financial conditions of applicants, as long as applicants hold certificates of financial difficulties issued by relevant units or belong to poverty groups in accordance with the law (such as people who receive minimum living security payments; five-guarantee households, extremely poverty-stricken households, disaster victims and other people who receive benifits) can obtain the agency services of legal aid lawyers. Some provinces, such as Guangdong Province, no longer require applicants to submit proof of financial difficulties, but applicants are required to write written guarantee that they meet the provincial standards of financial difficulties.
In China, all legal aid services are free. Legal aid recipients are not required to bear or reimburse any expenses.
D. The right to choose a legal aid lawyer
Legally, recipients do not have the right to choose legal aid lawyers. According to the National Regulation on Criminal legal Aidissued by the Ministry of Justice in 2019, legal aid institutions need to abide by the following rules when assigning lawyers: “Criminal legal aid contractors shall determine lawyers according to the number of lawyers, qualifications, professional expertise, legal aid cases, and the will of the recipients. For recipients that may be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, lawyers with a certain number of years of experience in criminal defense shall be arranged to act as defenders; for criminal cases of juveniles, lawyers who are familiar with the physical and mental characteristics of juveniles shall be arranged; for blind, deaf, mute or foreigners (stateless persons) and recipients who do not know the local language, necessary translators shall be arranged for lawyers.”
In justice practice, the “point assistance system” has been implemented in some areas. That is, the legal aid centers make a roster of legal aid lawyers according to the professional expertise of lawyers; recipients can choose specific lawyers from the roster as their own legal aid lawyers according to the needs of their own cases.
In the course of criminal proceedings, criminal suspects and defendants may entrust their own defenders (thereby terminating the services of legal aid lawyers), or request the replacement of legal aid lawyers when there are sufficient reasons. According to Article 45 of the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Implementation of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China. If the defendant because of justice interests, refuses the assigned lawyer to defend the legal aid that should be provided, the people’s court shall find out the reason. If the reason is justified, it shall be allowed, but the defendant shall entrust another defender himself; if the defendant fails to entrust another defender, the people’s court shall, within three days, notify the legal aid institution in writing to appoint another lawyer to defend him.
The number of criminal legal aid cases and the total number of criminal cases in the past ten years are shown in the following figure.
Chart 10. Number of criminal legal aid cases and the total number of criminal cases.
5.8 Civil legal aid
5.8.1 Scope of civil legal aid
Regulations on Legal Aid in 2003 established the legal aid system featuring integration of criminal and civil cases. According to the Article 10, the scope of legal aid cases in the field of civil and administrative litigation is: 1. requesting for state compensations; 2. requesting for social insurance treatment or minimum life alimony treatment; 3. requesting for survivor’s pensions or relief funds; 4. requesting for the payment for supporting parents or grandparents, and children; 5. requesting for the payment of labor remunerations; or 6. claiming civil rights and interests arising from the brave act of righteousness. In addition, paragraph 2 of this article stipulates that the people’s governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government and areas that enjoy local legislative power may, in accordance with the local economic and cultural development, further expand the scope of legal aid cases on the basis of the above-mentioned scope of legal aid. Therefore, in justice practice, there may be some differences in the scope of civil legal aid in different places.
In 2015, the Opinions on improving the legal Aid system issued by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council stipulated that the scope of legal aid should be further expanded, requiring that matters closely related to people’s livelihood, such as labor security, marriage and family, food and medicine, education and medical care, be included in the scope of legal aid for people’s civil and administrative cases.
In judicial practice, the main types of civil legal aid cases are: disputes over custody and education (many are combined with divorce cases), employment of child labor, compensation for injuries (caused by traffic accidents), divorce disputes (involving children and property), domestic violence, labor disputes between laid-off workers and enterprises; support, house demolition, pension and other disputes. Disputes over medical accidents, traffic accidents, industrial accidents, study and employment of the disabled, etc.
In the process of handling legal aid, legal aid lawyers can, in accordance with the law, participate in alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as labor arbitration, reconciliation and mediation
5.8.2. Eligibility criteria for civil legal aid
To obtain civil legal aid services needs to meet two conditions at the same time: first, the type of case belongs to the scope of legal aid matters. Second, meet the standard of financal difficulties (see 5.7.3-C for details). As for the prospects of success, it is not the consideration of whether to grant legal aid or not.
In principle, the object of legal aid is limited to natural persons. However, some areas have also brought social welfare organizations into the scope of object of legal aid. For example, Article 12 of Regulations of Guangdong Province on Legal Aid stipulates that “if social welfare institutions such as welfare homes, orphanages, pension institutions, honorary homes, preferential care hospitals, mental hospitals, and SOS children’s villages need legal help to safeguard their legitimate civil rights and interests, legal aid institutions may provide legal aid on the basis of their applications.” “where a social organization brings a civil public interest lawsuit to a people’s court for acts harmful to social and public interests, such as polluting the environment and destroying the ecology, the legal aid institution may provide legal aid on the basis of its application.”
In the field of civil law, foreigners normally do not have the right to legal aid. However, if the relevant countries sign judicial assistance treaties or civil and commercial judicial assistance treaties with China, foreigners may apply to China’s legal aid institutions for legal aid in accordance with the conditions and procedures stipulated in the international treaties, multilateral or bilateral judicial assistance treaties jointly signed, or in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.
A. Eligibility criteria of special groups
China has set up special legal aid programs for special groups. For example, China Legal Aid Foundation has “National Special Lottery Public Welfare Fund Legal Aid Project“, providing legal aid to migrant workers, the disabled, the elderly, women and juveniles. Moreover, in the project, the standard of financial difficulties has been reduced to the minimum wage for local urban workers to expand its coverage. For another example, in 2014, “Opinions of the State Council and the Central military Commission on Further Strengthening the Legal Aid Work for Military Families” stipulated that the criteria for the identification of financial difficulties for military families should be relaxed. Some special types of military families aren’t even required to meet the condition.
5.8.2. Process for obtaining civil legal aid
Civil legal aid service is based on the application of the parties concerned. The application, approval and assignment of legal aid are the same as those of criminal legal aid (see 5.7.3-C).
The number of civil legal aid cases in China has shown an upward trend in the past ten years.
Details are shown in the following figure.
Chart 11. The caseload of legal aid service of non-criminal cases
In 2018, for example, the number of applications for civil legal aid and the number of approved cases were 1,009,825 and 978,682 respectively, with an approval rate of 96.9%. According to the type of cases, the largest number of cases is 352,897 cases requesting payment of labor remuneration, followed by marriage and family cases, 133,193 cases, followed by alimony, support fees and maintenance fees cases, 51,180 cases; and then, traffic accident cases, 99,084 cases; the specific distribution is shown in the following figure.
Chart 12. The distribuition of case type
The total number of aid recipients of criminal and civil cases in 2018 was 1,517,721. According to the identities of recipients, farmers and migrant workers were the largest group, accounting for 63.68 per cent of the total. Among recipients, the number of farmers, migrant workers, the elderly, minors, the disabled and military personnel (whose identities are crossed) are 451,439, 515,023, 121,863, 136,009, 54,138 and 3301 respectively, as shown in the figure below.
Chart 13. The distribuition of recipient type
5.9. Holistic legal services
There is no concept and theory of overall legal service in China. However, in justice practice, some legal aid-related activities have been carried out in some areas, which also embodies the concept and spirit of “overall legal service”. For example, in the practice of the Legal Aid Center of Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, it is found that some visiting people are easy to put forward some requirements that do not meet the requirements of the law because of the infringement of their legitimate rights and interests or cognitive mistakes. Moreover, once the expected goal is not achieved, it will cause psychological imbalance and repeated petitions, which will have a certain impact on their own life and work. In view of such “special” people, the Yancheng Legal Aid Center further extends its services, not only assigning lawyers to explain relevant laws and regulations and guiding them to safeguard their own rights and interests through legal channels, but also exploring the development of legal aid psychological counseling services. Psychological counselors are invited irregularly to provide psychological counseling to recipients and potnetial recipients.
5.10. Alternative sources of legal assistance
5.10.1. Legal clinic system
The legal aid system in colleges and universities (legal clinics) is a free legal aid service for social vulnerable groups, with law school students (undergraduate, master, doctoral) and teachers in colleges and universities as the main body. The legal aid system of colleges and universities in China began with the Center for the Protection of the Rights of the Weak from Wuhan University, which was established in 1992. Since then, many universities have set up their own legal aid organizations, for example, the Criminal Legal Aid Center of China University of political Science and Law, the Women’s Legal Research and Service Center of Peking University Law School, and so on. At present, there are more than 210 legal clinic organizations in colleges and universities across the country.
In addition, most law schools offer law clinic courses. In the law clinic course, law school students learn the law through real cases and independently complete the litigation agency of the case under the guidance of the instructor. At present, there are some problems in legal clinic education in China, such as insufficient practical attention, clinic funds, as well as teachers, unknown identity of student agency and defects in the evaluation mechanism, which need to be further studied and solved.
5.10.2. Grass-roots legal service workers
Grass-roots legal service workers are a special legal practice group formed to solve the serious problem of shortage of lawyer resources in specific areas. Grass-roots legal service workers do not have the qualification to practice as lawyers, but they often have legal knowledge and experience. In the 1980s, at the beginning of reform and opening up, the number of lawyers in most grass-roots jurisdictions was very small. In order to meet the demand for a large number of legal services arising from the reform of the rural economic system and coastal opening to the outside world at that time, grass-roots legal services appeared in some villages and towns along the southeast coast, and this trend gradually developed to the inlands and cities.
Grass-roots legal service workers have the advantages of being close to the grass-roots level, convenient for the masses, convenient services and low fees, their job is to mainly provide preliminary legal aid services to the people at grass-roots level. The service scope of grass-roots legal service workers is limited to civil and administrative litigation and cannot provide criminal legal aid services. In recent years, with the increase in the number of lawyers, the request for the abolition of grass-roots legal service workers is on the rise.
5.10.3. Social organizations
Women’s Federations, Disabled Persons’ federations, Trade Unions, Communist Youth League and other social organizations will also provide a certain number of legal aid services in the process of safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of corresponding groups. These organizations have a system from the central to the local level; They have their own workplaces, personnel and sources of funds. However, generally speaking, these community organizations often lack sufficient legal professionals who can handle legal cases, so the number of legal aid cases is generally small.
5.10.4. Non-governmental organizations
In China, relying on law firms, a number of public welfare organizations specializing in legal aid services have gradually emerged. These organizations provide legal aid services for specific types of cases through self-financing.
5.11. Peculiarities of legal aid
Since 2014, the Chinese government has put forward the reform requirement of “building a complete legal service system”. In 2019, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council issued the Opinions on Accelerating the Construction of the Public Legal Service system, requiring that “by 2022, basically form a modern public legal service system that covers urban and rural areas, is convenient and efficient, and is equal and inclusive. The system and mechanism of public legal services have been continuously improved, the functions of service platforms have been effectively brought into full play, service network facilities have been fully covered and interconnected, a standardized system of public legal services has been basically formed, and the equalization of basic public legal services in urban and rural areas has been continuously advanced. The quality of basic public legal services enjoyed by the people are improving day by day. ” “By 2035, a public legal service system will be basically formed in line with the goal of building of a law-based country, a law-based government and a law-based society.”
The basic tasks of the construction of the public legal service system are: to provide legal education and cultural activities about law for the whole people; to provide legal aid to the parties of financial difficulties and special cases; to carry out public welfare legal consultations, legal advice, defense, agency, notarization, legal expertizing and other legal services; to provide mediation activities to prevent and resolve civil disputes.
By the end of 2018, a total of 2,917 county-level public legal service centers and 39,380 township (street) public legal service workstations had been built, with coverage rates of 99.97% and 96.79% respectively. The goal of popularization of the physical platform has been basically achieved. The function of China’s legal service network has been continuously improved, and the public legal service hotline 12,348 covers the whole country. 650,000 villages (residential areas) across the country are equipped with legal advisers, with a coverage rate of 99.9%. Generally speaking, with the leadership by justice administrative organs, the participation of all social departments, and with the three major platforms of public legal service entities, hotlines and networks as carriers, a public legal service system composed of law firms, legal aid centers, notarization offices, judicial expertise institutions, arbitration institutions, judicial offices, people’s mediation committees and other professional legal service institutions, covering urban and rural areas, has been initially formed.
However, at present, the development of public legal services in the eastern and western regions is still very uneven, the northwest region is lack of legal resources, and its financial guarantee is not sufficient. Therefore, the construction of public legal services should continue to focus on the equalization, diversification and specialization of public legal services, the construction of foreign-related public legal services, the construction of evaluation mechanism and security system, and so on, in order to offer high-quality public legal services to all.
6. COSTS OF RESOLVING DISPUTES WITHIN THE FORMAL JUDICIAL MACHINERY
6.1 Overview of judicial costs for litigants
In criminal cases, individual parties (including criminal suspects, defendants, victims and private prosecutors) shall not be charged any fees. However, if a party hires a lawyer or applies for identification and evaluation, he or she needs to bear the corresponding fees.
In civil cases and administrative cases, in addition to the fees arising from hiring a lawyer and applying for identification and evaluation, the plaintiff also needs to pay certain court fees to the people’s court. The court fees that the parties shall pay to the people’s court include: (i) the fee for accepting the action; (ii) the application fee; and (iii) the transportation expenses, accommodation expenses, living expenses and allowance for missing work incurred by witnesses, identification or evaluation experts, translators and adjusters appearing in court on the day appointed by the people’s court.
Whether the procedure of first instance or the procedure of appeal it is, the parties need to bear the corresponding attorney’s fee and court fees.
In principle, the court fees shall be borne by the losing party. But the winning party has no right to go to the other party to bear its own attorney’s fees.
The legal provisions concerning court fees are mainly stipulated by Measures for the Payment of Court Fees.
6.2. Exemption from judicial costs
6.2.1. The eligibility criteria for exemption from judicial costs
In accordance with Chapter 6 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, the state shall provide judicial succor for a party having genuine difficulty in paying court costs. Where a party has genuine difficulty in paying court costs, the aforesaid party may, in accordance with these Measures, apply to the people’s court concerned for judicial succor, i.e. the deferment, reduction or exemption of court costs. Judicial succor on judicial cost includes exemption, reduction and deferment.
- Exemption of court costs. In accordance with Article 45 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, where a party applies for judicial succor, the people’s court concerned shall grant an exemption of court costs, if: the party is a disable person and has no regular source of income; the case involves a claim for payment of maintenance for parents, spouse, children, or pension for the disabled or the family of a decedent; the party is covered by the system foe ensuring a minimum standard of living or the system of regular relief foe especially poor rural residents, or is a rural resident enjoying the five guarantees, or receive unemployment insurance benefits, and has no other source of income; the party, or a close relative of the party, claims for damages or compensation because the legal rights or interests of the party are damaged as a result of the act of justice and courage or act aiming at protecting the public interest; or the party falls into any other circumstances that require an exemption of court costs. Only natural persons are subject to the exemption of court costs.
- Reduction of court costs. In accordance with Article 46 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, where a party applies for judicial succor, the people’s court concerned shall grant a reduction of court costs, if: the party lives in hardship and receives social relief allowances, or has difficulty in continuing the household production or operation, due to any natural disaster or any other force majeure; the party is a person who enjoys the government’s special care and preferential treatment or arrangements; the party is a social welfare institution or relief management station; or the party falls into any other circumstances that require a reduction of court costs. Where a people’s court approves a reduction of court costs, the reduction rate shall be at least 30%.
- Deferment of court costs. In accordance with Article 47 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, where a party applies for judicial succor, the people’s court concerned shall grant a deferment of court costs, if: the party claims for social insurance benefits or financial compensation; the party claims for compensation as a victim of a maritime, traffic, medical, work related or product quality accident or any other personal injury; the party enjoys legal aid provided by a relevant institute; or the party falls into any other circumstances that require a deferment of court costs.
6.2.2. The process for applying for exemption from judicial costs
A. Apply for judicial succor
In accordance with Article 48 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, to apply for judicial succor, a party shall, when bringing an action or filing an appeal, submit a written application, materials certifying the genuine financial difficulties thereof and other relevant certifying materials. A party who applies for an exemption or reduction of court costs on the grounds of financial difficulties or claims for basic living costs shall in addition provide a document certifying that the financial conditions of the party and the family thereof are regarded as being financially difficult in accordance with the standards set out by the local department of civil affairs or labor and social security.
B. The rights of the parties
In accordance with Article 45, Article 46 and Article 47 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, a people’s court shall make a decision on whether granting deferment, reduction and exemption or not. Where a people’s court disapproves an application for judicial succor, it shall give the party the reason therefore in writing and the appellant has no rights to institute an appeal on it.
After the conclusion of the litigation, there is no need for the parties to reimburse the court costs that have been exempted and reduced in accordance with the laws.
6.2.3. The losing party shall bear the court costs in principle.
In accordance with Article 29 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, court costs shall be borne by the party who loses the case, unless the party who wins the case volunteers to pay the costs. In a case where each party thereto partially loses the case, the people’s court concerned shall, in light of the specific conditions of the case, determine the amount of court costs to be borne by each party respectively. Where the parties to a joint action lose the case, the people’s court concerned shall, based on their respective interest in the objection of action determine the amount of court costs to be borne by each of them.
In a case where an agreement is reached through conciliation by a people’s court, the bearing of court costs shall be determined by the parties to the case through consultation; if the consultation fails, the bearing of court shall be determined by the people’s court concerned. The bearing of court costs in a divorce case shall be determined by the parties thereto through consultation; if the consultation fails, the bearing of court costs shall be determined by the people’s court concerned.
6.2.4. Evaluation on court costs
In China, the court cost is not high thus accounts for a small proportion of the whole cost that a party has to pay. In addition, the state authorities provide judicial succor for a party having genuine difficulty in paying court costs. Therefore, court costs may not influence the right to access to justice of individuals.
6.3. Mechanisms to reduce costs by variations to courts and procedures
6.3.1. Summary Procedure
In civil cases and administrative cases, procedure at first instance includes common procedure and summary procedure. The trial procedure of summary procedure is relatively simple and takes less time (Chapter 13 of Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China). The acceptance fee in a case where the summary procedure is followed shall be paid by half of the prescribed rates (Article 16 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees).
Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China (2017 Amendment) also added provisions on small claims procedure (Article 162). First instances shall be the final instance for small claims cases.
6.3.2. Other mechanisms for reducing court costs
The current legal system encourages parties to deal with cases through mediation, reconciliation and joint trial. In accordance with Article 15 of Measures for the Payment of Court Fees, where a case is settled through conciliation or withdraw of suit upon application by the party concerned, the acceptance fee shall be paid by half of the prescribed rates. In accordance with Article 18 of these measures, where a defendant files a counterclaim or a third party having an independent claim files a claim related to the current case, and the people’s court concerned decides to consolidate the trials, the acceptance fee shall be paid by half of the prescribed rates respectively.
There is no special court that does not require parties to pay court costs in China.
7. THE PROTECTION OF DIFFUSE AND COLLECTIVE RIGHTS
7.1. Overview of legislative regulations for collective rights
7.1.1. Public interest litigation system
With regard to collective right protection system, in addition to traditional class action, Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China (2017 Amendment) established public interest litigation system as well. In accordance with Article 55 of Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, “for conduct that pollutes environment, infringes upon the lawful rights and interests of vast consumers or otherwise damages the public interest, an authority or relevant organization as prescribed by law may institute an action in a people’s court.”
Environmental Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (Revised in 2014) and Interpretation of the Supreme people’s Court involving certain issues concerning the Application of Law to the trial of Environmental Civil Public interest Litigation casesfurther defined the following “social organization” shall have the right to initiate public interest litigation: the determined purposes and main business of social groups, private non-enterprise units and social organizations such as foundation registered by civil affairs departments of the people’s governments at or above the level of district-constituted municipalities are to maintain social public interest and they specialize in environmental protection public welfare activities for five consecutive years.
In addition, in the course of performing its duties, where the people’s Procuratorate has found acts that damage the ecological environment and the protection of resources, infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of consumers in the field of food and drug safety, it may also institute an action in a people’s court if there is no authority or organization specified in the preceding paragraph or the authority or organization specified in the preceding paragraph does not institute an action. If an action is instituted by the authority or organization specified in the preceding paragraph, the people’s procuratorate may support the prosecution.
7.1.2. Class action system
In civil actions, class action system is mainly in the form of joint action and representative action.
- Joint action system. In accordance with Article 55 of Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, “A joint action means that one side or both sides of a civil action consist of two or more persons, the subject matter of action for each party is same or is of the same kind and the people’s court deems that the disputes of all the parties may be tried concurrently, to which all the parties agree. Where the parties on one side of a joint action have common rights and obligations regarding the subject matter of action, the litigation conduct of any of such parties shall bind the rest of such parties if the conduct is recognized by the rest of such parties; or where the parties on one side of a joint action have no common rights and obligations regarding the subject matter of action, the litigation conduct of any of such parties shall not bind the rest of such parties.”
- Representative action system. In accordance with Article 53 and Article 54 of Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, representative action system is a special type of joint action. Where the parties on one side of a joint action is numerous, such parties may recommend a representative or representatives to participate in the action.
7.2. The functions of legal aid agencies or legal aid providers
In accordance with the provisions of the current public interest litigation system, Chinese legal aid agencies do not have the qualification to bring public interest litigation. Where a plaintiff is qualified to bring public interest litigation, a legal aid agency shall offer legal aid services to him or her.
The current laws and regulations do not prohibit legal aid agencies from providing legal aid services for plaintiffs and defendants in joint action and representative action. However, there is no incentive to encourage lawyers or legal aid agencies to actively participate in such cases.
There is no special official statistic related to lawyers that participated in joint actions and representative actions.
7.2.1. The adequacy and value of present policies
With regard to collective right protection system, civil procedure has established relatively perfect mechanism of security in litigation based on joint action system. In recent years, public interest litigation system has made giant progress in protecting the common interests of the public (non-specific groups).
8. PROFESSIONAL LEGAL ETHICS
In China’s legal professional community, judges, prosecutors and lawyers have their own professional ethics and disciplinary organizations. The following is a brief introduction to the professional ethics of the Chinese legal profession.
8.1. Lawyers’ ethics
National laws and regulations regulating lawyers’ professional ethics mainly include: the Lawyers Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Statute of All-China Lawyers’ Association, the Code of Conducts for Lawyers (for Trial Implementation), and the Rules on Punishment of Violations by Lawyers Association Members. Among them, the Code of Conducts for Lawyers (for Trial Implementation) is the norms for judging lawyers’ practice and the specific code of conduct for lawyers’ self-regulation. In addition, local bar associations also formulate their own “Lawyers Practice Standards” and “Disciplinary Rules for Lawyer Violations“.
In judicial practice, lawyers’ improper behaviors are mainly manifested in the following aspects: making false promises to clients, charging fees without permission, false lawsuits, meeting criminal suspects and defendants in violation of regulations, etc. Taking the Beijing Lawyers Association as an example，from 2015 to 2018, the relevant data of lawyers who were punished by the Association are shown in the following figure:
Chart 14. Classification of violations punished from 2015 to 2018
Ⅰ：Conflict of interest behavior
Ⅲ：The act of divulging secrets or privacy
Ⅳ：Illegal collection of cases and charges
Ⅵ：Obstruction of Justice
Ⅶ：The act of influencing the handling of a case according to law in an improper way
Ⅷ：Violation of judicial administration or industry management
Ⅹ：Violation of lawyer’s professional ethics and damage of lawyer’s professional image
8.2. Professional legal ethics education
In 2018, the Ministry of Education issued and implemented the “National Standards for Teaching Quality of Law Majors”. which explicitly requires universities across the country to include the “legal professional ethics” course in one of the core law school programs, and proposes that all universities offering law major must set up legal professional ethics courses to law major students. In terms of curriculum content, teachers will not only teach students the code of professional conduct in legal professional ethics classes, but also guide them to discuss classic cases and debate dilemma propositions. As for teaching methods, there are great differences among different schools: some schools give priority to lecture while others pay attention to seminar. In some schools, teachers will combine the legal clinic curriculum with real cases to cultivate students’ legal professional ethics and awareness.
Legal professional ethics is one of the basic contents of the national unified legal profession qualification examination. In the examination, the case analysis is usually adopted to examine the students. General speaking，to require law students to make any kind of pledge to uphold legal and social values either upon entry to, or graduation from, law school is not quite common. Although some top law schools like China University of Political Science and Law do have this kind requirement. Legal ethics is not mandatory post qualification in continuing professional development.
8.3. The lawyers’ admission ceremony
In 2018, the Ninth National Bar Association adopted the Lawyer Oath Rules. According to this rule, all practicing lawyers who have reapplied or obtained for a lawyer’s practice certificate for the first time shall take a lawyer’s oath. The lawyers’ admission ceremony is organized and carried out by the city-level bar association or the provincial bar association, and the president or vice-president of the bar association serves as the person taking the oath.
The oath of the lawyer is: “I am a lawyer of the people’s Republic of China, I pledged that I am loyal to the constitution, loyal to the motherland, loyal to the people, I safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the parties, safeguard the correct implementation of the law, safeguard social fairness and justice, fulfill my duties diligently and professionally, and strive hard to build a socialist country ruled by law.”
During this rite of passage, they commit to be true to the constitution, to the country and to the people, uphold the the legitimate rights and interests of the parties, and safeguard social fairness and justice.
8.4. Lawyers participate in legislative activities
In our country, lawyers can participate in national legislative activities or influence the formation of major policies by serving as representatives of people’s congresses at all levels, members of political consultative committees and government legal advisers.For example, in the list of deputies to the 13th National People’s Congress and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, 22 lawyers were elected as deputies to the National People’s Congress and 17 lawyers were elected as members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. In judicial practice, social lawyers also serve as legal advisers to various government departments.
Practice shows that lawyers play an important role in safeguarding social fairness and justice and upholding the legitimate interests of vulnerable groups in the process of legislative activities or the formation of relevant policies. For example, in all previous amendments to the criminal procedure law, lawyers tend to be more inclined to promote due process reform of laws, such as prohibiting torture and excluding illegal evidence. Besides，the proposal to enact a legal aid law was also put forward by lawyers’ representatives.
8.5. The interrelationship between professional legal ethics and pro bono
In theory, legal professional ethics education will help cultivate lawyers’ pro bono spirit. However, in judicial practice, there seems to be no inevitable causal relationship between the two.
Regarding lawyers’ pro bono legal service activities, the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee launched the “Lawyers Service Group with one heart” in 2000, the Ministry of Justice organized the “1+1” legal aid volunteer action in 2009, and launched the the “Tibet Assistance Lawyers Service Group” in 2019. The above-mentioned pro bono legal service activities have gradually become the norm and have certain popularity and influence. In addition, in October 2019, the Ministry of Justice issued Opinions on Promoting Lawyers’ Participation in Pro Bono Legal Services, advocating that each lawyer should participate in pro bono legal services for not less than 50 hours per year or handle at least 2 legal aid cases. Moreover, lawyers are encouraged to provide pro bono legal services in underdeveloped areas and areas where lawyers are scare resources.
Relevant information and materials on pro bono legal services can be found in Part 5 of this report.
8.6. Legal professional ethics regulation institutions and education methods
The lawyers’ association is a self-discipline organization of lawyers. All-china lawyers’ association is a national lawyer’s self-discipline organization, which aims at strengthening professional identity and legal ethics of lawyers in China. Article 46 of the Lawyers Law of the People’s Republic of China stipulates that lawyers’ associations shall perform the following duties: (i) ensuring that lawyers practise according to law and safeguarding the legal rights and interests of lawyers; (ii) summarizing and exchanging lawyers’ working experience; (iii) formulating professional regulations and rules of punishment; (iv) organizing professional training for lawyers, professional ethics and discipline education, and examining lawyers’ practice activities; (v) organizing and managing the internship of the lawyers applying for practicing, and examining the interns; (vi) rewarding and punishing lawyers and law firms; (vii) accepting complaints or reports against lawyers, mediating disputes arising from lawyers’ practice, and accepting lawyers’ complaints; (viii) other duties stipulated by laws, administrative regulations, rules and the articles of association of the bar association. The professional regulations and rules of punishment formulated by lawyers’ associations shall not contravene relevant laws, administrative regulations or rules.
Lawyers must abide by professional regulations in their practice. In order to improve the professional ethics of lawyers, China’s judicial administrative organs and lawyers’ associations have always regarded strengthening the training of lawyers as a long-term strategic task. Judicial administrative organs and lawyers’ associations at all levels are responsible for the division of responsibilities. The Ministry of Justice and the judicial departments (bureaus) of provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) train the heads of judicial administrative organs, the presidents of lawyers’ associations, core lawyers and party members’ lawyers. The Ministry of Justice or the All-China Lawyers’ Association organizes nationwide training for lawyers. Provincial and municipal lawyers’ associations organize and implement the training for lawyers in their own regions. Law firms are responsible for the training for lawyers in their own institutions. At the same time, they urge lawyers in their own institutions to participate in the training organized by judicial administrative organs or lawyers’ associations.
8.7. Global efforts to govern lawyers’ behavior
All-china lawyers association joined the International Bar Association in 1987 and the Lawyers Associated Worldwide in 1990. From August 27 to September 7, 1990, China sent representatives to the 8th United Nations Congress on the Criminal Prevention and Criminal Treatment, at which the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers were adopted. Our country has played an important role in the formulation of basic principles aimed at assisting member States in promoting and ensuring lawyers to play their proper roles.
9. TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE
9.1. General situation regarding access to technology
A survey shows that China’s smartphone coverage rate is about 68%. Internet technology has been widely applied to various fields of social life, such as online shopping, online education, online medical treatment, etc. By June 2019, China’s Internet population had reached 854 million. At present, the proportion of broadband connections in administrative villages in China has exceeded 96%, and the coverage rate of broadband connections in poor villages has reached 86%. Generally speaking, most netizens can obtain professional legal knowledge and seek legal help through the Internet.
9.2. Legal professionals’ use of technology in legal practice
Generally speaking, legal practitioners are proficient in Internet technology, such as skilled use of office software, communication with parties through email or SMS. In addition, the wide application of WeChat, a social software, has greatly shortened the distance between lawyers and clients and made contact more convenient.
Most legal practitioners, particularly those concerned with low income clients, also use technology for business purposes in their average life. It is very common for legal service providers including the NGOs to use APPs based on internet technology in their work. For example, law firms use face recognition technology to check on work attendance of the lawyers, while lawyers use remote video software to communicate with clients, and use office software to scan and store files. Of course, traditional communication tools (such as telephone, SMS, email, etc.) are still in use, but the frequency of their use has been greatly reduced.
In legal practice, based on the smart phone and computer, the internet technology tools has been used in all areas, including but not limited to assist in the referral of people to appropriate provision or to identify their eligibility for services, to empower and help self-represented litigants to take their own cases through government-led online initiatives or services set up by legal aid providers, to assist in the delivery of pro bono services by private legal practitioners, to support for paralegals or other workers in remote locations away from their offices, to campaigning and advocacy through social media, like Tik Tok, WeChat, Microblog, etc.
9.3. Legal services online
In May 2018, China’s Legal Services of China (http://www.12348.gov.cn) officially provided public legal services to the public. China’s legal service network is called “legal Taobao” and “close and intimate legal advisor to the masses”. Through this website, netizens can invite lawyers, apply for notarization, seek legal aid, find mediators for mediation, request appraisers for judicial authentication, and submit arbitration requests. In addition, the website can also provide administrative law enforcement services, help netizens to learn legal knowledge and inquire about cases，etc.
The parties concerned can conduct legal consultation through 12348 hotline. In addition, the parties concerned can also conduct legal consultation and apply for legal aid through the China Legal Service Network (12348 Legal website), or seek face-to-face legal aid services according to the contact information provided by various legal aid centers on the network platform.
The China Legal Service Network (12348 Legal website) has an online legal consultation service platform. The platform is divided into three sections: “intelligent legal consultation”, “message consultation” and ” question-answer consultation”. First of all, the parties can fill in the consultation questions in the form online, and the staff in the “intelligent legal consultation” section will issue professional legal consultation opinions online according to the relevant information filled in by the parties to provide reference for the parties. Secondly, the parties can fill in the questions they want to consult in the “message consultation” section. The above questions are answered by the authoritative star lawyer team in China, and legal experts will comment on the answers and provide adoption of opinions. Finally, the parties concerned can also learn the legal knowledge compiled by legal experts and the usage of the law through the “knowledge question and answer consultation” section.
In remote areas far away from cities and inconvenient transportation, Internet communication technology provides technical support for paralegals and other staff to contact clients and offices in a timely manner. In conclusion, the development and wide application of Internet technology have not only facilitated private legal service providers to provide public legal services, but also made it possible for poor people or special groups in marginal areas to obtain legal services.
At the same time, legal workers can also use social media to promote the rule of law. For example, they can analyze typical cases to explain legal knowledge and publicize the law.
Some legal services are funded by public welfare funds. In these projects, lawyers engaged in legal services generally receive financial support and work tasks through legal service project managers or institutions, rather than directly communicating with the fund owner. Besides，funders also strongly encourage practitioners to use technical means to expand the scope of services.
9.4. Online resolution system
9.4.1. Internet courts
The Chinese government encourages and actively explores online resolution mechanisms. China has set up Internet courts in Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou. By July 2019, Hangzhou Internet Court has accepted a total of 5,080 Internet financial dispute cases since its establishment in May 2017. Among them, the court accepted 67 disputes over financial loan contracts and 193 disputes over small loan contracts in 2017. In 2018, 3,304 disputes over financial loan contracts and 139 disputes over small loan contracts were accepted, accounting for 32.8% of the total number of court cases in the same period. From January to July 2019, 861 disputes over financial loan contracts and 516 disputes over small loan contracts were accepted, accounting for 22% of the total number of court cases received during the same period.
9.4.2. Construction of smart courts
Courts at all levels actively use modern artificial intelligence to conduct judicial trials, provide litigation services and administer justice. In the end, the court succeeded in implementing online business management, legal disclosure of handling procedures and all-round intelligent services, thus promoting the in-depth integration of modern science and technology as well as judicial work. In daily trial activities, the whole process of trial activities is networked, electronic files are generated synchronously with case judgments, judgment documents are transmitted to the internet, relevant laws are automatically presented to readers of the documents, and big data is used for analysis and sentencing. The above-mentioned technical means not only facilitate the masses, but also improve the judicial efficiency.
In addition, the online court trial system is also being implemented. The parties can participate in the court trial through the Internet in their own homes or offices. In the court trial process, the evidence presentation, exchange and cross-examination process of the parties can be instantly presented through the Internet. This not only shortens the time for handling cases, but also realizes the purpose of providing more services with technologies and making the masses run less.
9.4.3. Internet online rights protection mechanism
The online rights protection mechanism mainly deals with network infringement, such as malicious rumors and slander, personal attacks, infringement of intellectual property rights and other cases. The operation process of the mechanism is as follows: Internet communities first set up self-discipline organizations for netizens , such as “community committees”. First, the party concerned reported and applied for the establishment of the file, and then the file was systematically transferred to several community members who knew more about the field for adjudication. During this period, both the informer and the accused have the right to provide evidence and reply online. Finally, the community committee will make a “judgment” after making a comprehensive judgment on the dispute. Then the system will delete the infringing contents, reduce the credit points of the accused, prohibit the accused from speaking for a period of time, or seal the defendant’s account number used for infringement according to the judgment result.
9.4.4. Online dispute resolution is voluntary
Whether to use the online dispute resolution mechanism depends on the choice of the parties. For parties with weak litigation ability, if they meet the conditions, they can apply for legal aid according to relevant legal provisions. (See Part 5 of the report for details).
9.5. China’s experience in successful use of technology to provide legal services
Applying for legal aid online and obtaining free legal advice through the internet provide great convenience for the parties concerned because they can obtain legal aid without leaving home.
The application of Internet courts and smart courts improves the efficiency of judicial work and create convenient conditions for people to have more convenient access to justice.
Online rights protection mechanism allows netizens not to have to pay any actual expenses for the protection of rights. The resolution of disputes generally takes only one or two days. The process of “judging” does not require the parties concerned to reveal their real identities, nor does it require sanctions beyond the network. It really achieves “online resolution of online disputes”. Judging from Sina Weibo and Xianyu’s “small courts”, which currently operate the mechanism, the effect is quite obvious.
10. UNMET LEGAL NEEDS
10.1. Needs assessment study
In China, neither the government nor the academia has conducted a nationwide needs assessment study. However, in some areas, the administrative organs of justice have conducted regional legal needs assessments of special groups in according to the specific local practice. For example, the Nantong Legal Aid Center in Jiangsu Province has conducted legal needs assessments of women, the disabled, people in custody and people involved in litigation in communities respectively. Through assessments, the center recognized the special needs of these groups. And then, oriented by the needs, the center rationally allocated legal aid resources, optimized and innovated legal aid modes, and achieved accurate input and accurate service. In addition, the legal aid center has developed a legal needs assessment system for Nantong Municipality based on its experience from the assessment work. Another example is in Rugao Municipality, Jiangsu Province, which launched a special legal aid campaign to assess the legal needs of recipients involved in criminal cases. Through understanding the needs of specific groups for legal aid and realizing the current situation, effects and existing problems of providing legal aid to specific groups, relevant department provided suggestions for improving the legal aid mechanism, improved the legal aid service mode, and extended the aid service period to the end of legal aid cases. In view of the relatively intensive violation of laws by enterprises in some labor dispute cases, suggestions are made on how enterprises can legally employ workers to strengthen their legal risk prevention and accurate services are provide based on the needs of enterprises.
10.2. Legal aid services
Around China, people’s governments at the county level have all set up legal aid centers. Therefore, legal aid services are available in any jurisdiction of China. However, in north-west China (such as Xinjiang, Qinghai and Ningxia) and minority areas (such as Tibet and Inner Mongolia), the demand for legal aid services of the local people cannot be well met because of underdeveloped economy, insufficient investment in legal aid funds, and the shortage of lawyers who are familiar with local languages.
10.3. Enforcement of national laws
In China, there are no the below areas: areas reserved for indigenous or aboriginal peoples where only the primary rules of the tribe apply; regions occupied by armed militias where state forces are prevented from entering; urban or rural areas occupied by drug dealers or criminal organizations where state forces are prevented from entering, etc.
Generally speaking, the national laws would be enforced all over the county. However, in terms of the legal aid field, provinces and other regions with legislative powers have the right to expand the scope of legal aid cases by making local laws and to cover more people by raising the standard of economic difficulties.
11. PUBLIC LEGAL EDUCATION
11.1 Public legal education for ordinary citizens
Since the reform and opening up in 1979, the Chinese government has attached great importance to public legal education. In November 1985, the Central Party and State Council approved and forwarded the Five Year Plan on Basically Raising Public Awareness of the Law made by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee and the Ministry of Justice. The same month, the 13th Session of the 6th NPC Standing Committee made a Resolution on Basically Raising Awareness of the Law among Citizens (hereinafter referred as “Resolution”). Since the adoption of the first “five-year plan for legal publicity and education” in 1986, on the basis of the Resolution of the NPC Standing Committee, China has launched nationwide education to popularize legal knowledge in an organized, planned way and with steady steps. In 2001, the Chinese government designated the effective date of the current Constitution (December 4) as an annual national legal publicity day.
The period of the seventh “five-year plan for legal publicity and education” is from 2016 to 2020. According to the Resolution on the implementation of the Seventh Five-Year Plan for Legal Publicity and Education (April, 2016), “All citizens who have the ability to receive education must receive legal publicity and education”. And key points are as follows. Firstly, “legal publicity and education shall be strengthened in rural areas and ethnic minority areas”. Secondly, “the system for state functionaries to learn and use laws shall be improved, and legal education shall be included in general plans for cadre education and training……it is an important part to assess leading groups and leaders whether they respect, study, abide by, and apply laws”. Thirdly, “the legal education shall be included in the national education system……the construction of the practice bases of legal education for juveniles shall be strengthened to to make juveniles raise awareness of laws. 
In legal publicity, it is required to give full play to the role of newspapers, radio, television and new media in popularizing the law, and to promote the “internet plus legal publicity and education” behavior. The system for judges, prosecutors, administrative law enforcement officers and lawyers to interpret laws by cases should be established. Vivid and intuitive legal publicity and education should be implemented with full use of typical cases and in combination with social hot spots. The construction of volunteer team for legal publicity and education should be strengthened. More activities of introducing laws into government agencies, villages, communities, schools, enterprises and units are required.
11.2. Legal education included in the school education curriculum
Based on the Resolution on the implementation of the Seventh Five-Year Plan for Legal Publicity and Education (April, 2016) made by the NPC Standing Committee, the legal education has been included in the national education system. From primary education to higher education, it is required to set up courses about legal knowledge. At primary schools, students should study the course “Morality and Law”. At high schools, students should study the course “Legal Education for Juveniles”. In universities, non-law major students should learn the course “Basic Theory of Law”.
According to the Outline of Legal Education for Juveniles, at the stage of compulsory education for students in primary and high schools, legal education is required to focus on basic rules of conduct and legal knowledge, which helps students cultivate the awareness of the law and the habit of respecting and abiding by the law. In the lower grades of primary schools (Grades 1-2), students should recognize the national symbols, initially establish the concepts of the state, nationality and citizen, and initially establish a legal understanding of family relations. In the senior grade of primary school (Grade 3-6), students should have a preliminary understanding of the legal status and authority of the Constitution, the basic rights and obligations of citizens and certain procedures to be followed in the formulation of rules. In addition, they should learn some common illegal and criminal behaviors, including their harms and legal responsibilities. In the stage of higher education, for non-law major students, according to the purpose of legal education in that stage, the basic connotation of the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics is introduced, and the basic legal principles in that legal system, important and commonly used legal concepts and legal norms in civil, criminal and administrative laws are also introduced. In addition, universities and colleges should increase students’ legal practice and improve their awareness and ability to use legal knowledge to analyze and solve practical problems.
In teaching practice, most primary and high schools invite judges, prosecutors or lawyers to serve as vice-principals to provide lively legal classes for students.
11.3. Likelihood that a non-legally trained member of the public could adequately read and comprehend the laws
According to data, the illiteracy rate in China was less than 5% in 2010. Since 2010, the primary school enrollment rate of school-age children has remained above 99.7%, and the secondary school enrollment rate has remained at 100%. With the continuous improvement of level of education, the vast majority of Chinese, even without special legal training, are able to search for relevant laws and regulations free of charge through the Internet and other ways. Moreover, after more than 30 years of legal publicity and education, most Chinese have the basic legal knowledge and the ability to understand relevant legal provisions.
11.4. Public awareness campaigns on the right to legal aid and how to access legal aid services
In legal publicity and education, the Ministry of Justice and judicial administrative departments at all levels attach great importance to the publicity of legal aid knowledge. In judicial practice, legal aid centers also regularly organize legal aid publicity activities.
Legal aid publicity activities mainly include three types of contents. The first one is to provide the public with basic legal knowledge, that is, legal aid publicity services based on basic legal knowledge such as Constitution, Criminal Law and Civil Law. The second one is to provide the legal knowledge closely related to the production and life of the public, mainly the people in difficulty. That is, in combination with the most concerned, direct problems and realistic interests of the people, and in view of the different concerns of different groups, legal aid publicity services are provided about Labor Law, Law on the Protection of Consumer Rights and Interests, Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests, Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Disabled, Law on the Contracting of Rural Land and so on. The third one is to provide legal aid publicity services about how to access legal aid services for citizens, especially vulnerable groups, mainly including the scope, conditions and access of legal relief and legal aid.
For example, in 2019, in order to ensure the legal aid services for migrant workers and the disabled, the Ministry of Justice organized a nationwide survey on their legal aid needs, produced and distributed public legal education products and publicity manuals for them, and jointly filmed public welfare programs and feature films on legal aid with CCTV to publicize typical experiences and practices in various places.
Most of the public are aware of legal aid and other legal support services. For the indigent, most of them are actively and voluntarily apply for legal aid if they need. According to statistics from the Legal Aid Department of the Public Legal Service Administration of the Ministry of Justice, the number of legal aid cases approved in 2018 increased by 11.2%, of which criminal legal aid cases increased by 62.7%, reflecting that citizens actively and voluntarily apply for legal aid.
12. GLOBAL EFFORTS ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE
12.1. International efforts and collaboration on Access to Justice
The establishment of China’s legal aid system began in the mid-1990s. In the development of China’s legal aid system, we have been learning the experience of legal aid systems from various countries in the world, especially the good practice in those developed countries. For example, the Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice translated and published the Selected Laws and Regulations on Legal Aid in Various Countries in 1999. At the same time, through cooperation with international organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Ford Foundation and the Canadian International Development Agency, we have gained strong theoretical support for the development of our legal aid system. Activites usually take in forms of international conference on legal aid or the launching of pilot projects.
The Chinese government attaches great importance to the cooperation with international organizations in terms of legal aid and actively participates in various international legal aid activities held by UNODC and the Internal Legal Aid Group (ILAG). For example, in 2012, Ministry of Commerce of PRC and the EU delegation signed a three-year China-EU access to justice programme in China, which is aimed at promoting information exchanges and enhancing cooperation between China and the EU in the field of legal aid and giving full play to the role of legal aid in promoting judicial justice and safeguarding social fairness and justice. As one of the results of the programme, China and the EU held legal aid policy dialogue in September 2014, September 2015 and September 2016 on the themes of “future direction of legal aid development”, “criminal legal aid” and “legal aid for groups with special needs” respectively, which played a positive role in promoting understanding and exchanges in the field of legal aid between China and the EU and deepening cooperation in this field.
The Chinese government has carried out a series of activities in cooperation with the UNODC. For example, in 2017, China dispatched representatives of the Ministry of Justice and legal aid experts to participate in the formulation of the Model Law on Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems. With the financial support of the Chinese government, the UNODC organized a group of experts to write and publish the UNODC Handbook on Ensuring Quality of Legal Aid Services in Criminal Justice Processes: Practical Guidelines and Promising Practices. In November 2019, the UNODC and the Ministry of Justice of PRC jointly held a “Training Course on Advancing the Quality of Legal Aid Services in Criminal Justice Processes for Southeast Asian Countries” in Jakarta, Indonesia.
12.2. Efforts and collaboration by NGOs on Access to Justice
Chinese non-governmental organizations have made many efforts and contributions on access to justice, especially for vulnerable groups. At present, there are mainly three types of social organizations participating in legal aid services. The first one includes legal aid organizations established by social organizations such as workers, youth, women, the elderly and the disabled. The second one includes legal aid organizations established by law schools, such as legal clinics and student volunteer organizations of legal aid. The third one includes non-governmental legal aid organizations, including law firms and so on.
Non-governmental legal aid organizations also continuously explore innovative modes of providing legal aid services, which plays a positive role in the development of legal aid. For example, with the support of UNDP and the All-China Lawyers’ Association, the Ministry of Justice has set up a Beijing legal aid office as a pilot in Beijing Zhicheng Law Firm and 20 legal aid stations across China to provide free legal aid to migrant workers. In 2016, the number of legal aid stations reached 33, and a total of RMB 423 million in wages and other compensation was recovered for migrant workers.
12.3. Steps being taken to articulate and elaborate Sustainable Development Goal 16.3
At the legislative level, in addition to the Legal Aid Law, China’s legislature established the duty lawyer system in the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Law in 2018 to ensure that all suspects and defendants without the assistance of defense lawyers can receive free legal advice and legal assistance. At the same time, through the pilot of full coverage of criminal defense, China has actively ensured that more criminal defendants have access to justice.
In terms of theoretical research and personnel training, the Ministry of Justice and China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) jointly established National Institute of Legal Aid, CUPL (NILA) in 2018. As China’s first think-tank research institution featuring legal aid research, NILA actively participates in legal aid legislation and promotes legal aid theoretical research. NILA also promotes international legal aid cooperation and exchanges, and actively learns from the experience of legal aid systems in various countries. In addition, NILA strengthens the training of legal aid personnel to cultivate reserve forces for the sustainable development of legal aid.
In terms of practical innovation, China’s legal aid agencies aim to build a modern public legal service system covering urban and rural areas, which is convenient and efficient, and is equally inclusive. With the website “legal services of China” as a platform, China actively uses modern scientific and technological means such as Internet and AI technology to promote innovation on the access to justice.
13.1. Evaluation of the state of access to justice
Over the past two decades, the legal aid system in China has developed from an infant to a comprehensive legal aid framework which covers each municipal jurisdiction in both urban and rural areas nationwidely. In practice, in order to meet the actual needs of the public, the government provided special funds to establish special legal aid projects specially for migrant workers, the elderly, the disabled, women, minors and other vulnerable groups. The policy-makers hope that the shortage of lawyer resource in Northwest China could be relieved through enacting lawyer public welfare projects ‘legal aid 1+1’. However, reviewing the development of legal aid in China in the past 20 years, there are still structural problems that only can be solved by fixing the existing legal system from the following perspectives.
Firstly, establish a proper and well-functioning legal aid management system. According to the existing law, the governments of each hierarchy in charge of the legal aid matters within its jurisdiction and they in charge of the organizational structure, personnel and funds. In recent years, although financial support for legal aid have been increased both in the central and provincial governments, the development of legal aid in local areas still depends heavily on the support of local governments. Therefore, in order to promote the development of the legal aid system in China, reform should be start from the management system, which means to clearly distinguish the central and local powers under the prerequisite of emphasizing the integration of criminal and civil legal aid.
To be more specific,
(i) In terms of the legal aid institutions, a central-governed legal aid institution should be established, and the central government should uniformly determine the responsibilities, personnel requirements, funds safeguard and other basic matters of legal aid institutions.
(ii) For the legal aid coverage, only the central government can decide the criminal cases which could enjoy legal aid service, in order to ensure its unity; civil legal aid matters can be authorized to local governments, which means that the general scope of civil legal aid shall be determined by national legislation, and the local government shall set the specific scope through local regulations.
(iii) For criminal legal aid cases and civil legal aid matters stipulated by legislation, the central government shall provide corresponding financial support according to the number of cases in the previous year. The civil legal aid matters set by local regulations shall be funded by local governments in line with the local social and economic development.
Secondly, given the fact that lawyer is the vital important element in carrying out legal aid services, the lack of legal aid lawyer team is a problem need to be solved in China. Moreover, due to the lack of effective incentive mechanism, most excellent lawyers are reluctant to provide legal aid services. Therefore, the key issue for further development is finding the incentives to attract high-quality lawyers to participate in legal aid services, which also directly related to the quality and credibility of legal aid.
Thirdly, solving problems of unbalanced legal aid resources from the national level. Along with the development of legal aid in China, there still exist the problem of wide gap between the eastern and western regions on economic development, therefore, the distribution of legal aid resources, such as people, finance, and other materials, also shows great differences. Therefore, how to balance those differences through national legislation is an urgent issue for the legal aid in China.
13.2. Good practice and lessons
13.2.1. Good Practices
Considering the development of legal aid in China, especially recent years, some good practices have been generated. The key points are as follows:
- Cooperate closely with law schools to integrate the awareness of legal aid with legal education. For law schools, they should be encouraged to establish specialized legal aid research institutions to provide theoretical support for the development of legal aid system from the perspective of theoretical research. Law schools should also be encouraged to offer legal aid courses to students to build their sense of legal aid. For law school students, they should be encouraged to join in legal aid practice and provide them with institutional support at the same time, so as to devote themselves in legal aid services in their earlier career.
- Make full use of Internet technology and artificial intelligence technology to provide accessible, affordable, equitable, effective, credible and sustainable legal aid services to those who are in need of legal aid in remote areas.
- When constructing the legal aid framework, we must attach great importance to ‘providers’. For the sustainable development of legal aid system, it is necessary to start with law education, cultivating students’ spirit of public legal service; then establish sufficient incentive mechanism to attract high-quality lawyers to deliver legal aid services; and provide better chances of career advancement for lawyers participating in legal aid service to encourage them to provide legal aid service with high quality.
- The practice of legal aid is inseparable from the support of the police, prosecutors and judges, as well as the bar association.
- The development of legal aid should in line with the economic development, and be timely adjusted according to the situation of social and economic development.
National Bureau of Statistic,”At the end of 2018, China’s total population was close to 1.4 billion and the demographic dividend still exists, see http://www.chinapaper.net/news/show-34314.html (final access on Feb. 14, 2020).
 UNDP, Human Development Indices and Indicators (2018)
 A brief History of the Poor population in China，see https://www.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_2998510 (final access on Feb. 14, 2020)
 More information, see http://www.nhc.gov.cn/guihuaxxs/s10748/201905/9b8d52727cf346049de8acce25ffcbd0.shtml (final access on Feb. 14, 2020)
Article 11 of Administrative Regulations for the Practice of Law by Lawyers: to apply for the lawyer’s practice certificate, following materials shall be submitted to the judicial administrative organs at municipality level or district (county) level in municipality directly under the Central Government: (1) an application; (2) a lawyer qualification certificate; (3) the materials issued by the Bar Association to prove pass of internship examination; (4) identity certificate; (5) the certificate issued by the law firm to agree to accept the applicant. When applying for a lawyer’s practice certificate, applicant shall truthfully fill in the registration form of application for lawyer’s practice certificate.
Article 12: to apply for part-time lawyer’s practice certificate, in addition to submitting relevant materials in accordance with the provisions of Article 11, the following materials shall also be submitted: (1) the materials that prove legal teaching and research experience in institutions of high learning and scientific research institutions; (2) the certificate of the employer agreeing to the applicant’s part-time lawyer practice.
 Article 10 of the Measures for the Administration of Partnership Law firms
 Ibid Article 11
 Article 25 of Regulation on Safeguarding the Right of Lawyers to Practice in Accordance with the Law ( by Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, Ministry of Justice, 16 September 2015): lawyers may, as necessary, apply to the People’s Court for bringing assistant lawyers to join trials. Assistant lawyers can only engage in relevant auxiliary work when participating in the trial, and shall not defend or express agency comments.
 Article 35 and 278 of the Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 12 of the Judges Law
 Article 13 of the Judges Law
 Paragraph 1, Article 19 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Paragraph 2, Article 19 and Article 308 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 11 and Article 15 of Supervision Law
 Article 82 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 2, Article 93 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 80 and Article 87 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 156 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 157-160 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 114 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 176 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 173 and Article 174 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 176 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 175 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Paragraph 1, Article 177 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Paragraph 2, Article 177 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 282 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 190 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 200 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 201 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 208 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 220 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 222 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 225 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 293 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 300 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 237 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 251 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 177 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 178 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 164 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 157 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 160 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 123 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 125 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 101 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 100 of Civil Procedure Law
 Article 101 of Administrative Litigation Law
 Opinions of the Supreme people’s Court on disclosing the Construction of the three platforms for Judicial publicity（SPC’s report〔2013〕No.13）
 Provisions of the Supreme people’s Court on several issues concerning the Registration of case of the people’s Court（SPC’s legal interpretation〔2015〕NO.8）
 Article 290 of Criminal Procedure Law
 Article 2 of Provisions involving certain issues concerning the trial of cases by Internet Courts（SPC’s legal interpretation〔2018〕No.16）
 The Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, Regulations of Legal Aid System, Article 5,
 General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council, Accelerating the Construction of the Public Legal Service System
Supervisory and Judicial Committee of the National People’s Congress, Report on the Results of Deliberation of Motions Submitted by Deputies to the First Session of the Thirteenth National people’s Congress, 22 October 2018.
Administrative institutions of legal aid refer to the internal or directly subordinate administrative institutions established by MOJ to supervise and manage the legal aid work.
 Ministry of Justice: Opinion on Promoting Lawyers’ Participation in Public Legal Services (24 October 2019).
 Ministry of Justice: Statistical Analysis of the work of lawyers and Grass-roots legal Services in 2018，seehttp://www.moj.gov.cn/government_public/content/2019-03/07/634_229827.html
The “1+1” China legal Aid Volunteer Initiative is initiated by the Ministry of Justice and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, and organizes a group of volunteer lawyers, college students or grass-roots legal service workers every year to serve for one year in non-lawyer counties and poor counties with shortage of lawyer resources in the central and western regions, so as to provide legal aid services to local people in financial difficulties.
 The exchange rate is based on 1 US dollar: 7.0334 RMB. The data come from the China legal Aid Yearbook, the legal Aid Network, and the legal aid press conference of the Ministry of Justice.
 Case-handling subsidies and expenses include subsidies and direct costs for handling legal aid cases, consulting subsidies, surrogate subsidies and other expenses that are directly used to provide legal aid to recipients.
It refers tothe staff members who perform public functions according to law, are incorporated into the administrative staff of the state, and are paid wages and benefits by the state finance.
A mechanism for the selection of staff of national and local institutions, focusing on the assessment of basic knowledge and writing skills of applicants.
 It means thestaffing recommendationsthe state creates to improve production conditions, promote social welfare, and meet the people’s needs of culture, education, health, etc. its funds are generally the money of public institutions from the State. Generally speaking, civil servants enjoy better benefits than staff of public institutions.
the examination mechanism for the staff of public institutions of the local government.
According to Article 43 of the Interpretation of the Supreme people’s Court on Several Issues Concerning the Implementation of theCriminal Procedure Lawof the people’s Republic of China, if the defendant does not entrust a defender, the people’s court may notify the legal aid institution to appoint a lawyer to defend him: (1) in joint crime cases, other defendants have entrusted defenders; (2) cases with significant social influence; (3) cases protested by the people’s procuratorate; (4) the conduct of the defendant may not constitute a crime; (5) other circumstances in which it is necessary to appoint a lawyer to provide a defence.
 Ministry of Justice: National Regulation on Criminal legal Aid (Feb., 2019).
The data come from the China legal Aid Yearbook, the press conference on legal aid work of the Ministry of Justice and the annual report of the Supreme people’s Court.
Opinions of the State Council and the Central military Commission on Further Strengthening the Legal Aid Work for Military Families (23 September 2014).
The data come from China legal Aid Yearbook, the press conference on legal aid work of the Ministry of Justice and the annual report of the Supreme people’s Court.
 Measures for the Payment of Court Fees by the State council (Decree No.481 of the State Council, December 19, 2006)
Interpretation of the Supreme people’s Court involving certain issues concerning the Application of Law to the trial of Environmental Civil Public interest Litigation cases（SPC’s legal interpretation〔2015〕NO.1）
 Basic Rules on Professional Ethics of Judges of the People’s Republic of China Issued by Supreme People’s Court（December 2010）、the Code of Conduct for Judges Issued by Supreme People’s Court（December 2010）
 Basic Rules on the Professional Ethics of Public Prosecutors of the People’s Republic of China Issued by Supreme people’s procuratorate（November 2016）
 Lawyers Law of the People’s Republic of China (2017)
 Articles of association of the all China lawyers association（2018）
 All China Lawyers Association, the Codes of Profession Conduct for Laweyers（2018）
 All China Lawyers Association, Disciplinary rules for members of the bar association（2017）
 39 Lawyers as the Thirteenth Session of National People’s Congress and the CPPCC National Committee, see http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2018-02-28/doc-ifyrzinh0363617.shtml (final read on Feb. 14, 2019)
 Article 46 of the Lawyers Law of the People’s Republic of China.
 United Nations congress on the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders, Basic principles on the role of lawyers, Aug. 27,1990.
 Ministry of industry and information technology: over 96% of the administrative villages have broadband access, and 86% of the poor villages have access to broadband，see http://news.cctv.com/2017/10/27/ARTIuo72HcTjTuvEIj4PAc2p171027.shtml (final access on Feb. 14, 2020)
 Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, National Office for the Popularization of Common Sense of Law, Outline of Legal Education for Young People (June 28, 2016).