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

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

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

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

Unit: case

The First Instance5,692,4345,698,705
The Second Instance438,313436,804
Adjudication Supervision98,76596,793


Table 2. Statistical Table of Classified Cases in 1999

Unit: case

Criminal Cases540,008539,335
Civil Cases3,519,2443,517,324
Economic Dispute Cases1,535,6131,543,287
Maritime Cases5,7365,964
Administrative Cases97,56998,759

Source: Law Yearbook of China: 2000

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