The Chinese courts have an organized hierarchical structure according to the Organic Law of the People’s Courts that came into effect from1st January, 1980 and the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China of 1982. The China court structure comprises of four levels and the levels are stated below.
Supreme People’s Court (SPC)
This is the first level or the highest level of court. This Supreme Court is situated in Beijing. It is the court of the highest order in the last resort in the entire People’s Republic of China. This court is regarded as the superior appellate forum in China which supervises and governs the procedure of justice by all the special people courts and the local, subordinate courts. It is the court for the final decision for the whole of China except for the countries of Hongkong and Macau
- Conducting trial of the following cases: first-hearing cases placed with the SPC by laws and regulations and those the SPC deems within its jurisdiction;
- Giving approval to death sentence
- Supervising the trials by local people’s courts and special people’s courts at different levels
- Giving approvals to verdicts on crimes not specifically stipulated in the criminal law.
Local People’s Courts
The courts are at the local level and of the first instance. These courts handle all the local, civil, and criminal cases. The local people’s courts make up the remaining three levels of the China Court hierarchy. The remaining three levels of the court structure are:
- High People’s Courts: These courts are at the level of the autonomous regions, provinces and special municipalities.
- Intermediate People’s Courts: These courts are at the level of autonomous prefectures, municipalities and prefectures.
- Basic People’s Courts: These courts are at the level of towns, autonomous counties and municipal districts.
- The High People’s Courts and the Intermediate People’s Courts trial cases of the first instance over which they have jurisdiction and hear cases submitted by the lower courts or transferred from the higher courts.
- The Primary or Basic People’s Courts handle civil, economic and minor criminal cases that do not require trial
Courts of Special Jurisdiction (Special Courts)
The special courts in China or courts of Limited or special jurisdiction, are courts, which have the dominion on only certain types of cases such as family matters, bankruptcy, etc. These courts of limited authority, compared to those having general authority derive their powers from an issuing authority, such as statute or the Constitution. These special courts are of three types, such as:
- Military Court of China (military): A military court is a court of special jurisdiction in the People’s Republic of China that deals with matters of the Chinese military.
- Railway Transport Court of China (railroad transportation): This is another social court in China, which deals with the national railway system of China.
- Maritime Court of China (water transportation) and forestry: This court of special jurisdiction in the People’s Republic of China that handles matters of the waters, such as seas and oceans of China.
The court system in China coordinates by a hierarchical structure of prosecuting offices known as the people’s procuratorates and the highest office is that of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.