Supreme People's Court

The Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China (SPC; Chinese: 最高人民法院; pinyin: Zuìgāo Rénmín Fǎyuàn) is the highest court of the People's Republic of China. It hears appeals of cases from the high people's courts and is the trial court for cases about matters of national importance. The court also has a quasi-legislative power to issue judicial interpretations and adjudication rules on court procedure.[3]: 182 

Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China
Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó
Zuìgāo Rénmín Fǎyuàn
Supreme People's Court of P.R.China's badge.svg
Emblem of the People's Courts of the People's Republic of China
Established22 October 1949[1]
LocationBeijing, China
Coordinates39°54′10.7″N 116°24′18.9″E / 39.902972°N 116.405250°E / 39.902972; 116.405250Coordinates: 39°54′10.7″N 116°24′18.9″E / 39.902972°N 116.405250°E / 39.902972; 116.405250
Composition methodPresidential selection with National People's Congress approval
Authorized byConstitution of the People's Republic of China
Judge term length5 years
President and Chief Justice[2]
CurrentlyZhou Qiang
Since15 March 2013
Executive Vice President
CurrentlyHe Rong
Since10 April 2020
The main gate of the Supreme People's Court in Beijing.
The front facade of the Supreme People's Court in Beijing China.

According to the Chinese constitution, the Supreme People's Court is accountable to the National People's Congress, which prevents the court from functioning separately and independently of the governmental structure.[4]: 14  The court has about 400 judges and more than 600 administrative personnel.[4]: 16 

The court serves as the highest court for the People's Republic of China and also for cases investigated by the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong.[5] The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have separate judicial systems based on British common law traditions and Portuguese civil law traditions respectively, and are out of the jurisdiction of the Supreme People's Court.


The Supreme People's Court was established on 22 October 1949[6] and began operating in November 1950.[7]: 146  At least four members of the first court leadership did not come from a legal background, and most staff members came from the military.[7]: 146 

The functions of the court was first outlined in the Chinese constitution in its 1954 version, which said the court has the power of independent adjudication and is accountable to the National People's Congress.[8]: 76–77 

During the Cultural Revolution, the 1975 constitution removed the provision that said courts were to decide cases independently and required them to report to revolutionary committees.[8]: 77  Most staff members of the court were sent to the countryside, and the People's Liberation Army occupied the court from 1968 to 1973.[7]: 147 

Following the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, the Supreme People's Court began to focus on legal issues, especially those related to civil and commercial law, because of China's economic liberalization under new leader Deng Xiaoping.[7]: 147  The independent power of adjudicate cases returned to the constitution with the 1982 amendment, which explicitly states the courts' right of adjudication cannot be influenced by administrative organs, social organizations and individuals.[8]: 77 

In 2005, the Supreme People's Court announced its intent to "[take] back authority for death penalty approval" over concerns about "sentencing quality",[9] and the National People's Congress officially changed the Organic Law on the People's Courts to require all death sentences to be approved by the Supreme People's Court on 31 October 2006.[10] A 2008 report stated that since the new review process, the court has rejected 15 percent of the death sentences decided by lower courts.[11]

Since March 2013, the President of the Supreme People's Court and Grand Chief Justice has been Zhou Qiang.

In 2013, the court began a blacklist of debtors with roughly thirty-two-thousand names. The list has since been described a first step towards a national Social Credit System by state media.[12][13]

In 2015, the court began working with private companies on social credit. For example, Sesame Credit began deducting credit points from people who defaulted on court fines.[12]

On 1 January 2019, the Intellectual Property Tribunal of the Supreme People's Court was established to handle all second instance hearings from cases heard in the first instance by the Intellectual Property Courts.[14]



The Supreme People's Court exercises its original jurisdiction over cases placed with the court by laws and regulations and those the court deems within its jurisdiction. It also reviews appeals or protests against trial decisions or verdicts of high people's courts and special people's courts, as well as appeals against court judgments lodged by the Supreme People's Procuratorate according to trial supervision procedures. When the court has discovered errors in the rulings and verdicts of lower courts that are already enforced, it investigates or appoints a lower court to rehear the case.

The court also approves death sentences and suspended death sentences handed down by lower courts. It also approves verdicts on crimes not specifically stipulated in the criminal law.

Legal interpretationEdit

The court explains the application of laws in specific cases during a trial.[15] Further details about this were described by Zhou Qiang as:

The reply is a request for a specific case. Its legal binding force is limited to the case itself and does not have universal legal effect. In other cases, the judge cannot directly use the above reply as the basis for the judgment. For documents that have universal effectiveness and guide courts at all levels, the Supreme People's Court generally publishes it in the form of judicial interpretation and can make inquiries in newspapers and on the Internet.[16]

While the Chinese constitution does not state that courts have the power to review laws for their constitutionality (see constitutional review), the Supreme People's Court can request the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to evaluate whether an administrative rule, local regulation, autonomous regulation or separate regulation contravenes the constitution or a national law.[8]: 74  However, the Supreme People's Court has never made such request.[8]: 78 

Supervision of lower courtsEdit

The Supreme People's Court is also responsible for supervising the adjudication of lower courts and specialized courts.[8]: 71 


Divisions within the Supreme People's Court
  • Case-Filing Division
  • Criminal Divisions (5)
  • Civil Divisions (4)
  • Environment and Resources Division
  • Administrative Division
  • Judicial Supervision Division
Departments within the Supreme People's Court
  • State Compensation Division
  • Enforcement Department (Enforcement Command Center)
  • General Office
  • Political Department
  • Research office
  • Adjudication Management Office
  • Discipline and Supervision Department
  • International Cooperation Department
  • Judicial Administration and Equipment Management Department
  • Party-Related Affairs Department
  • Retirees'Affairs Department
  • Information Department
Circuit and other courts of the Supreme People's Court
  1. First Circuit (established in Shenzhen, Dec 2014)[17]
  2. Second Circuit (established in Shenyang, Dec 2014)[18]
  3. Third Circuit
  4. Fourth Circuit
  5. Fifth Circuit
  6. Sixth Circuit
  7. First International Commercial
  8. Second International Commercial
  9. Intellectual Property Court

President/Chief Justices and Vice Presidents of the CourtEdit

  1. 1949–1954: Supreme People's Court of the Central People's Government
  2. 1954–1959: Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China under the 1st National People's Congress
  3. 1959–1965: 2nd National People's Congress
  4. 1965–1975: 3rd National People's Congress
  5. 1975–1978: 4th National People's Congress
  6. 1978–1983: 5th National People's Congress
  7. 1983–1988: 6th National People's Congress
  8. 1988–1993: 7th National People's Congress
  9. 1993–1998: 8th National People's Congress
  10. 1998–2003: 9th National People's Congress
  11. 2003–2007: 10th National People's Congress
  12. 2008–2013: 11th National People's Congress
  13. 2013–2018: 12th National People's Congress
  14. 2018—present: 13th National People's Congress

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ About the Supreme People's Court Archived 1 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine (Chinese)
  2. ^ Judges Law of the People's Republic of China, Article 16: "Judges are divided into twelve grades. The President of the Supreme People's Court is the Chief Justice."
  3. ^ Chen, Albert Hung-yee (2011). An Introduction to the Legal System of the People's Republic of China (4th ed.). LexisNexis.
  4. ^ a b Qi, Ding (2019). The Power of the Supreme People's Court: Reconceptualizing Judicial Power in Contemporary China. Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxford: Routledge. ISBN 9780429199479.
  5. ^ "Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region". Article 56,  of 1 July 2020. National People's Congress.
  6. ^ "Zuigao Renmin Fayuan jianjie" 最高人民法院简介 [About the Supreme People's Court]. Supreme People's Court (in Simplified Chinese). Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d Finder, Susan (1993). "The Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China". Journal of Chinese Law. 7 (2): 145–224.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Han, Dayuan; Yu, Wenhao; Yang, Xiaomin; Chen, Guofei (2017). "Zhongguo Tese Shehui Zhuyi sifa zhidu de xianfa jichu" 中国特色社会主义司法制度的宪法基础 [Constitutional basis of the socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics]. In Chen, Guiming (ed.). Zhongguo Tese Shehui Zhuyi sifa zhidu yanjiu 中国特色社会主义司法制度研究 [A study of the socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics] (in Simplified Chinese). Beijing: Renmin University Press. pp. 23–143. ISBN 978-7-300-23913-2.
  9. ^ Dickie, Mure (27 October 2005). "China's top court to review all death sentences". Financial Times.
  10. ^ "China changes law to limit death sentence". China Daily. 31 October 2006. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008.
  11. ^ Bodeen, Christopher (10 April 2008). "China Hails Reform of Death Penalty". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 21 September 2008.
  12. ^ a b Chan, Tara Francis. "Debtors in China are placed on a blacklist that prohibits them from flying, buying train tickets, and staying at luxury hotels". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 5 November 2019. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  13. ^ Yang, Yuan. "China penalises 6.7m debtors with travel ban". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 24 July 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  14. ^ "China's New Supreme People's Court IP Tribunal". Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  15. ^ The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. The Supreme People's Court (SPC)
  16. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 April 2019. Retrieved 18 April 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "First Circuit Court of the Supreme People's Court established". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  18. ^ "最高法第二巡回法庭在沈阳揭牌 巡回辽吉黑三省(图)". Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 28 April 2015.

External linksEdit