Laws of P.R.China

How To Find Laws of the People's Republic of China: A Research Guide with Selective Annotated Bibliographies - Created in Fall, 1998; updated in Fall, 2004

©2004, Wei Luo, J.D. & M.L.S., Director of Technical Services and Lecturer in Law, Washington University School of Law Library, Phone: 935-8045, E-mail: luo@law.wustl.edu

Table of Contents

Introduction

I. Sources of Chinese Law

A. Legislatures
B. Interpretation of Laws
C. Case Law

II. Primary Sources

A. Statutory Law
B. Case Law

III. Secondary Sources

A. Looseleaf Services
B. Periodicals in English
C. Periocials in Chinese
D. Periocial Indexes
E. Directories and Dictionaries

IV. Chinese Legal Resources on the Internet and How to View Chinese

V. A Strategy to Update Chinese Law

Introduction

This research guide is intended to help would-be researchers find the laws and regulations of the People's Republic of China. The following annotated bibliography covers the major sets of Chinese law collections and the secondary sources owned by the Washington University School of Law Library. Some Chinese legal resources on the Internet are also listed.

This guide focuses on materials published in English, but also includes some important sources published in Chinese. It should be noted, therefore, that there had been two major Chinese Romanization systems used in the United States. The first, called Pinyin, is the most popular among those studying Chinese, is recognized by the International Standards Organization and the Library of Congress as the standard for Chinese transliteration. The second, called Wade-Giles Chinese Romanization system (Wade-Giles), was used by the Library of Congress and most North American libraries between 1957 and 1999. Therefore, for the Chinese titles herein, both Pinyin and Wade-Giles are given with their English translations to assist readers in finding these publications.

I. Sources of Chinese Law

A. Legislatures

1) The National People's Congress

2) The State Council

3) Local People's Governments

B. Interpretation of Laws

1) The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, "legislative interpretation" (lifa jieshi)

2) The Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, "judicial interpretation" (sifa jieshi)

3) The State Council and the competent department, "administrative interpretation" (xingzheng jieshi)

4) The standing committees of the people's congresses of the provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities

In practice, the NPC Standing Committee has not thus far issued any particular document interpreting a specific point of law, but the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Procuratorates and the State Council and its ministries have often issued documents of this nature.

C. Case Law

The current Chinese legal system does not formally recognize cases or judicial precedents as a source of law. However, in practice, cases are often cited as persuasive authority and some courts follow judicial precedents to decide issues when statutes are vague.

II. Primary Sources

A. Statutory Law

1) In English or in Both English and Chinese

When using the English version of Chinese laws, remember that the English translation is not quite as authentic as the original Chinese language under traditional Chinese practice, even though accompanied by the Chinese official translation. Therefore, when there is a conflict between the English translation and the original Chinese language, the original Chinese language will be prevailed.

(1) The China Law Reference Service (looseleaf), Hong Kong : Asia Law & Practice Ltd., 1996-, quarterly. This is a new Chinese law compilation published in looseleaf format. It will consist of six volumes. The subscription has been canceled since October 2000. KNQ1040 .C45.

(2) The Laws of the People's Republic of China, Beijing : Foreign Languages Press, 1987-. These English editions of Chinese laws and regulations are chronologically compiled by the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the PRC. The coverage begins with 1979. KNQ13 1979 .C6

2) In Chinese:

(1) Zhonghua renmin gongheguo falu chuanshu = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo fa lu chuan shu (Collection of the laws of the People's Republic of China), Changchun : Jilin People's Publishing House, 1989- . The publication was compiled by a group of Chinese legal experts. It includes laws, administrative regulations, legally binding interpretations and the international treaties to which China is a party promulgated since 1949. KNQ12 .C447, on reserve.

(2) Zhonghua renmin gongheguo faguei huibian = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo fa kuai hui pien (Collection of the China laws and regulations), Beijing : Legal Publishing House, 1955-1965, 1985-, annually. This publication has been compiled by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council of the PRC (Kuowuyuan fazhiju) since 1955. KNQ12 .C57

(3)Zhonghua renmin gongheguo xianxing faluo xingzheng faguei huibian = Chung- hua jen min kung ho kuo hsien hsing fa lu hsing cheng fa kuei hui pien, 1949- (Compilation of the PRC's laws and administrative regulations in effect, 1949- ), Beijing: Legal System Publishing House, 1995- . This is the only authoritative and official publication which consolidates and compiles all the Chinese national laws and administrative regulations which were still in effect when they were published. This publication is compiled by the Legislative Affairs Office (formerly the Legislative Affairs Bureau before 1998). KNQ13.Z6 1995, 1998

(4) Zhonghua renmin gongheguo guowuyuan gongbao = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo kuo wu yuan kung pao (Gazette of the State Council of the PRC), Beijing : Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo kuo wu yuan pan kung ting, 1954-, irregular (published 3-4 times per month since 1984). Current loose issues on reserve. Bound volumes at KNQ7.K86

(5) Zhonghua renmin gongheguo chuanguo renmin daibiao dahui changwu weiyuanhui gongbao = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo chuan kuo jen min tai piao ta hui chang wu wei yuan hui kung pao (Gazette of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress), edited and published by the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the PRC, 1957-, irregular. Current loose issues on reserve. Bound volumes at KNQ7.Q83

3) In Electronic Formats:

(1) On the Internet

a. The English Version of ChinaLawInfo by the Peking University Law School (http://www.lawinfochina.com)

This is the most comprehensive database for English translation of Chinese laws and cases. It is a fee-based Chinese legal website. However, there are many freebies which includes many English translations of Chinese laws and regulations, full text of the Chinese government's White Papers, the table of contents of the Gazettes of the NPC, the State Council, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, and an index to four major Chinese legal periodicals. The Washington U. Law Library subscribes to it. It is only accessible via the computers in the law school building.

b. The Chinese Version of ChinaLawInfo by the Peking University Law School (http://www.chinalawinfo.com)

ChinaLawInfo is the earliest computer-assisted legal research system developed in China. It has been disseminated via floppy-disk, CD-ROM and the Internet. This website includes a retrieving system to do full text searching of Chinese laws and administrative regulations both at national and local levels. The more useful stuff also includes a list of new law and regulation titles, a column of legal news, a column of law review, and full text of two Peking Law School's law journals. To access this database, please ask a reference librarian for user name and password.

c. CEILaw: CEI Chinese Law and Regulation (http://www.ceilaw.com.cn/)

This website is hosted by the State Information Center, a Chinese central government agency. The contents are in Chinese but some laws and regulations have English versions as well. It includes two major databases: the National Laws and Regulations Data Bank which is a free and searchable database for Chinese laws and regulations covering from Oct. 1, 1949 to the end of 1998; and the New Laws and Regulations Online Searching which is free for searching, but only subscribers can download the text of laws. The New Laws and Regulations database is updated daily and includes a list of laws published in last 60 days. The databases include not only Chinese laws and regulations but also cases and judicial interpretations.

d. China Law Web (http://www.qis.net/chinalaw/)

This website is sponsored in part by the China Law Society at the University of Maryland School of Law. It contains some English Translations of Chinese Law and other information about the legal system in China. The most interesting information is Chinese Law Explained in Plain English which is a list of essays about legal issues of Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

(2) China Law Database on CD

The above two Chinese law online service firms also sell their products in CD-ROM format. For order information, check out their websites. Currently, the law library does not subscribe to any Chinese law in CD-ROM.

(3) On WESTLAW and LEXIS

The ChinaLawInfo (used to called Chinalaw Computer-Assisted Legal Research Center of Peking University) used to sell its ChinaLaw database which consisted of the English translations of some of the PRC national and provincial laws and regulations (mainly in economic aspects, relevant to dealing with foreign businesses in China) to WESTLAW and LEXIS. However, ChinaLawInfo stopped the sale. WESTLAW deleted the ChinaLaw database, but it is still available on LEXIS' ASIAPC/CHINAL file. The CHINAL file on Lexis may not be updated anymore. The most recent laws were promulgated in 1993. Some of the Chinese laws in English full text can also be located in LEXIS' ASIAPC/BBCSWB file. BBCSWB stands for the BBC Summary of World Broadcasts and Monitoring Reports. This database does not specialize in law but contains a significant number of Chinese laws, some of which cannot be found in its CHINAL database.

Chinese Patent Abstracts in English is available on WESTLAW. The database identifier is CHNPATABS.

B. Case Law

There is no comprehensive official or unofficial reporting system of case law in China. Only some important cases are selected and reported in the Gazette of the Supreme People's Court of the PRC. In recent years, a few selective collections of cases have been compiled and published in China. However, it is still very difficult to access current cases and judgments.

1) In English or in both English and Chinese

(1) China Law & Practice, Hong Kong : Asia Law & Practice Ltd., 1987-, ten times a year. This periodical reports some important Chinese cases related to Chinese business law practice.

(2)China Law Reports, Hong Kong: Butterworths Asia, 1995- .This is the first English translation of Chinese cases which uses western style to edit and report some Chinese cases. The first three volumes covering some cases delivered by various Chinese courts in 1991. Since then, a few more volumes covered some 1992-1994 Chinese cases were published in 2001. KNQ19 .A35 1991

(3) The Case Database at ChinaLawInfo (http://www.lawinfochina.com)

As of 8/30/2002, there are about 148 cases in English.

2) In Chinese

(1) Renmin fayuan anli xuan = Jen min fa yuan an li hsuan (Selective Compilation of the People's Courts Cases), Beijing: the People's Court Publishing House, 1992- , 4 issues annually. This is an official compilation of cases published by the People's Court Publishing House. The Supreme People's Court authorized the Chinese Practicing Law Institute (Zhongguo Yingyong Faxue Yanjiusuo) to select and compile this publication from the influential, important or controversial cases which were tried and decided by various level of courts. In 1997, four volumes of 1992-1996 Cumulative Compilations were published. KNQ19 .A13.

(2) Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zuigao renmin fayuan gongbao = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo tsui kao jen min fa yuan kung pao (Gazette of the Supreme People's Court of the PRC), Beijing : Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo tsui kao jen min fa yuan pan kung ting, 1985-, quarterly. This gazette is edited and published by the Supreme People's Court. It includes important cases, the Supreme People's Court's advisory opinions, instructions and judicial interpretations. KNQ7.Z851

(3) Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zuigao renmin jianchayuan gongbao = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo tsui kao jen min chien cha yuan kung pao (Gazette of the Supreme People's Procuratorate of PRC), Beijing : Chung-kuo chien cha chu pan she, 1989-, quarterly. This gazette is edited and published by the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Like The Gazette of the Supreme People's Court, it also includes some important Chinese cases, the Supreme People's Procuratorate's advisory opinions, instructions and judicial interpretations. KNQ7.Z852

(4) Zhanghua renmin gongheguo zuigao renmi fayuan sifa jieshi 1949.10-1993.6. = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo tsui kao jen min fa yuan ssu fa chieh shih ch'uan chi, 1949.10-1993.6 .(Collection of the judicial interpretation made by the People's Supreme Court of the People's Republic of China, 10/1949-6/1993), Beijing : the People's Court Publishing House, 1994. The second volume of the same title covering between July 1993 and June 1996 was published in 1997. This official publication includes not only the judicial interpretation but also a great number of typical cases. KNQ18 .C48 1994, on reserve.

(5) Zhongguo shenpan anli yaolan = Chung-kuo shen p'an an li yao lan (Important Collections of Chinese judicated Cases), Beijing : the Peope's University Press, 1992-, annually. This publication is compiled and edited by the Training Center for Chinese Senior Judges and People's University School of Law. KNQ494.6 .C48, on reserve.

(6) Chinese Case Law Database at ChinaLawInfo

There are about 300 cases in this database.

III. Secondary Sources

A. Looseleaf Services of Chinese Law in English

(1) Doing Business in China (People's Republic of China) / William P. Streng and Allen D. Wilcox, general editors, New York, N.Y. : M. Bender, 1990- . KNQ3202 .D653

B. Periodicals in English

(1) China Law and Practice, Hong Kong : China Law and Practice Ltd., 1987-, 10 issues per year.

(2) China Law (in both Chinese and English), Hong Kong : China Law Magazine Ltd., 1996-, quarterly. China Law magazine is a product of the China Legal Service (Hong Kong) Co. Ltd., which emphasizes providing information about new Chinese legislative, judicial, legal service and law research to foreign lawyers and businessmen who are doing business with China.

(3) China Law Quarterly, Hong Kong : Baker & McKenzie, 1985-, quarterly. This publication summarizes recent legal developments in China.

(4) China Law Reporter, Chicago, Ill. : American Bar Association, Section of International Law, 1980-, quarterly. This is a scholarly journal about Chinese law and China's legal system.

(5) Journal of Chinese Law, Lincoln, Nebraska : the Center for Chinese Legal Studies, Columbia University School of Law, 1987-, semiannual. This journal usually publishes scholarly research articles related to the law of China (including mainland China and Taiwan).

(6) China Patents & Trademarks, Hong Kong : China Patent & Trademark Publications, quarterly, 1985-, quarterly. This publication focus on issues of Chinese patent and trademark law and practice. New Chinese legislation in English full-text relating to patent and trademark is often published in this periodical. (The library does not have)

(7) The Chinese Business Review, Washington, D.C. : National Council for US-China Trade, 1977-, bimonthly. This publication often features analytical articles on current legal issues of Chinese foreign trade and investments, or commentaries on new Chinese legislation.

(8) Chinese Law and Government, White Plains, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1968-, quarterly. This publication translates articles relating to Chinese law and government issues from Chinese publications.

(9) China Law Briefing, Hong Kong : FT Law & Tax Asia Pacific, 1995-, monthly. This new periodical briefs new Chinese laws and regulations. (The library does not have)

(10) China Law Yearbook (English ed.), Boston: Butterworths, 1987-, annually. This is the English edition of China Law Yearbook which consists of English translations of selected articles published in the Chinese edition of China Law Yearbook. It also combines legislative digests with descriptive commentary, statistics and other information about China's contemporary legal system, so it can be used as a reference tool. However, so far only one issue was published in 1987.

C. Periodicals in Chinese

The library subscribes to about 30 Chinese periodicals. For a complete list of Chinese periodicals in PDF format, please point your web browser to /Library/Documents/chineseserial.pdf. The current issues of Chinese periodicals are on reserve and all the bound volumes are on the Second Floor under KNQ.

D. Periodical Indexes

(1) Current Law Index, Foster City, Calif. : Information Access Company, Jan. 1980- , monthly updating. (The printed version is located in the Reading Room, K33 .C87.)

Current Law Index is an extensive index to legal articles. All the legal articles about China are listed under the main entry of China and then indexed under different subject terms in its subject indexes. The electronic version of Current Law Index (The coverage is from 1980 on) is available on WESTLAW (LRI) and LEXIS (LAWREV/LGLIND), and is called "Legal Resource Index". The library also subscribes to the web version of this index on the Internet. To access this database, go to a computer connected to the law school's LAN and point your browser to the Law School Homepage, then Library's Homepage, click on the Research Databases, then choose LegalTrac SearchBank from the pull down menu.

(2) Index to Legal Periodicals, [New York, etc.] : H.W. Wilson Co., Jan. 1908-, monthly updating, except September. The printed version is located in the Reading Room, K9 .N32

H.W. Wilson's Index to Legal Periodicals provides an index to articles from more than 500 legal journals, yearbooks, institutes, bar association organizations, university publications, law reviews, and government publications. Unlike Current Law Index, Index to Legal Periodicals does not have geographic terms in the main subject entries. Therefore, to search for the legal articles about China in Index to Legal Periodicals, one has to look for the subject in which he is interested and then look for the geographic term, China, under a certain subject.

The electronic version of Index to Legal Periodicals (the coverage is from 1981 on) is available on WESTLAW (ILP) and LEXIS (LAWREV/ILP). The library also subscribes to the web version of this index on the Internet. To access this database, go to a computer connected to the law school's LAN and point your browser to the Law School Homepage, then Library's Homepage, click on the Research Databases, then choose Index to Legal Periodicals. from the pull down menu.

(3) Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press for the American Association of Law Libraries, [etc.], 1960-, quarterly updating (three supplements and one bound cumulative index yearly). (The printed version is located in Reading Room, K33 .I38)

This index covers six Chinese legal periodicals that are published in Chinese vernacular. They are Zhongguo guojifa niankan = Chung-kuo kuo chi fa nien kan (Chinese Yearbook of International Law), Faxue pinglun = Fa hsueh ping lun (Legal Science Review), Faxue yanjiu = Fa hsueh yen chiu (Studies in Law), Xiandai faxue = Hsien tai fa hsueh (Modern Law Science), Zhongguo faxue =Chung-kuo fa hsueh (Chinese Legal Science) and Zhongguo shehui zhuyi jianshe = Chung-kuo she hui chu i chien she (Chinese Socialism Construction). Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals has a subject index and geographical index for convenient research access.

Washington University School of Law subscribes to Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (1984 to date). The library also subscribes to the web version of this index on the Internet. To access this database, go to a computer connected to the law school's LAN and point your browser to the Law School Homepage, then Library's Homepage, click on the Research Databases, then choose Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals. from the pull down menu.

E. Directories and Dictionaries

(1) China's Top 200: a Guide to the World's Top Advisors on Investing and Doing Business in the PRC, Hong Kong : Asia Law & Practice Ltd., 1997- .

(2) Hong Kong Lawyer, Hong Kong : Legal Business in Asia Ltd, 1993- . Many international law firms put job ads related to Chinese practice in this periodical.

(3) A Chinese-English Dictionary of Law, Beijing : Foreign Languages Press, 1995. Most of the entries of this dictionary are drawn from Chinese local legal terms with English translation. K 52 .C5 H35 1995, on reserve.

IV. Chinese Legal Resources on the Internet and How to View Chinese

Internet Chinese Legal Research Center at /Chinalaw

This website maintains an annotated list of links to Chinese law-related websites on the Internet.

Viewing Chinese Online

To view and input Chinese text on the Internet and in e-mail, it is necessary to have either an operating system with built-in Chinese capacity such as Windows 2000 or Chinese Windows or else some kind of front end software (such as an MS IME or Input Method Editor, NJStar, Unionway, etc.) that works with English Windows to supply the fonts and input methods for Chinese. Your Internet browser and e-mail program also must be configured properly to allow display and input of Chinese. Additionally, you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the meaning of GB, Big-5, HZ, ASCII, Unicode, and other character sets used to encode simplified and traditional Chinese and other languages. When viewing Chinese text, you may also need to expressly choose a Chinese font in order to display or print text properly. For instance, when you need to print a page with Chinese characters from a web browser, you need to choose "Print True Type as graphics" under Font. If you have no experience in this, the procedure can get rather complex, though programs have been getting increasingly simpler, and some of the Microsoft programs noted below are free! If you have questions after checking out some of the Websites below, please stop by my office (Room 257A).

Free Programs for Chinese E-mail and Web Browsing:

A suite of programs available for free downloading that are particularly easy to configure for Chinese are:

1) Microsoft Internet Explorer (a web browser) http://www.microsoft.com/windows/Ie/ default.htm

2) Netscape Communicator and Netscape Navigator http://home.netscape.com/browsers/

3) Microsoft Global IME for Windows 95, 98, and NT (for viewing and inputting Chinese text on the Web and in e-mail) may be downloaded here:http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/f eatures/ime.asp

4) Microsoft Outlook Express (an e-mail program) is available as an add-on to Internet Explorer from Microsoft's download page: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/download/all.htm?bShowPage

5) NJStar Chinese Communicatorhttp://www.njstar.com 

V. A Strategy to Update Chinese Law

To update Chinese law is not a straightforward process because the PRC has not yet had a law codification system, and most of Chinese laws and regulations do not have English translations. In addition, so far there is no publication which has a list of English translation of all Chinese laws and regulations. Therefore, a strategy for updating Chinese law by using the available sources needs to be established. The following is one established by the author.

  • Step 1. Go to The China Law Reference Service, consult its Index Volume or Digest sections first. Then, use its reference number and page number to locate full text of laws in English. Don't forget to check with the cross reference boxes at the end of each law to see any related or repealed legislation and other references. Please be aware that not all the laws and regulations listed in the index include either English or Chinese full texts in this looseleaf service.

    You could also try to do some key-word searches on the Law and Regulation Database at the English site o f ChinaLawInfo.com (http://www.lawinfochina.com) (can only be accessed in the Law School Building).

    Although The China Law Reference Service lists titles of most Chinese laws and regulations, the full-text Chinese law is primarily related to foreign business and trade. Therefore, if you cannot find the laws in this set, you need to check through other sets of Chinese law compilations published in Chinese, such as Zhonghua renmin gongheguo falu chuanshu = Chung-hua jen min kung ho kuo fa lu chuan shu (Collection of the laws of the People's Republic of China), Changchun : Jilin People's Publishing House, 1989- . KNQ12 .C447, on reserve. However, you have to look through each volume to make sure you do not miss a relevant legislation because there is no master index to all promulgated Chinese laws and regulations
  • Step 2. Consult a couple of recent issues of China Law and Practice (Hong Kong : China Law and Practice Ltd., 1987- ) to see any recent changes. Look under the column of New Law Digest to find any new laws affecting your research subjects. This column lists titles, promulgating and effective dates, applicability, main contents and related legislation of new laws, regulations and judicial and administrative decisions, but not full text of laws. However, as the library is a subscriber to this periodical, we can request up to three full texts of laws in Chinese or English every month (depending on the original source) free of charge from Asia Law & Practice Ltd. Therefore, if you know a Chinese law or regulation which you cannot find in full text, you can fax your request to Susan Mok at (852) 2815-9466.
  • Step 3. If you could not find anything in the sources listed above, you have to try a Chinese legal resource on the Internet.

(1)ChinaLawInfo (for the user name and password, ask a reference librarian)

Go to www.chinalawinfo.com, then choose the tab of "Laws and Regulations". Browse the column of New Laws and Regulations to see if any new legislation affects your research topic. Sign on the system as a member. (For the login name and password, please ask a reference librarian.) And click on "Browsing the Table of Contents for All Laws and Regulations." Then you begin a subject or key-word search on this Chinese Law and Regulation Retrieval System.

(2)World News Connection

World News Connection (WNC) contains full text translations of foreign radio and television broadcasts, news agency transmissions, newspapers, books and periodicals. These translations were previously published in the series FBIS Daily Reports. Since we can do full text searching on this database, World News Connection is very good sources to find news about Chinese legal activities. Washington University School of Law Library subscribes to this database. To access this database, please use any computer in the law school building and point your browser to the Law School Homepage, then Library's Homepage, click on the Research Databases, then choose World News Connection from the pull down menu.

  • Step 4. If you could not find the needed information from the above sources, post an e-mail on Chinese Law Net mentioned above, to seek help. Many Chinese law experts subscribe to this mailing list. Someone on the Net may solve your research problem. The e-mail address is Chinese Law Netclnet@u.washington.edu. When you post an e-mail on Chinese Law Net, please explain what research steps you have taken and identify yourself.