Supreme People's Court

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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]
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
CurrentlyShen Deyong
Since24 April 2008
The main gate of the Supreme People's Court in Beijing.
The front facade of the Supreme People's Court in Beijing China.

The Supreme People's Court (Chinese: 最高人民法院; pinyin: Zuìgāo Rénmín Fǎyuàn), officially the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China, is the highest level of court in the mainland area of the People's Republic of China. Except for cases investigated by the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the CPG in the HKSAR,[3] Hong Kong and Macau, as special administrative regions, have their own 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 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 also the court of last resort in the whole of China. The court is made up of 340 judges who meet in smaller tribunals to decide cases. The court system consists of a four-level, two-hearing system trial process.


The court was established on 22 October 1949.[4]

In 2005, the Supreme People's Court announced its intent to "[take] back authority for death penalty approval" over concerns about "sentencing quality",[5] 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.[6] A 2008 report stated that since the new review process, the court has rejected 15 percent of the death sentences decided by lower courts.[7]

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.[8][9]

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.[8]

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.[10]


  1. 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; appeals or protests against trial decisions or verdicts of the higher people's courts and special people's courts; appeals against court judgments lodged by the Supreme People's Procuratorate according to trial supervision procedures.
  2. Giving approval to death sentences.
  3. Supervising the trials by local people's courts and special people's courts at different levels.
  4. On discovering mistakes in the rulings and verdicts of local people's courts already being legally enforced, conducting questioning or appointing a lower level court to conduct re-hearing.
  5. Giving approvals to verdicts on crimes not specifically stipulated in the criminal law.
  6. Offering explanations over the concrete application of laws during the trial process.[11] 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 judgement. 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.[12]

Organisational structure[edit]

Courts within the SPC
  • Criminal courts
  • Civil courts
  • Administrative trials
  • Special courts set up according to actual needs
  • Intellectual Property Tribunal
Departments within the SPC
  • Research office
  • General affairs office
  • Personnel department
  • Judicial affairs department
  • Administrative affairs department
  • Office affairs bureau
  • Foreign affairs bureau
  • Education department
Circuit courts of the SPC
  1. First Circuit (established in Shenzhen, Dec 2014)[13]
  2. Second Circuit (established in Shenyang, Dec 2014)[14]
  3. Third Circuit
  4. Fourth Circuit
  5. Fifth Circuit
  6. Sixth Circuit

President/Chief Justices and Vice Presidents of the Court[edit]

  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 also[edit]


  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. ^ "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.
  4. ^ About the Supreme People's Court Archived 1 September 2018 at the Wayback Machine (Chinese)
  5. ^ Dickie, Mure (27 October 2005). "China's top court to review all death sentences". Financial Times.
  6. ^ "China changes law to limit death sentence". China Daily. 31 October 2006. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008.
  7. ^ Bodeen, Christopher (10 April 2008). "China Hails Reform of Death Penalty". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 21 September 2008.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 24 July 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2018. Cite uses generic title (help)(subscription required)
  10. ^ "China's New Supreme People's Court IP Tribunal". Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  11. ^ The National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China. The Supreme People's Court (SPC)
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 April 2019. Retrieved 18 April 2019.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "First Circuit Court of the Supreme People's Court established". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  14. ^ "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 links[edit]