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How People's Assessors Work in China

Sat, 04 Feb 2023
Categories: Insights

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Key takeaways:

  • The current people's assessors system dates back to the early 1950s. After decades of operation, the 2018 "Law of the People's Republic of China on People's Assessors" laid a solid foundation for the improved people's assessor system.
  • In 2022, China’s Supreme People’s Court issued a report on the People’s Assessor System, revealing the role of people’s assessors in judicial practice.
  • By 2022, there are over 332,000 people's assessors nationwide, nearly three times that in 2013.
  • In order to strengthen capacity-building, Chinese local courts, in concert with the departments of administration of justice, have organized onboarding training for the people's assessors.


In October 2022, China’s Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued a report on people's assessors named “China's Practice of the People's Assessors System” (人民陪审员制度的中国实践).

As we know, there is no jury in China’s judicial system, instead, there are people’s assessors. In particular cases, people’s assessors and judges will form a collegial panel to hear cases together.

In our previous post "Does the Jury Exist in China?", we introduced the people's assessors from the following aspects:

  • How do people’s assessors hear cases?
  • What kind of cases can be heard by the people’s assessors?
  • How do people’s assessors generate?

The current people's assessors system dates back to the early 1950s. After decades of operation, the 2018 "Law of the People's Republic of China on People's Assessors" (中华人民共和国人民陪审员法) laid a solid foundation for the improved people's assessor system.

The recently issued report of the SPC describes in details the people's assessor system in China. We have excerpted some of the key points as follows:

1. How many people's assessors are there in China?

By July 2022, there are over 332,000 people's assessors nationwide, nearly three times that in 2013.

Among them, 53.9% are male and 46.1% are female.

As for occupation, enterprise employees account for 41.7%, civil servants of local governments and community workers account for 36.4%, while farmers and freelancers/gig workers account for 21.9%.

2. How many cases have been tried by people's assessors?

By September 2022, people's assessors nationwide had participated in the trial of more than 2.15 million criminal cases, 8.79 million civil cases and 780,000 administrative cases.

3. Can people's assessors participate in the trial of important cases?

For cases with significant social impact, Chinese courts adopt the “seven-member collegial panel”, i.e., “three judges + four people's assessors”.

The people's assessors participate in the trial of cases tried by a seven-member collegial panel, express their opinions on fact-finding issues, and exercise their voting rights independently; they may express their opinions on the application of the law, but do not have voting rights in this regard.

By September 2022, more than 23,000 important cases had been heard under this mode.

4. How do people's assessors try cases?

Each local court in China has explored its own ways for people's assessors to try cases.

Courts in Beijing have made a sample list of fact-finding issues, which will be filled in by the judges according to the actual situation of the cases for people's assessors’ reference, so as to draw the people's assessors' attention to the relevant fact-finding issues.

In Jiangsu Province, if the people's assessors believe that the majority opinion is improper in the fact-finding or the judge is wrong in the application of law, they can ask the collegial panel to submit the case to the vice president or the chief judge for review or to the Judges Conference for discussion, and if necessary, submit the case to the Adjudication Committee for discussion.

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5. How does the court manage people's assessors?

Many local courts have established people's assessor information databases, establishing personal files for each assessor, so that courts can adjust the workload of assessors as the case may be.

Some local courts have also established a pool of professionals in the people's assessor information database, so that people's assessors with corresponding expertise can be selected to participate in the trial of specific cases.

6. How does the court train people's assessors?

The SPC and the Ministry of Justice have jointly held the "National People's Assessor Work Demonstration Training Course". Local courts, in concert with the departments of administration of justice, have also organized onboarding training for the people's assessors.

In addition, local courts have also published case trial guides and manuals for people's assessors, for example, the “Instructions on the Performance of Duties for People's Assessors” (人民陪审员履职读本) prepared by the Political Department of the SPC.

 

Photo by zhang kaiyv on Unsplash

 

 

Contributors: Guodong Du 杜国栋

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