China Justice Observer


EnglishArabicChinese (Simplified)DutchFrenchGermanHindiItalianJapaneseKoreanPortugueseRussianSpanishSwedishHebrewIndonesianVietnameseThaiTurkishMalay

Court Reform in China(2013-2016) (White Papers, March 2017) Part 3 中国法院的司法改革


Part 1


I. China's Court System and Reform Process

II. Ensuring the Independent and Fair Exercise of Adjudicative Power by People's Courts by Law

III. Strengthening the Mechanism of Judicial Protection of Human Rights

Part 2

IV. Judicial Power Serving the People

V. Improving the Judicial Accountability System

VI. Deepening Judicial Openness

VII. Promoting Judicial Democracy

Part 3

VIII. Promoting Specialized Trial and Flat Management

IX. Improving the Regularization, Specialization and Professionalization of Judicial personnel

X. Promoting Informatization of Courts


VIII. Promoting Specialized Trial and Flat Management

Specialized trial and flat management are important means to optimize the allocation of judicial resources and improve the quality and efficiency of trials. The people’s courts have been actively exploring the special judicial organs and judicial ways to hear and adjudicate specialized cases, establishing the judicial work mechanism suitable to the law of adjudication of cases and carrying out pilot reforms on the establishment of internal organs, in order to ensure judicial impartiality and improve judicial efficiency.

Carrying out the reform of three-in-one trial of civil, administrative and criminal IP cases. On July 5, 2016, the Supreme People's Court promulgated the opinions on promoting three-in-one trial of civil, administrative and criminal IP cases at the courts nationwide, requiring that except the IP courts in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the IP adjudication departments of all the people's courts at all levels shall be renamed IP tribunals, which shall be responsible for the trial of all the civil, administrative and criminal IP cases. In order to give full play to the demonstration role of IP courts, with the approval by the Supreme People's Court, the IP tribunals of the intermediate people's courts in Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu have begun to exercise jurisdiction over certain trans-regional IP cases.

Improving the system of special jurisdiction over maritime cases. China is the country having the most and fullest judicial organs for maritime cases and handling the most maritime cases in the world. In order to further expand the space of blue economy and push forward the Belt and Road Initiatives, the Supreme People's Court has promulgated the relevant judicial interpretations, adjusted the system of jurisdiction over maritime lawsuits, reasonably expanded the scope of cases under the jurisdiction of the maritime courts, and promoted the establishment of the system of special jurisdiction over maritime cases that focuses on civil and commercial cases while also covers cases in other areas. In order to promote innovations in the theories and practices in maritime justice, train outstanding maritime judicial professionals and enhance Chinese-foreign judicial exchanges and cooperation, the Supreme People's Court established the International Maritime Judicial Study Center and the Qingdao Maritime Branch of the National Judges College in Qingdao, Shandong on December 16, 2015.

Promoting the establishment of the specialized judicial mechanism for environmental and resource cases. In June 2014, the Supreme People's Court established the Environmental and Resource Tribunal, and instructed the courts in all regions to enhance the establishment of judicial organs for environmental and resource cases. As of the end of 2016, the people's courts in all regions had established 558 tribunals, collegiate panels and circuit courts for environmental and resource cases in total. 15 higher people's courts in Guizhou, Fujian, Hainan and other regions have established environmental and resource tribunals and Jiangsu, Chongqing and other regions have established three-level judicial system for environmental and resource cases. In April 2016, the Supreme People's Court decided to designate the Environmental and Resource Tribunal to be responsible for the administrative cases of second instance and retrial of administrative cases against any environmental protection authorities and supervision and guidance in respect of such cases. The local courts also have been exploring the mode of specialized adjudication of environmental and resource cases, for example, the Jiangsu Higher People's Court designated 31 grass-roots courts to exercise jurisdiction over trans-regional environmental and resource cases in a centralized manner, and the Hainan Higher People’s Court designated 8 courts to hear and adjudicate civil, administrative and criminal environmental and resource cases in a centralized manner.

Promoting the establishment of the specialized judicial mechanism for bankruptcy and liquidation cases. In order to effectively push forward the supply-side structural reform and improve the specialization of the adjudication of bankruptcy and liquidation cases, the Supreme People's Court issued a notice in June 2016, requiring each municipality directly under the Central Government shall designate at least one intermediate court to set up a bankruptcy and liquidation tribunal, and the intermediate courts in provincial capitals or sub-provincial cities shall each set up a bankruptcy and liquidation tribunal. Under the guidance of the Supreme People's Court, the intermediate courts in Beijing, Tianjin, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang, Changchun, Hefei, Jinan, Zhengzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang, Taiyuan, Fuzhou and Xiamen and other cities have set up bankruptcy and liquidation tribunals.

Pushing forward the reform of internal organs of courts. In conjunction with the related departments of the Central Government, the Supreme People's Court has been actively pushing forward the pilot reform of internal organs of the people's courts below the provincial level and designated 205 pilot courts nationwide. On the principles of streamlining the administration to improve efficiency, serving the adjudication, setting up the organs level by level and advancing the reform in a coordinated manner, the pilot courts have integrated their internal organs and adjusted the functions of internal organs to realize flat management. The Xicheng District People's Court in Beijing has conducted the reform of comprehensive functional departments into "large departments" by consolidating 15 comprehensive functional departments into four large departments, including the departments of adjudicative affairs, official management, administrative support and Party and masses publicity. After the said reform, the staff members of the comprehensive functional departments only account for 10.9% of the regular employees of the Court, and the comprehensive functional departments have reduced staff by 22 persons and the meetings by 34%, thereby realizing the goals of reducing the numbers of comprehensive departments, integrating the functions, complementing advantages and efficient operation. The Qianhai Court in Shenzhen, the Hengqin Court in Zhuhai and other newly established courts have explored the new modes of the establishment of tribunals by letting the judicial teams exercise the judicial powers, and simplified the comprehensive functional departments, so as to improve the overall working efficiency and capacity.

IX. Improving the Regularization, Specialization and Professionalization of Judicial personnel

According to the overall arrangement by the State and in conjunction with the related departments of the Central Government, the Supreme People's Court has reformed the judge selection and appointment system, improved the system of classified management of judicial personnel, and promoted the establishment of the system of setting a separate rank of posts for judges and determining their remunerations accordingly, so as to enhance the judges' sense of honor and calling towards their profession.

Carrying out the reform of the judge quota system in an all-round way. The higher people's courts in all provincial-level regions have scientifically set the judge quotas for the courts at three levels according to the number of cases handled, and the situations of economic and social development, population and other basic data of the places where the courts are located, and taking into consideration the level of trial and functions of the courts, workloads of judges, staffing of auxiliary judicial personnel and other factors, and dynamically adjusted the court quotas according to changes in the number of cases and personnel structure. Mainly on the basis of number of cases, the courts in Guangdong decided that the proportion of judges should be lower than 30% in Shantou where there are few cases but abundant personnel and be higher than 50% in Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan and other cities where there are abundant cases but few personnel. As of the end of 2016, 27 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government had finished the appointment of judges under the quota system, with 104,4442 judges in total appointed by 27 higher courts, 340 intermediate courts and 2,623 grass-roots courts. After the reform, the pilot courts no longer set up posts for judges in their judicial administration departments and assign more than 85% of their staff members to trial work. For example, the number of judges in the case handling departments of the courts in Shanghai has increased by 8%, and the proportion of judges to auxiliary judicial personnel has been changed from 1:0.75 before the reform to 1:1.7 after the reform. In Beijing, the number of first-line judicial personnel has increased by 21.4% from 6,128 to 7,550, and the number of auxiliary personnel has increased by 68.8% from 2,689 to 4,538.

Reforming the judge selection and appointment system. The pilot regions have established judge selection committees at the provincial level comprising judge representatives and relevant civilians, and formulated open, fair and just judge selection and appointment procedures, to ensure that only the outstanding legal practitioners who are upright in character and have rich experience and a high professional level will become judge candidates. In order to improve the system of selection of judges level by level, on May 13, 2016, the Organization Department of the CCCPC, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate jointly promulgated the opinions on establishing the system of selection of judges and public prosecutors level by level, which express provide that the judges of the people's courts at the prefecture level or above shall be selected level by level generally, and a people's court at a higher level may appoint judges on a selective basis from the people's courts at the first or second level below it. In October 2015, the Supreme People's Court took the lead in publicly selecting judges from the people's courts at lower levels and finally selected 7 outstanding judges from 62 applicants from local courts nationwide. A system of recruiting judges from qualified lawyers and jurists has been established. In March 2014, the Supreme People's Court conducted a program of publically selecting high-level judicial talents from experts, scholars, lawyers and other personnel practicing law, and finally selected five persons, including experts, scholars, senior lawyers and outstanding public prosecutors, from 195 applicants, including 76 experts and scholars, 75 lawyers and 44 staff members of Party and government departments. In 2015, the courts in Shanghai publically selected one judge from outside the judicature, and the courts in Qinghai publically selected three judges from outside the judicature.

Promoting classified management of judicial personnel. In order to further optimize the allocation of human resources of the courts, China's courts classify the judicial personnel into judges, auxiliary judicial personnel and judicial administrative personnel, and adopt different management systems for different categories of personnel, to ensure that each person is assigned to a definite post of duty and attends to his own duties, and have improved the management systems for judge assistants, clerks, enforcement personnel, judicial policemen and other auxiliary judicial personnel, and scientifically determined the proportion of judges to auxiliary judicial personnel, to effectively reduce the amount of routine and procedural work undertaken by judges. In conjunction with the related departments of the Central Government, the Supreme People's Court has formulated the pilot program to reform the rank of posts of judge assistants and clerks and improved the methods of recruitment and employment of judge assistants. The courts in all regions have expanded the sources of auxiliary judicial personnel and explored outsourcing of social services to optimize the structure of auxiliary judicial personnel. The Jiangsu Higher People's Court has vigorously pushed forward the reform of the clerk system, formulated the standards of the rank of posts of clerks and measures for the training and appraisal of clerks, properly fixed the posts, number and responsibilities of clerks, and provided that the proportion of first-line judges to clerks shall be 1:1, thereby changing the situation that a number of judges shared one clerk in the past and effectively solving the problem of many cases for few persons. In Guangdong, the measures for the management of auxiliary judicial personnel employed under labor contracts were formulated. The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court established the “three-grade and nine-level” post rank management system, which classifies judge assistants and clerks into senior, middle and junior grades and sets three levels in each grade, and links remunerations to the grades and levels.

Reforming the rank of posts and salary system of judges. In conjunction with the related departments of the Central Government, the Supreme People's Court formulated the pilot programs for the reform on separate rank of posts of judges and for the reform of judges’ salary system. According to the "four-grade and twelve-level" judge ranking system set forth in the Judge Law of the People's Republic of China and on the basis of the judge quota system, the pilot programs realized the separation from the judges’ professional ranks to their administrative ranks, fully reflect the professional characteristics of judges in the setup of ranks, method of promotion, requirements for seniority in promotion, ratio of promotion, appraisal, punishment, salary system and other respects, provide that the judges may be promoted based on their seniority, on a selective basis or specially, and implement a personnel management system for judges that is different from that for other public servants. Under the pilot programs, a judge of the people's court at any level may be promoted to a certain rank according to his seniority without subject to the limit on the number of posts so long as he seriously performs his duties, even if he does not hold a leading position; the promotion to a relatively high judge rank is subject to ratio or quantity control; a judge may be promoted as an exception or more than one grade at a time if he is very excellent or due to any special need of the work. The pilot programs established a separate salary system for judges according to the professional characteristics of judges, greatly increasing the salary level of judges. The Supreme People's Court has promulgated the guidelines on the performance appraisal and distribution of bonuses in respect of judges and auxiliary judicial personnel and established the performance-based bonus distribution mechanism associated with job responsibilities and actual performance according to the actual circumstances of court work, so as to fully arouse the enthusiasm of first-line case handling personnel.

Establishing the legal research scholar and legal intern systems. In order to enhance the judicial cooperation and exchanges between people's courts and law schools and legal research institutes, and improve the legal practitioner training mechanism, the Supreme People's Court has established the legal research scholar and legal intern systems, and received 179 legal interns in three batches and 10 legal research scholars in two batches. Such legal interns have participated in case recording, preparation of legal documents, investigations of special subjects and other auxiliary judicial work in the capacity of judge assistant (intern) or clerk (intern) under the guidance of judges, so as to explore a new mode of classified management of judicial personnel.

Strictly regulating the after-hours acts of judicial personnel. In conjunction with the related departments of the Central Government, the Supreme People's Court has promulgated the relevant documents, prohibiting judicial personnel from entering into six kinds of contact or intercourse with litigants, lawyers, specially related parties or intermediaries, requiring judicial personnel handling cases to receive litigants, lawyers, specially related parties or intermediaries at working places and during working hours, and prohibiting judicial personnel who have resigned from any judicial organs from acting as process attorneys or defenders in any cases handled by such judicial organs, and judicial personnel who have been dismissed from public office due to violation of the law and discipline from practicing law for life.

X. Promoting Informatization of Courts

Informatization occupies an important position of fundamental, overall and strategic significance in the work of people's courts. In order to adapt to the new challenges brought by the era of "Internet +", the Supreme People’s Court has enhanced the building of court informatization version 3.0 and "intelligent court" (which was also included in the Outline of National IT Development Strategy), and promulgated the Five Development Plan for Informatization of People's Courts 2016-2020, with the aid of big data technology, aiming to improve the IT infrastructures, promoting full coverage, mobile interconnection, cross-border integration, in-depth application, transparency, convenience, accessibility, safety and controllability of all kinds of information, and improving the judicial system and modernization of judicial capability of people's courts.

Improving the standard of informatization and development of IT infrastructures. The Supreme People's Court has formulated the standard of court informatization, established an informatization assessment system covering indicators in six respects, including development, application, service, management, security and effect to give unified guidance on the standard and assessment of informatization for the courts nationwide. The Supreme People's Court has been continuously improving the IT infrastructures and promoting the development of "one website" of the courts nationwide. In November 2016, all the courts in our country, including 3,520 courts, 9,277 tribunals and 39 maritime courts were connected with the special court website, thereby laying a solid foundation for realizing whole connection of networks, full coverage of data and accessibility of all the services of people's courts. In the development of IT hardware of courts, so far, over 20,000 scientific and technological tribunals and over 2,160 sets of remote interrogation systems have been established nationwide, 98% of the courts nationwide have established IT-based litigation service halls, and big screens, guide platforms, inquiry machines, net-connected computers and other IT facilities have been used generally. The Supreme People’s Court has established a digital library.

Realizing full coverage and system integration of judicial information. The Supreme People's Court has established the national judicial and trial information resource management center, which realizes collection, dispatch, display, management and control of the data and over 20,000 routes of video signals from the courts nationwide, and provides the functions of real-time view of live broadcasting of court trials at the courts at four levels nationwide, exchanges, communications, centralized data management, etc. The Supreme People's Court has built the centralized management platform for the data of people's courts, which realizes storage, display, exchange and sort-out of information of courts nationwide, and is gradually incorporating judicial statistical information and personnel management information. So far, the platform has collected the information of over 94.25 million cases, over 46.30 million documents, 259 judicial research projects, over 24,000 pieces of judicial personnel information, and over 15.17 million pieces of judicial administration information; automatically produced over 470,000 reports and statements, over 10 million pieces of statistical data and over 100 million pieces of case information for the courts nationwide, and automatically built the three-level mutual verification mechanism covering courts, reports and cases, thereby changing the traditional mode of manual statistics, and realizing a significant development in the judicial statistics of the people's courts. The Supreme People's Court has formulated the Certain Provisions on the Numbers of Cases Handled by People's Courts and supplementary standards, the Case Information Standard for People's Courts (2015) and other normative documents to implement code-based management of 3,512 courts nationwide, built a three-level case type system which divides cases into 10 types, 52 sub-types and 131 sub-sub-types, covering 130 kinds of activities in the exercise of judicial functions and powers, thereby laying a solid foundation for building a new standard system for case information.

Promoting the optimization, upgrade and in-depth application of various kinds of information platforms. Under the unified guidance of the Supreme People's Court, the people's courts in all regions have been continuously improving various kinds of information platforms to realize in-depth application of such platforms in serving the public, the enforcement of judgments, judicial management and the society, and vigorously promoting the development of "Internet+ litigation service", and developed a lot of services for the convenience of the people, such as online case filing, online mediation, remote court trial, electronic service and online release of information. The people's courts have improved their judicial information management systems. So far, 99% of the people's courts nationwide have built the case information management systems, realized online circulation of information about main process nodes in judicial activities, digital management of case files, pre-warning on the time limit of trials, process monitoring, risk assessment and quality evaluation, and begun to provide judges with intelligent services for supporting trials, such as consultation concerning laws and regulations, guiding cases, reference to measurement of penalty, one-click typesetting and intelligent correction of errors. The people's courts have intensively explored and exploited the value of judicial data on the centralized data management platform, and with the aid of big judicial data and information, and established the mechanisms for analyzing the quality and effect of trials, hot issues and special types of cases, to improve the forecasts about the situations of trial work, the fields in which controversies and disputes are liable to arise and the situation of economic development. So far, the Supreme People's Court has completed 70 special analysis reports concerning people's well-being and economic and social development, providing strong data support for scientific decision. A digital online service platform on the application of Chinese laws ("Faxin") has been established, which collects over 20 million judgments, typical cases, legal documents, these and other kinds of legal literatures, containing more than 10 billion words in total, and conducts in-depth processing and intelligent push of huge amounts of legal provisions, key points of cases, legal opinions and instrument information, therefore satisfying diversified and precise judicial demands of various groups of people. The Supreme People's Court has established the Judicial Case Research Institute and opened the China Judicial Cases Online, which, supported by the big data technology and the Internet, collects and publishes a large number of Chinese and foreign cases, and intelligently produces typical cases generally recognized, thus promoting the formation of clear and definite guides to the society. A court trial speech recognition system has been developed, which can automatically transform speeches into texts, and identify speakers and their speeches at court trials, with a rate of accuracy of speech recognition of above 90% in trial operation.

Actively using big data to improve the quality and effect of case handling and serve the judicial reform. The courts in all regions have been actively exploring the fields and methods of IT application, with the aid of big data analysis, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, machine learning and other technologies, give full play to the support and protection role of IT and big data in enforcement of judgments, judicial management, judicial services, judicial reform and other areas. In Guizhou, an online cooperative system for case handling integrating the public security and procuratorial organs and courts has been established, which realizes dual circulation of scanned copes and text data of electronic case files, and incorporates a module for setting the unified evidence standard for evidences in criminal cases for the public security and procuratorial organs and courts. Investigators shall upload all the evidences obtained onto the system simultaneously. The system will, according to the pre-set evidence standard and requirements, conduct checks and verifications, and give hints and pre-warnings. Any evidence not meeting the pre-set evidence standard and requirements will be unable to enter into the next stage of the litigation procedure, thereby unifying the standard of criminal evidences and preventing cases in which people are unjustly, falsely or wrongly charged or sentenced. The courts in Hebei have developed an "intelligent" trial support system, which, through reference to a huge amount of judgments, and analysis of all the electronic case files of the cases in process, summarizes the characteristics and essential factors of the cases, and on the basis of the facts, focus of disputes, applicable laws and other circumstances of the cases, automatically and accurately pushes guiding or reference cases that directly relate to the cases in process to the judges handling the same. The courts in Shanghai have established the "Big Data and Information System of the Shanghai Higher People's Court", have accomplished the building of standardized big database, modern digital machine room, collective cloud platforms and other infrastructures, and through the application of big judicial data, have formulated the case weight measuring system, assessment standard and system for public credibility of the judiciary and methods for measuring annual number of cases handled by judges, thereby vigorously promoting the enforcement of judgments and judicial reform. Shanghai Higher People's Court has formulated the case weight coefficients for 1,023 types of causes of action, and realized an integrated assessment of the workloads and performance of judges handling cases of different types, with different degrees of difficulty and in different fields, which has become a scientific basis for determining judge quotas and allocating judicial resources. The courts in Zhejiang have conducted integrated online data processing in respect of the road traffic accidents, broken the data barriers among mediation organizations, the insurers' claim settlement departments, public security organs and courts, and on the basis of case adjudication standard, developed a compensation calculator applicable to the parties involved and judges, so that the parties involved can calculate the compensation by themselves and form reasonable expectations for the final awards. With the aid of the integrated platform for the handling of road traffic accidents, the number of cases of claim for compensation for traffic accidents handled by Yuhang District People's Court in Hangzhou in 2016 was 50% lower than that in the previous year; and among the 3,238 cases of disputes over traffic accidents handled by the Court, 3,076 cases were settled through the insurance mediation committee using the pre-trial mediation procedure, accounting for 95% of the total cases.


The new round of the reform of judicial system has been centering on problems and guided by the objectives, starting from the deep-seated problems affecting judicial impartiality and inhibiting judicial capability, and the problems involving the direct and realistic interests that the public care most; such reform has been observing all the time the laws of justice while proceeding from China's actual conditions, exploring the road of reform of the judicial system with Chinese characteristics, focusing on building and improving the socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics, and has been pushed forward step by step by operation of law, and combined top-down design with exploration through pilot programs, so as to ensure that the reform will be conducted in a vigorous and steady manner.

The people's understanding and support are the driving force behind the judicial reform, and the people's sense of gain is the standard for evaluating the judicial reform. In light of the new challenges in the new era, the people's new expectations and new progress in science and technology, the judicial reform of China's courts will always be pushed forward and never be finished. In the next step, the people's courts will rally closely around the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary, unremittingly pursue the goal to make the public experience fairness and justice in each judicial case, stay true to the mission, always forge ahead, make continuous efforts to push forward the reform of the judicial system and improve the socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics, and make new and great contributions to the building of a socialist country under the rule of law and the realization of the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Back to Part 1 or Part 2 of Court Reform in China(2013-2016) (White Papers, March 2017).

Click here to find the original resource in English.