China has enjoyed marked progress in its legal system since beginning economic reforms and opening up in the late-1970s. Training of judges, prosecutors, police, and defense lawyers has also contributed to gradual improvement of the civil and criminal justice systems. Despite these advances, legal reform continues to face serious challenges. Operating within a framework that maintains the supremacy of the Communist Party of China, the legal system, plagued by endemic corruption as well as the influence of guanxi (relationships), in many respects is still better characterized as rule-by-law rather than rule-of-law. The use of state security and state secrets laws to restrict procedural due process protections further contributes to politicized and opaque decision-making processes, especially in cases deemed sensitive by the authorities.
As with any legal system, China’s is under continuous revision and development. Since the transfer of power from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping in late 2012, influential intellectuals, lawyers, journalists, and activists have renewed their call for reforms to ensure constitutional governance based on supremacy of the law, protection of rights, and limits on government power. A diverse swath of civil society—including lawyers, farmers, workers, ethnic minorities, intellectuals, and others affected by social injustices—is increasingly asserting rights protected under Chinese law and International human rights norms.
To assist human rights defenders, international experts, journalists, scholars, and interested citizens in better understanding and engaging with China’s legal system, we have compiled resources related to laws and regulations that impact human rights.
These include not only substantive laws, but also official policy statements and analysis. In addition to the materials available on our website, there are a number of helpful online resources for Chinese law research, updates, and analysis. Some links to sites that HRIC recommends are provided at the bottom of the page.
Please browse the following links for legal resources relevant to the named topic:
2015-16 Legislative Plans:
New and Notable:
Public Comment Period Closed: