Skip to content Skip to navigation

Development of the Legal Profession in Post-Mao China

April 1, 2009
1957–1976 Successive political campaigns beginning with the Anti-Rightist Campaign and then
followed by the Cultural Revolution virtually demolished China’s legal institutions. The
Ministry of Justice, the procuratorate, and legal advice offices were shut down; legal education was suspended; and the courts generally did not function.1
1977 The first wave of students since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution entered college,
including 256 law students.2
1978 Procuratorates re-opened3 and university entrance exams resumed.4
1979 Ministry of Justice re-established.5
1980 First (provisional) regulations on lawyers (中华人民共和国律师暂行条列) introduced,
defining lawyers as “state legal workers.”6
1986 All China Lawyers Association founded. It is the national professional organization of
lawyers, and is largely run by the state.7
1986 First National Bar Exam administered.
1986 Introduction of legal literacy and popular legal education programs under the Legal
Education Department of the Ministry of Justice, pursuant to which the public was provided
basic knowledge about the Constitution and laws through radio, newspapers, television,
public posters, websites, activities in schools and work places, and other
1995 First Judges Law (中华人民共和国法官法) introduced, which required that judges be 22
years of age, have two years’ working experience in law (no experience was required
for those who had received LL.M.s), and have gone through “public examination and
strict appraisal.”9
1996 First Lawyers Law (中华人民共和国律师法) introduced, which removed the description
“state legal workers” from the definition of lawyer,10 and imposed a mandatory obligation
upon lawyers to provide legal aid.11
1996 Introduction of the legal aid system and establishment of the National Legal Aid Center,
which allowed those in need to obtain legal services at a free or reduced rate.12
2002 Introduction of National Judicial Examination,which replaced the National Bar Exam.13
2008 The first revision of the Lawyers Law took effect, stipulating that lawyers can meet with
criminal suspects without being monitored.14
January 13 BLA published draft Election Procedures for the Eighth Beijing Lawyers’ Representative
on its website.
January 18 Yang injured by guards at BLA movie event at Beijing’s National Library
while distributing campaign literature.
February 5 The Seventh BLA board of directors adopted the draft Election Procedures for
electing representatives for the Eighth Beijing Lawyers’ Representatives Congress.


1.Aubrey McCutcheon, “Contributing to Legal Reform in China,” in Many Roads to Justice: The Law-Related Work of Ford
Foundation Grantees Around the World
, eds. Mary McClymont and Stephen Golub (New York: The Ford Foundation, 2000),
159–196, ^

2. Ji Weidong, “Legal Education in China: A Great Leap Forward of Professionalism,” Kobe University Law Review, no. 39 (2005), 1–21,^

3. Ibid. ^

4. McCutcheon, supra n. 1. ^

5. Ibid. ^

6. Interim Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Lawyers [中华人民共和国律师暂行条列], issued by the Standing
Committee of the National People's Congress [全国人民代表大会常务委员会], promulgated August 26, 1980, effective
January 1, 1982, Art. 1. ^

7. “Zhonghua Quanguo Lüshi Xiehui jianjie” [中华全国律师协会简介], All China Lawyers Association [中国律师网], ^

8. Allen C. Choate, “Legal Aid in China,” The Asia Foundation Working Paper Series, working paper no. 12 (2000),; Malin Oud, “Creative Tensions and the Legitimacy of Human Rights Education - A Discussion on Moral, Legal and Human Rights Education in China,” Journal of Social Science Education, 2006, no. 1, ^

9.Judges Law of the People’s Republic of China [中华人民共和国法官法], issued by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress [全国人民代表大会常务委员会], promulgated February 28, 1995, effective July 1, 1995; revised June 30, 2001, effective January 1, 2001.^

10. Lawyers Law of the People’s Republic of China (hereafter, Lawyers Law) [中华人民共和国律师法], issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress [全国人民代表大会常务委员会], promulgated May 15, 1996, effective January 1, 1997; amended and effective December 29, 2001; revised October 28, 2007, effective June 1, 2008, Art. 2. ^

11. Ibid. (1996), Art. 42. ^

12. Choate, supra n. 8. ^

13. Measures for the Implementation of National Judicial Examination (for Trial Implementation) [国家司法考试实施办法(试行)], issued by the Supreme People’s Court, Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Justice [最高人民法院,最高人民检察院,司法部], promulgated October 31, 2001, effective January 1, 2002. ^

14. Lawyers Law (2007), Art. 33. ^

Error | Human Rights in China 中国人权 | HRIC


The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later.