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China & Hong Kong Legal Research Guide: Legislation

The Constitution of China

An open access version of the 1982 Constitution as amended up to 2004 (the current Constitution) in English is available on the official National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China website 

For commentary on the Constitution, see eg:

  • Kluwer Law Online  - provides up to date full text access to English content on Chinese Constitutional Law. Content includes:
    • General Introduction (2016)     
    • Part I. The Form of Government and the Political System of PRC (2013)
    • Part II. Form of Government of PRC (2013)     
    • Part III. Fundamental Rights and Freedom of Citizens of PRC (2016)
    • Part IV. National Symbols (2016)
  • World Constitutions Illustrated on HEIN Online includes:
    • All constitutions and fundamental laws of China, from the Organic Law of the Chinese Empire in 1833 to the current 1982 Constitution as amended in 2004 - all in both Chinese and English. 
    • Commentary, scholarly articles and a bibliography of select Constitutional works.

See also Fan Jizeng, 'Constitutional Transplant in the People's Republic of China: The Influence of the Soviet Model and Challenges in the Globalization Era' (2015) I Brics Law Journal  50-100 - full text article available on SSRN.

Great Hall China at night

Great Hall of the People, where the National People's Congress (NPC) convenes.
Image source: Wikipedia

Judicial Interpretation of Legislation

Legislation can be judicially interpreted without a specific case necessarily before the court. These interpretations provide lawyers, judges and researchers with invaluable information on the state of a legal issue or a disputed area of law. English versions of judicial interpretation of legislation is available on:

  • PKU Law (UniMelb staff & student access) for individual pieces of legislation - from the Laws & Regulations menu.
  • Westlaw China (UniMelb staff & student access) - interpretation by the Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate. From the Laws & Regulations tab on the top menu, select Judicial Interpretations. These can be searched or browsed.

About the Legislative process

As court judgments do not have precedential value in China, most legal research will be based on legislation and administrative regulations.

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China authorises both a legislative and an administrative hierarchy for the central and local governments to enact laws. The Constitution also provides for different legal effect for laws enacted by different levels of legislative bodies or administrative agencies.

China’s legal system covers laws that fall under seven categories: the Constitution and Constitution-related, civil and commercial, administrative, economic, social, and criminal laws and the law on lawsuit and non-lawsuit procedures.

China’s legal system covers laws at three levels: state laws, administrative regulations and local statutes.

The hierarchy of Chinese legislatures:

  1. The National People's Congress (NPC) and its Standing Committee: Constitution and Laws
  2. The State Council: Administrative Regulations
  3. Local People's Congresses: Local Regulations, Autonomous Regulations, and Specific Regulations
  4. Ministries of the State Council: Departmental Rules
  5. Local People's Government: Local Rules
  6. The Central Military Commission: Military Regulations and Rules

National Legislation is passed by the NPC and typically provides the overall foundation of the Chinese legal system. For example, the NPC passes all civil, criminal and contract laws. The NPC also promulgates all Primary and Implementation Regulations. Local governments may also implement their own regulations. Legislative power is granted to various national and local administrations, which promulgate regulations according to the scope determined by the NPC.

See more information about the legislative system and legal system of China, on the State Council of the People's Republic of China website.

The English version of the National People's Congress website contains information about China's State Structure, and the NPC.

Chinese laws in Chinese

OPEN ACCESS RESOURCES

The Chinese Regulations Express pages of the official Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council website has a complete and up-to-date collection of Laws, regulations etc.

ChinaLII is a work in progress that includes the Constitution, laws, regulations and normative documents. Laws are arranged by topic, then date.

SUBSCRIPTION RESOURCES (UniMelb staff & student access)

PKU Law - the Beida Fabao - Laws & Regulations Database (Chinese Version) is far more comprehensive that the English version. It includes all the laws and regulations and other legal information promulgated by the Chinese central government and most of local governments since 1949. It also includes:

  • Annotated Chinese Laws, in which more than one hundred Chinese laws are annotated article by article to help readers understand the meanings of these laws.
  • Two-way hypertext links, in which, not only the laws and regulations mentioned in another law or regulation are marked with hypertext links but also use hypertext links to link all the related laws, regulations, cases, and law review articles together.
  • More information on the Chinese content of PKU Law.

Westlaw China provides more than 1 million laws and regulations promulgated by Chinese government agencies at both the central level and the level of province, municipality directly under the Central Government and autonomous region since 1949.

Finding Chinese legislation in English

There is no comprehensive or up to date collection of Chinese laws in English on open access websites. Subscription databases have the best collections. Note that translated laws are never official.

SUBSCRIPTION RESOURCES (UniMelb staff & student access)

PKU Law - the English version of this platform contains legal information intentionally tailored to the needs of foreigners and foreign organisations working in China. It includes:

  • Laws & Regulations: comprises over 20,000 laws, regulations, rules, judicial interpretations, local regulations, and local rules in more than ninety legal areas. Its collections include:
    • All laws adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC) and the NPC Standing Committee from 1949 to the present 
    • All the administrative regulations promulgated by the State Council from 1949 to the present
    • Most of the important administrative rules or orders promulgated or approved by the agencies under the State Council and independent agencies such as the Securities Regulatory Commission; 
  • Gazettes (titles only) - browsable and searchable index of official publications containing regulations and documents related to the legislative history of regulations, such as explanations, reports, deliberations, speeches, circulars and notices.  
  • Major WTO legal rules relating to China

More information on the English contents of PKU Law.

Westlaw China - the English database includes more than 20,448 important laws, regulations and international treaties. The database can be searched, and browsed by type of law or topic. The Laws & Regulations tab includes:

  • Laws of the National People's Congress and Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
  • Administrative Regulations
  • Ministerial Regulations
  • Local Regulations
  • Military Regulations

See more on the legislation content on Westlaw China, the comparison of Chinese and English content, and the User Guide on searching Westlaw China.

The Foreign Law Guide (UniMelb staff & student access) provides an alphabetical list of Chinese laws by topic - each topic provides links to full text laws and gazettes (in Chinese only).

 

OPEN ACCESS RESOURCES

The National People's Congress Database of Laws and Regulations is a full text collection of the laws enacted by the NPC and its Standing Committee and administrative regulations by the State Council. It can be searched or browsed.

 

​ChinaLII is a work in progress that contains English translations of the Constitution, laws, regulations and normative documents. Although the site is in Chinese, if you hover the mouse over any of the headings on the home and subsequent pages, you will see the English translation of the heading. Laws are arranged by topic and then by date. To see an English law or regulation, once on the law's webpage, if an English translation exists, the title will be in English with a link beside it - this will link to an English version.  

 

The english.gov.cn website of the State Council of the People's Republic of China contains English translations of nearly 40 major national laws and regulations (mostly related to doing business in China), and an up to date list (titles only, not full text) of the State Council Gazettes from 2000 to current.

 

The China Law Translate website provides translations of Chinese legislation into English.  This is 'crowd-sourced' database, like Wikipedia, where individuals translate a law. It is a well respected and up to date resource, but currently quite incomplete.

 

Laws of the People's Republic of China - via AsianLII – contains an A to Z list of many laws of the PRC derived mainly from government websites including ChinaLaw (Information Centre for Legislative Affairs Office of the PRC State Council) and the Laws and Regulations pages of the ChinaCourt (Supreme Peoples' Court). Warning: This database has not been updated since 2007.