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Chinese (PRC) & Hong Kong Law

A guide for researching Chinese (PRC) & Hong Kong Law including Legislation, Case Law, Treaties and Law Reform..

Chinese Court Structure

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. 


About Chinese judicial decisions

As with most civil law jurisdictions, judgments play a minimal role in subsequent judicial proceedings. Decisions are typically short - they list the arguments from each side, factual findings and the judgment. They rarely cite cases, and often do not refer to legislation. Higher courts are, however, more likely to explain their application of the law.

"The current Chinese legal system does not formally recognise cases or judicial precedents as a source of law. However, in practice, cases are often cited as persuasive authority and some courts follow judicial precedents to decide issues when statutes are vague. In particular certain decisions of the Supreme People's Court that can be read as generating legal norms have binding effect on lower courts." (Luo, Wei, Chinese law and legal research (Hein, 2005) 105)

Guiding Cases

As well as judgments (also called 'court opinions') the Supreme People's Court also provides guiding opinions / cases, which are considered highly persuasive. These opinions provide researchers with invaluable information on the state of a legal issue or a disputed area of law. The SPC started issuing guiding cases in 2011. These are selected from SPC judgments and other courts throughout the country. As at March 2017, there have been 87 cases designated as guiding. See Stanford Law School China Guiding Cases Project's website for English translations of:


Guiding Cases are published in the monthly SPC Gazette.  They are available on the following databases:

Where to find Chinese judgments

All Chinese courts must post their judgments on the open-access Supreme People’s Court (SPC) online platform, China Judgements Online. As of August 29, 2016, 'judgment documents' that the courts must post online include not only criminal, civil, and administrative judgments, but also other judgment documents such as payment orders and state compensation decisions. Judgments must be uploaded to the site within 7 days. There are millions of judgments on this platform. 

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