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Judicial System in China

In China the Supreme People's Court is the highest court for appeal, under which there are appellate courts and trial courts in provinces, cities and towns. See Article 121-128 of Chinese Constitution (in Chinese). Based on geographical regions, the appellate and trial courts are named as the High People's Court, the Intermediate People's Court, and the Basic People's Court, which is similar to the state court system in the U.S. (the state supreme courts, the appellate courts, and the trial courts). Unlike the U.S. system, however, China does not have parallel federal court and state court equivalents. Other courts are military courts and special courts such as the maritime courts and the railway transportation courts.

In the U.S. criminal cases are filed by prosecutors. In China the role of prosecutors is conducted by a government agency, the People's Procuratorate. Parallel to the structure of the judicial courts, the procuratorate organization consists of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the local People’s Procuratorate, the military procuratorate, and the special procuratorate. See Article 129-133 of Chinese Constitution (in Chinese). The Chinese Constitution designates the procuratorate as a separate governmental office for independent legal supervision. The judicial system in China is considered to consist of People's Court and People's Procuratorate.

Along with the courts and procuratorates, China also includes law enforcement agencies in its judicial system—the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security. Broadly speaking, China considers the judicial system to consist of three components: court, procuratorate, and law enforcement.

Note: Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions that are exceptions to China’s mainland judicial system.