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Upcoming reform of the Chinese trial system

On August 20, 2021, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC), China’s highest organ of state power and top legislature, authorized China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) to carry out the reform of the trial system.

In a previous article published in this blog, we explained how Chinese trial system works.

We remind that in China, there are four levels of courts:

  1. Highest level: the Supreme People's Court (whose judges are elected or designated by the National People's Congress)

  2. Provincial level: the high people's courts.(whose judges are elected or designated by provincial people's congress)

  3. The intermediate people's court. (whose judges are elected or designated by municipal people's congress)

  4. The primary people's courts.(whose judges are elected or designated by people's congress at county-level and district-level )

Generally, primary people's courts have first instance jurisdiction and their decisions can be appealed to the intermediate people's court. However, intermediate people's courts and high people's courts have first instance jurisdiction in respect of certain cases such as: when the amount of money in dispute exceeds certain thresholds or the case has significant political or social effects. Furthermore, in China, the second instance trial is final, which means that it is very difficult for the SPC and the high people's court to make corrections.

Nevertheless, a judgment that has already taken effect may be challenged and rectified through the adjudication supervision procedure (再审案件) before the high people's court and the SPC.

Therefore, many litigants in China begun to apply for the ‘reopening cases’ and exhausted the time and resources of high people’s courts and the SPC.

The chinese trial system reform aims to solve this issue and to reduce the influence of local authorities, by giving higher courts greater discretion to decide to hear the first-instance cases from its lower courts.

Avv. Lifang Dong and Avv. Chiara Civitelli

The content of this article does not constitute legal advice, but has an informative function. For tailor made legal advice, contact the firm by e-mail to: or by phone +39 06 916505710. © Dong & Partners International Law Firm, All rights reserved.

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