The Socialist System of Laws with Chinese Characteristics

( Updated : 2015-07-17

2. Branches of the socialist system of laws with Chinese characteristics

Laws related to the Constitution. The laws related to the Constitution are the collection of legal norms supporting the Constitution and directly guaranteeing its enforcement and the operation of state power. They regulate the political relationships of the state and mainly consist of laws in relation to the establishment, organization, functions, powers and basic working principles of state organs; laws on the system of regional ethnic autonomy, the system of special administrative regions and the primary-level self-governance; laws in relation to maintaining state sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security and national symbols; and laws in relation to guaranteeing the basic political rights of citizens. By the end of August 2011 China had enacted 38 laws related to the Constitution, as well as a number of administrative and local regulations.

China has formulated electoral laws related to the NPC and local people’s congresses at all levels, organic laws of local people’s congresses and people’s governments at all levels, and developed mechanisms for the election of deputies of the people’s congresses and the leadership of state organs, providing an institutional guarantee for the people’s exercise of state power and a legal basis for the formation of state organs. It has enacted organic laws of the NPC, the State Council, the People’s Courts and the People’s Procuratorates, and established systems concerning the organization, function and power and limits of related state organs. To implement the “one country, two systems” policy and realize national reunification, it has promulgated the basic laws of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and established the system of special administrative region which has ensured the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao. It has formulated organic laws governing urban residents’ committees and villagers’ committees for the establishment of urban and rural primary-level self-governance. In this way, citizens directly exercise the rights of democratic election, decision, administration and supervision by law, and implement democratic self-government of public and welfare affairs at the grassroots level, which have become the most direct and extensive democratic practices in the country. China has promulgated the Law on the Procedure for the Conclusion of Treaties, Law on Territorial Waters and the Contiguous Zones, Law on Exclusive Economic Zones and the Continental Shelf, Anti-Secession Law, Law on the National Flag, Law on the National Emblem, and other laws, and established a legal system which maintains state sovereignty and territorial integrity while safeguarding the fundamental interests of the country. It has enacted the Law on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations, Law on State Compensation, and other laws, as well as administrative regulations concerning ethnic group, religion, petition, and publication and registration of mass organizations, which guarantee the basic political rights of the citizens.

China fully protects its citizens’ right to vote and stand for election. Elections follow the principles of universal suffrage and equality, and are carried out in the forms of direct, indirect and competitive elections. The Constitution stipulates that all citizens of the People’s Republic of China who have reached the age of 18, except persons who have been deprived of their political rights in accordance with the law, shall have the right to vote and stand for election, regardless of ethnic status, race, sex, occupation, family background, religious belief, education, property status or length of residence. To guarantee its citizens’ right to vote and stand for election, China is constantly modifying and improving the electoral system in accordance with the country’s actual conditions, and has gradually realized the election of deputies to the people’s congresses consonant with the proportion of the populations in urban and rural areas, and ensured that an appropriate number of representatives can appear at the NPC from all regions, ethnic groups and walks of life, realizing complete equality of the voting right of urban and rural residents.

China has enacted the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, which ensures the implementation of the system of regional ethnic autonomy, fully respects and guarantees the right of ethnic minorities to administer their own affairs, and protects the legitimate rights and interests of the ethnic minorities by law. According to the Constitution and laws, China has currently 155 ethnic autonomous areas, i.e. five autonomous regions, 30 autonomous prefectures and 120 autonomous counties (banners). In addition, there are over 1,100 villages where ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities. According to the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy, ethnic autonomous areas have extensive autonomous power. First, they have the exclusive right to govern the local affairs of their ethnic groups and other affairs within their respective administrative regions. The chairman or vice-chairmen of the standing committee of the people’s congress of an ethnic autonomous area must be a member of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area, and the head of an autonomous region, autonomous prefecture or autonomous county must be a citizen of the ethnic group exercising regional autonomy in the area concerned. Secondly, the people’s congresses of ethnic autonomous areas have the power to enact regulations on the exercise of autonomy and separate regulations in the light of the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the ethnic group or groups in the areas concerned, and by law may also make adaptations to the provisions of laws and administrative regulations in the light of the characteristics of the ethnic group(s) in the areas concerned. By the end of August 2011, the ethnic autonomous areas had enacted more than 780 regulations on the exercise of autonomy, as well as separate regulations, which are currently in force. Thirdly, ethnic autonomous areas use and develop their own spoken and written languages. Fifty-three of the 55 minority groups have their own languages, and there are altogether 72 languages; 29 minority groups have their own scripts. The system of regional ethnic autonomy established by the Constitution and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy is consistent with the common interests and development needs of all China’s ethnic groups. It guarantees the minority groups’ self-government of their own affairs by law, their democratic participation in the administration of state and social affairs, and their equal entitlement to economic, political, social and cultural rights, and maintains relations of equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony among ethnic groups.

China respects and upholds human rights. The Constitution has comprehensive stipulations on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. The state has promulgated a series of laws and regulations and has developed a comparatively complete legal system to protect human rights, and ensures the citizens’ right to subsistence and development, personal rights and property rights, freedom of religious belief, of speech, of the press, of the assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration, the right to social security and education, as well as other economic, political, social and cultural rights. The Constitution stipulates that citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The State Council has also promulgated the Regulations on Religious Affairs. Currently China has a total of more than 100 million believers in various religions, and the state fully protects its citizens’ freedom of religious belief. The Constitution also provides that citizens who have suffered losses as a result of infringement of their civic rights by any state organ or functionary have the right to compensation in accordance with the provisions of the law. The state has enacted the Law on State Compensation and established the system of state compensation to effectively guarantee the right to state compensation of all citizens, legal persons and other organizations in accordance with the law.

Civil and commercial laws. Civil laws adjust property and personal relationships between civil subjects with equal status, that is, between citizens, between legal persons and between citizens and legal persons, and follow the principles of equal status between civil subjects, autonomy of will, fairness, honesty and credibility, and other basic principles. Commercial laws adjust commercial relationships between business subjects, and follow the basic principles of Civil Law and the principles of the freedom of commercial transaction, compensation of equal value and convenience and safety, among other principles. By the end of August 2011 China had promulgated 33 civil and commercial laws, as well as a large number of administrative and local regulations concerning commercial activities.

The state enacted the General Principles of the Civil Law, which establishes the basic principles that shall be followed in civil and commercial activities, and defines the target of regulation and basic principles of civil laws, as well as the systems concerning civil subjects, civil activities, civil rights and civil liability. With the development of the market economy, China gradually formulated the Contract Law, Property Law, Law on the Contracting of Rural Land and other laws, and established and improved the system of creditors’ rights and the system of property rights including the proprietary rights, usufructuary rights and collateral rights; enacted the Tort Law and improved the tort responsibility system; promulgated the Marriage Law, Adoption Law, Succession Law and other laws and established and improved the marriage and family system; formulated the Law of the Application of Law in Foreign-related Civil Relations and improved the legal system of civil relations with foreigners; made the Company Law, Partnership Enterprise Law, Law on Individual Proprietorship Enterprises, Law on Commercial Banks, Law on Securities Investment Fund, Law on Specialized Farmers’ Cooperatives, and other laws, and established and improved the system of business subjects. It also promulgated Securities Law, Maritime Code, Negotiable Instruments Law, Insurance Law and other laws, and established and improved the system of commercial activities. The systems of maritime trade, negotiable instruments, insurance, securities and other market economic activities gradually took form and quickly developed.

China attaches great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights, and has promulgated a large number of laws and regulations, including the Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Regulations on the Protection of Computer Software, Regulations on the Protection of Integrated Circuit Layout Design, Regulations on the Collective Administration of Copyright, Regulations on the Protection of the Right to Network Dissemination of Information, Regulations on the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, Regulations on the Customs Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, Regulations on the Administration of Special Signs, Regulations on the Protection of Olympic Symbols, and other laws and regulations, centered on the protection of intellectual property rights. The promulgation of the Trademark Law in 1982 marked the beginning of China’s systematic development of a modern legal system covering intellectual property rights. To further enhance the protection of intellectual property rights in China and meet the requirements for joining the WTO, China has been constantly improving the legal system of intellectual property rights, and has made a number of amendments to the Patent Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law and other laws to highlight legal protection of the promotion of scientific and technological advancement and innovation from the perspectives of the principles of legislation, the contents of rights, the standard of protection and the means of legal remedy, among others. By the end of 2010, the state had approved over 3,890,000 patents of various types, and effectively registered over 4,600,000 trademarks, including 670,000 trademarks from 177 countries and regions. According to incomplete statistics, during the period 2001-2010 copyright administration organs at various levels confiscated 707 million pirated copies, delivered 93,000 administrative penalties and transferred 2,500 cases to judicial organs.