The Organizational Setup of the SPC
The SPC is made up of a president, vice presidents, presiding judges, vice presiding judges and judges. The SPC operates courts of criminal, civil, economic, administrative trials and other courts set up according to actual needs. Besides, the SPC is also made up by a research office, general affairs office, personnel department, judicial affairs department, administrative affairs department, office affairs bureau, foreign affairs bureau and education department.
The Trial Committee
Consisting of the president, vice presidents, presiding judges, vice presiding judges and judges, the Trial Committee is the leading body of the SPC with the following tasks: summing up experiences in the work of trials, and discussing important or difficult cases and other issues related to trials. Meetings of the Trial Committee are presided over by the president of the SPC. The president of the SPC is elected and removed by the National People’s Congress. The vice presidents, presiding judges, vice presiding judges, and other members of the Trial Committee, and judges are appointed and removed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
1. The First Criminal Court whose task is to deal with major cases of criminal offense.
2. The Second Criminal Court whose task is to (investigate or) deal with appeals lodged by litigants, the accused, their relatives or other citizens against the verdicts and decisions that are already being enforced, supervise trials and timely correct mistakes that may have occurred in the trials.
3. The Civil Court whose job is to deal with civil cases of national nature.
4. The Economic Court whose job is to deal with major economic disputes.
5. The Administrative Court whose job is to deal with administrative cases involving organs of the Central Government.
The Multi-hearing Trial System
China’s trial system follows a two-hearing system in the trial process. The entire system of people’s courts constitutes a four-level, two-hearing process. When litigants are not satisfied with the verdict made by any of the local people’s courts at various levels after the court has gone through a first-hearing trial of the case within its jurisdiction, they may appeal to a court of the immediate higher level within the time limit prescribed by law. The court at the next higher level reviews the appeal and passes its judgment which constitutes the verdict of the second hearing. According to the trial system, the verdict of the second hearing is the final decision against which the litigant shall not appeal. The SPC is China’s highest trial organ and all of its decisions on the first- and second-hearing cases are final and shall be enforced once they are promulgated.
The National Court Organizations
China’s people’s court system consists of courts at four levels: namely the grassroots, intermediate, higher and supreme people’s courts, in addition to special courts such as the military, railway and water transportation courts. Grassroots courts refer to tribunals in counties/autonomous counties, cities without administrative districts, or administrative districts of cities; intermediate courts are set up in prefectures, cities directly under provinces (also autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government); higher courts are those set up in provinces (also autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government).
Special courts are a component part of the people’s court system and jointly implement the state right of trials with local people’s courts at different levels. The difference of the special courts from local people’s courts lies in the following aspects:
1. Special courts are trial organs set up according to specified organizations or specified ranges to deal with cases while the local courts are trial organs set up according to administrative divisions;
2. Cases dealt with by special courts are of special nature which means in nature these cases are different from those tried by local people’s courts; and
3. The setup of the special courts and the appointment and removal of the staff of the special courts are also different from those of local people’s courts. For instance, the president of the military court is not elected by the people’s congress but jointly appointed by the SPC and the Central Military Commission.
Special courts include the military court, maritime court, railway transportation court, forestry court, agricultural reclamation court and petroleum court.