Characteristics of China’s Procuratorial System

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 11:24
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 The procuratorial system is an important component of a modern country’s political system and justice system and provides an important institutional guarantee for the country’s legal system and human rights. Modern China’s procuratorial system was gradually formed and developed during the process of carrying out socialist revolution, development, and reform and opening up led by the CPC. It was established in line with the requirements for governance in accordance with the law and the development of a socialist country ruled by law and on the basis of a review of the historical experience and lessons learned in developing China’s socialist legal system, absorption of the essence of China’s political and legal system in history and borrowing from aspects of the procuratorial system of other countries. It adheres to the theory of the people’s democratic dictatorship, theory of the system of the people’s congresses and the theory of democratic centralism. In operation, the work of the procuratorial system reflects the Marxist outlook on law tailored to conditions in China. It is an essential historical consequence and is reasonable in actual practice. China’s procuratorial system has a number of obvious characteristics.

 I. The main characteristics of China’s procuratorial system

 The political characteristic of the system is that it always upholds the leadership of the CPC. The work of the procuratorial system is always carried out under the leadership of the CPC, which in essence is determined by the requirements of the nature of China’s socialist system. It is the basic guarantee for rule of the country by law and for developing the country into one governed by a socialist legal system. The history of the establishment and development of the people’s procuratorial system shows that maintaining and strengthening the leadership of the CPC, conscientiously incorporating procuratorial work into the affairs of the CPC and the state and protecting the people’s basic interests is a requirement of the nature of China’s socialist procuratorial system as well as the basis for the sound development of procuratorial work in China. 

  December 29, 2009, 50-some local cadre and resident representatives from Shihua Sub-district in the Jinshan District of Shanghai arrived at the Jinshan District People’s Procuratorate to participate in the Procuratorate Open Day activity and learn about the work of procuratorial organs. / Photo supplied by Xinhua

 The organizational characteristic of the system is that it is an independent organ within the structure of “a government, a justice system and a procuratorate.” The system of people’s congresses is a fundamental political system of China and an organizational form of government authority. Administrative organs with administrative powers, judicial organs with judicial powers and procuratorial organs with procuratorial powers have been set up under the People’s Congress. The government, justice system and the procuratorate are all generated by the People’s Congress, are responsible to it and are all subject to its oversight. This is different from the procuratorial organs of Western countries, which are usually subject to administrative organs or are part of the justice department. China’s procuratorial organs are on the same level as the state administrative organs and judicial organs as state organs with independent constitutional status. The procuratorial powers, judicial powers and administrative powers are relatively independent, but are all organs under the people as administrators of state power through the People’s Congress. This is fundamentally different from the “separation of powers” practiced by Western countries. The independent status of China’s procuratorial organs in the state system is closely related to its constitutionally mandated role as an organ of legal oversight. Their general objective and mission is to ensure that the law is uniformly and correctly applied through the execution of their oversight function in accordance with the law. 

 The functional characteristic of the system is that it serves as a legal oversight organ of the state. The Chinese Constitution clearly specifies that, “the people’s procuratorates of the People’s Republic of China are state organs for legal oversight.” This indicates that the fundamental nature and duty of China’s procuratorial organs is legal oversight. This specified function of “legal oversight” represents an important difference between China’s procuratorial system and the procuratorial systems of Western countries. The procuratorial systems of Western countries are basically or mainly viewed as an organ of the state whose basic function is that of public prosecutor, but China’s procuratorial system is an organ dedicated to legal oversight. The system of people’s congresses is a basic system of China. Thus the power of the state is under a unified leadership and not at all “separation of powers.” Through this organ of legal oversight, the system of people’s congresses carries out monitoring and restriction among government authorities, which is a fundamentally different power restricting mechanism from the separation of powers and checks and balances. China’s procuratorial system is a dedicated legal oversight mechanism of the system of people’s congresses. It separates the function of legal oversight from the general functions of the state as an independent dedicated state function. The specified function of “legal oversight” exercised by China’s procuratorial organs determines the fact that the authority disposition and specified powers of China’s procuratorial authority and its operating principles differ greatly from those of Western countries. By legally authorizing arrests, bringing lawsuits and investigating cases of illegal acts in the execution of duties among state workers, and overseeing investigation activities, judicial activities and punishment activities. China’s procuratorial organs ensure that the law is being properly executed and safeguard the country’s legal system.

 The generational characteristic of the procuratorial system is that it keeps up with the times. The structure of China’s procuratorial system borrows from the advanced legal ideals and reasonable legal practices of humankind, follows the correct guidance of advanced theory with Marxist theory at the core and reflects the important historical achievements made in creatively developing a democratic legal system under China’s system of the people’s democratic dictatorship. China’s procuratorial system separates the function of legal oversight from general functions of the state and organically integrates the function of legal oversight with traditional procuratorial powers, an important institutional contribution to a modern procuratorial system. At the same time, it is an integral part of the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics and a procuratorial system with Chinese characteristics that is suitable for the primary stage of socialism and the primary stage of the socialist legal system. This system is in a specific stage of historical development. Like China’s socialist political system and judicial system, it is in the process of implementing a general policy of administering affairs of state according to the law, working to develop China into a socialist country ruled by law and promoting social harmony. And like China’s socialist political system and judicial system, China’s procuratorial system still has some areas in theory and practice that need to be constantly addressed and improved in this process. This requires that we fully take into consideration conditions in China, keep up with the times, be innovative and develop, and deepen procuratorial reform so that the socialist procuratorial system with Chinese characteristics always retains its vitality and vigor. 

 II. The political, economic, historical and cultural bases of China’s procuratorial system

 First of all, there is a political basis. The structure of China’s procuratorial system reflects the essential requirements of the development of China’s political system. China’s procuratorial system was set up as an important state institution, the establishment of the status of procuratorial organs in the Constitution and its basic responsibilities are inherent requirements of the system of people’s congresses. The leadership structure of procuratorial organs and the principles governing procuratorial activities are determined by China’s state system and party system. The course of the development of New China’s legal system over the past 60 years shows that the establishment of a dedicated legal oversight organ while adhering to the principle of the system of people’s congresses as the fundamental political system of the country is an important measure in improving the oversight system for government authority as well as an essential requirement for improving the system of people’s congresses. China’s procuratorial system makes good use of its role as “escort battleship” for the state’s political, economic and social activities. It provides an important institutional guarantee for ensuring the uniformity of the legal system, and is an integral component of the development of China’s state political system.

 There is also an economic basis. The establishment of a state organ dedicated to legal oversight is a practical necessity. Through this organ, the state supervises and monitors how the authority of the state is exercised to ensure compliance with the law in order to consolidate the results of economic reform and economic development and to guarantee that the state’s laws are applied uniformly and correctly. The legal exercise of the power of the procuratorial organs to carry out legal oversight meets and serves the general requirements for national economic development and makes good use of its role in monitoring compliance with the law. It provides a guarantee and a driving force for protection of order in the socialist market economy, promotion of healthy national economic development and improvement in living standards, and constant progress in achieving rule by law. 

 China’s procuratorial system also has its basis in the history of New China. New China set up a new kind of state with the people’s democratic dictatorship, identified democratic centralism as the organizational principle and made the system of people’s congresses the organizational form of state political power. The people’s courts and people’s offices of the procuratorate, as important component organs of the state, were also established in line with the principle of democratic centralism. The general historical background for choosing this particular system was New China’s pressing need for a strong and effective legal oversight organ to ensure the uniformity of the central government’s laws and decrees. This practical necessity in fact provided the internal drive that made it grow into the powerful organization it is today. The historical course of the past 60 years shows that China’s procuratorial system has always fully taken into consideration and strived to meet the fundamental requirements of the development of the state and society. This has given it a solid historical foundation.

 Finally, China’s procuratorial system has a basis in cultural traditions. China is an ancient, civilized country with thousands of years of history. During the long course of the country’s development, China has always had inherent political, legal and cultural traditions. The unified power structure of the state, establishment of institutions such as a censorship system responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and decrees, and the division of labor and coordination in state power all are firmly rooted in historical and cultural traditions. China’s procuratorial system is established under the system of people’s congresses, and, at the same time, to a certain extent represents a continuation of China’s historical and cultural traditions.

(From Qiushi in Chinese No. 23, 2009)

Note: Author: Deputy Procurator-General of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the P.R.C

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