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China Table of Contents


Early Years of the People's Republic, 1949-53

In 1949 the Communists abolished all Guomindang laws and judicial organs and established the Common Program, a statement of national purposes adopted by a September 1949 session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (see Glossary), as a provisional constitution. Under the Common Program, 148 mainly experimental or provisional laws and regulations were adopted to establish the new socialist rule. The most important and farreaching of these laws dealt with marriage, land reform, counterrevolutionaries, and corruption. A three-level, singleappeal court system was established, and the Supreme People's Procuratorate and local people's procuratorates were instituted. The procuratorates were established to ensure that government organs at all levels, persons in government service, and all citizens strictly observed the Common Program and the policies, directives, laws, and decrees of the people's government. They also were to investigate and prosecute counterrevolutionary and other criminal cases; to contest illegal or improper judgments rendered by judicial organs at every level; and to investigate illegal measures taken by places of detention and labor-reform organs anywhere in the country. They were to dispose of cases submitted by citizens who were dissatisfied with the decision of "no prosecution" made by the procuratorial organs of lower levels and to intervene in important civil cases and administrative legal actions affecting the national interest.

The period 1949-52 was one of national integration in the wake of decades of disunity, turmoil, and war, and included efforts to bring the diverse elements of a disrupted society into line with the new political direction of the state. The land reform movement of 1949-51 was accompanied, in 1950, by the movement to suppress counterrevolutionaries. In 1952 the san fan ("three anti") movement opposed corruptions, waste, and bureaucratism, while the wu fan ("five anti") movement rallied against bribery, tax evasion, theft of state assets, cheating on government contracts, and theft of state economic secrets. During this period, few cases were brought to court (see The People's Republic of China , ch. 1). Instead, administrative agencies, especially the police, conducted mass trials with large crowds of onlookers shouting accusations. Hundreds of thousands were executed as a result of those "trials," and many more were sent to prison or to labor camps. In the relatively few cases that were tried in formal courts, court records gave little indication as to what laws were used as a basis for the judgment.

In 1952 the authorities launched a nationwide judicial reform movement "to rectify and purify the people's judicial organs at every level politically, organizationally, and ideologically, and to strengthen the party's leadership of judicial work." Guomindangera judges were purged from the courts, and those who remained, having been tacitly cleared of charges of "flagrant counterrevolution" and sworn to uphold the mass line in judicial work, continued to press for a more regularized Soviet-style legal system. These judges were confident that the mass movements shortly would end and that the communist-run government eventually would see that it needed a more formal judicial structure. Indeed, at the instigation of the legal specialists, in 1953 the state began to promulgate separate criminal laws.

Data as of July 1987