In China and according to the Organic Law of the People’s Courts, judicial powers are exercised by the courts at four levels:
(i) Basic People’s Court: Courts at the county or district level. Tribunals may also be established in accordance with local practice;
(ii) Intermediate People’s Court: Prefecture level courts;
(iii) Higher People’s Court: Provincial level courts.
(iv) The Supreme People’s Court: the highest court in the judicial system located in Beijing. The court is directly responsible to the NPC and its Standing Committee. The court supervises the administration of justice by the People’s Courts at various levels. Additionally, the court provides interpretations of law which play an important role in the application of law and which act as guidelines for trials in China.
Local courts are established in accordance with the jurisdiction of local governments. Courts at different levels are independent from one another and are independent from administrative authorities at the same level. They are only responsible to the People’s Congress and its Standing Committee. However, it is ineviatable that lower level courts are often influenced by courts of a higher level and or governments.
Cases are decided by a maximum of two instances of trial in the People’s Courts. In other words, a party may bring an appeal only once to the People’s Court at the next higher level. Additionally the People’s Procuratorate may protest that a court decision of the People’s Court move to the next level of the hierarchy.
If one wishes to appeal a judgment of first instance, he must do so within the prescribed period for appeal. If no party makes an appeal, judgments or orders of first instance become legally effective. Additionally, any judgment and or order rendered by the Supreme People’s Court as a court of first instance become effective immediately. It is also certain that the Supreme People’s Court, at its discretion, may revoke or retry a case. Such will occur if the Supreme People’s Court finds a mistake in the judgment and or order which has previously been rendered effective. Such action is normally the product of a complaint made to the Supreme People’s Court by one party to the judgment and or order.