Survey on Chinese legal aid system

Legal aid

        Legal aid refers to a kind of judicial relief means by which parties who are in poverty or to the special cases may get legal assistance of reduction or exemption of service fee provided by state. Legal aid system , with its essence of state duty and government action, is an important legal system to carry through the constitutional principle of "All citizens are equal before the law",to guarantee that all citizens enjoy equal and partial protection by law, to perfect social insurance systems, complete human rights protection mechanism.

Establishment of Chinese legal aid system

        With the development of reform and openness and socialist market economy,law has become an important mode of adjusting different kinds of social relationship in China, legal service has also become one basic demands to citizens to achieve and protect the lawful rights and interests. With the transferring of economic systems and the adjusting of interest structure, certain differences of wealth among citizens appeared due to the subjective and objective conditions, which result in problems that a part of citizens have no capabilities to protect their own lawful rights and interests because of economic difficulty.

        In order to protect the social infirm to enjoy the same rights of legal assistance as common citizens not subject to economic difficulty, protect judicial justice and judicial human rights, carry through the constitutional principle of "All citizens are equal before the law",seeking for establishment and implementation of Chinese legal aid system was formally brought up by the Ministry of Justice in earlier 1994, and experimental legal aid work was initially conducted in some large or middle cities. With the successive promulgation of Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China, and Law on Lawyers, legal aid system has got its status in Chinese legal systems. After that, overall start-up of establishment and implementation of Chinese legal aid system began. After several years' of practical exploration, legal aid career developed a lot. Local regulations relevant to legal aid work were formulated in succession in different places, Up to now, laws and regulations on legal aid have promulgated in 17 provinces (autonomous region, municipalities). The formal promulgation and implementation of Regulation on Legal Aid of the People's Republic of China symbolized a new historical development period of our country's legal aid work from the establishment of system to rapid development.

Legal aid institutions

        Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice,approved by the general office of State Staff Committee and established in December, 1996, manages and supervises legal aid work nationwide authorized by the Ministry of Justice. By the end of June 2003, legal aid institutions have been set up in the whole country, among which 2139 are in county and districts, accounting for 83% which should be established. There are 8899 legal aid full-time personnel in the whole country, nearly 50% of them have got qualification as a lawyer. Besides a certain quantities of legal aid service provided by the full-time personnel of legal aid institutions,lawyers, notaries, basic legal service workers and legal aid volunteers of some social organizations ,law schools or law institutes have participate specific legal aid work under the organization and direction of legal aid institutions at different levels.

Business conduction of Chinese legal aid system

        According to incomplete statistics,from 1997 to June,2003,altogether more than 6410000 legal consultations were answered by legal aid institutions at different levels,about 800000 different kinds of legal aid cases were conducted , nearly 970000 persons protected their own lawful rights and interests through legal aid.

Main difficulties before Chinese legal aid work at present

        Main difficulties before legal aid work of our country are as follows:one is the extruding conflicts between offer and demand of legal aid. With the successive penetration of legal aid work and increasing extensiveness of publicity,the demand of legal aid of our society are increasing. More and more criminal defending cases are designated by the courts,matters which are required by the people for legal aid are too many to deal with. It is estimated that more 700000 cases need legal aid every year in our country, but actually less than one fourth have got aid. The other is the sever shortage of legal aid fund. Legal aid fund appropriated by the state for each person is less than 6 cents each year, which is far below the average level of the developing countries. The shortage no fund severely restricts the development of legal aid fund.

Developing trend of Chinese legal aid work

        Legal aid system is an important legal system generally practiced in different countries of the world. The establishment and implementation of legal aid system is emphasized and supported by leaders of the Party and administration organs at different levels either from the central or to the local. Although in some areas whose economy are not highly developed, there still exist some difficulties in organizing and constructing legal aid institutions and raising legal aid fund,yet with the development of economy and society,the difficulties shall be overcome. In October, 1998,Chinese Government subscribed Convention of Citizens' Rights and Political Rights,once Convention is approved by the Chinese Legislative Body,legal aid as a basic legal right of citizens shall further become an international obligation assumed by Chinese government according to constitution,laws and international laws. The promulgation and implementation of Regulation on Legal Aid established basis for the development of legal aid career,The legal aid system shall be publicized increasingly and the social understanding of legal aid shall be improved by Chinese judicial administrative organs at different levels to completely implement Regulation and to make legal aid for all citizens meeting the conditions of legal assistance.

Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice of the People's Republic of China

        Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice was established on December 18, 1996,with its ceremony opened in the People's Great Hall on May 26, 1997. Office, business division, research division, training division, publicizing division are set up in the center. According to Decision of Ministry of Justice on further Define the Function of Legal Aid Center,Legal Aid Center of the Ministry of Justice which under the leadership of Ministry of Justice specifically directs and supervises legal aid work nationwide on behalf of Ministry of Justice, performs the following function:


1.Studying and drafting the policies, laws, regulations, rules and regulatory
documents relevant to legal aid work;

2.directing and supervising local legal aid work and its conduction;

3.organizing and publicizing legal aid system ;

4.managing legal aid fund;

5.organizing legal aid system and theory research;

6.organizing the foreign intercourse and cooperation of legal aid work;

7.conducting other relevant matters delivered by Ministry of Justice.


director: Deng Jiaming
vice director: Wang Junyi Sang Ning


China Legal Aid Foundation

        Being an independent social organization as legal person, China Legal Aid Foundation was approved by the State Council, registered in the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and established in 1997 as a national public foundation.

        Objectives of the foundation: guaranteeing that all citizens enjoy equal protection by law and protecting the basic rights of all citizens endowed by law.

        Major tasks the foundation: raising, managing and using legal aid funds; providing material support for the implementing legal aid; publicizing the national legal aid system to promote judicial justice.

Legal aid items of the foundation

        West item:The most extruding problem is large demand for legal aid but being severely in short of resource,the situation that a large quantities of poor parties meeting the conditions can not obtain legal aid shall be urgently changed. Supporting the west provinces and districts to conduct legal aid possesses important significance of pushing the complete development of Chinese career of legal aid.

        Item for special colony:providing legal aid for the infirm colony who have economic difficulty such as the sick, women, the old and minor not only may effectively protect their lawful rights and interests, but also improve a lot the living and developing environment of special colony and realize social justice.

        Item of cases: providing individual subsidy for the typical, special litigation case.

        Training item:providing subsidy for qualified legal aid personnel after training.


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Minisrty of Justice, the People's Republic of China
Address: No.10 Nandajie, Chaoyangmen, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, China