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