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China: Supreme People’s Court Issues Notice on “Five Strict Prohibitions”

(May 4, 2009) On January 8, 2009, China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) distributed a notice to the lower people's courts at all levels, military courts, and certain other specified courts on the issuance of the Provisions on the Five Strict Prohibitions and the Punishment Measures for Violations of the Five Strict Prohibitions. The Provisions and the Punishment Measures were deliberated upon and adopted by the SPC's Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Leading Group, the notice states. (Notice of the Supreme People's Court on Issuing the Provisions on “Five Prohibits” and the Punishment Measures for Violations Against the Provisions on “Five Prohibits” (No. 2 [2009] of the Supreme People's Court) [in Chinese] [full-text English translation available to subscribers], LawInfoChina online subscription database,

According to an SPC spokesperson, although provisions similar to the “Five Strict Prohibitions” are not new among SPC disciplinary norms, those provisions have not been sufficiently well implemented. The SPC CCP Leadership therefore found it necessary to reemphasize them and adopt stronger enforcement mechanisms to resolve “current glaring problems” related to judicial corruption – e.g., wielding official authority in the handling of “personal relationship” cases, “connections” (guanxi) cases, and “money” cases. (Chen Yonghui, Supreme People's Court Issues “Five Strict Prohibitions” Provisions [in Chinese], PEOPLE'S COURT DAILY, Jan. 9, 2009, available at; Supreme People's Court Targets Corruption, China Government Watch blog, Jan. 17, 2009, available at

The spokesperson stated that while clear achievements had been made in recent years throughout the court system in anti-corruption work, instances of a small number of judges seriously violating discipline and the law still occurred; in particular, instances of a “very few” leading cadres of the courts taking bribes and bending the law, practicing favoritism, and becoming degenerate tarnished the image of the courts and of the judges and had a serious, deleterious impact as a whole. The Provisions were issued to resolve these problems, the spokesperson said. He stressed that the Provisions would apply to all administrative and institutional court personnel, not only to judges, at all four levels of courts throughout the country. (Id.)

The Provisions strictly prohibit: accepting entertainment and gifts from the parties concerned in cases and other related parties; having unlawful contact with lawyers; intervening in or inquiring about cases being handled by others; engaging in corrupt practices for personal gain in the course of delegating activities such as assessment or auction work; and disclosing secrets in connection with adjudication work. The Provisions further state that any court staff member who violates the prohibitions will be subject to disciplinary, or even criminal, liability. If the violator holds a post in adjudication or enforcement, he or she will be removed from office.

Articles 2-6 of the 14-article Punishment Measures define in greater detail what is meant by each of the prohibitions. Most of the remaining articles address investigating, reporting, and handling of violations of the Provisions. For example, the CCP discipline inspection departments of people's courts, within their jurisdictional limits, are to conduct a timely investigation of evidence of violations of the Provisions; once the facts have been examined, if the perpetrator should be removed from his or her adjudicatory or administrative position, that opinion should be promptly presented to the court CCP leadership group for a decision on the matter (art. 9). (Notice, supra).