The Politics of Law and Stability in China

The Politics of Law and Stability in China

Edited by Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi, Flora Sapio and Sarah Biddulph

The Politics of Law and Stability in China examines the nexus between social stability and the law in contemporary China. It explores the impact of Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rationales for social stability on legal reforms, criminal justice operations and handling of disputes and social unrest inside and outside China’s justice agencies.

Chapter 8: Criminal procedure, law reform and stability

Guo Zhiyuan

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, asian politics and policy, law - academic, asian law, human rights, politics and public policy, asian politics


The Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) is one of China’s most important laws. Directly or indirectly it involves the rights and interests of all citizens, since any citizen can potentially be a suspect or victim of a criminal offence. A number of provisions in the CPL have a bearing on the fundamental rights of citizens as listed in the Constitution since they provide concrete mechanisms for implementing these abstract principles. The CPL has therefore long been considered China’s ‘mini Constitution’, ‘practical Constitution’ or ‘Constitution in action’. The first CPL was enacted in 1979, substantially revised in 1996 and overhauled again in 2012. This chapter traces the development of these reforms to China’s CPL, and explores how concerns for stability have impacted upon them. In China establishing and maintaining order in society is considered the ultimate goal of both crime control and human rights protection. Social order is interchangeable with stability so it can be said that stability concerns underlie both the crime control and due process goals of criminal procedure. For legal reformers, reform proposals conducive to social stability will usually prevail. In this chapter I first introduce the background and process of law reforms relating to criminal procedure and follow with discussion of some key changes in the new CPL. I then explore the reasons for these reforms, arguing that in the 2012 CPL amendment, stability is the most important goal. In conclusion I anticipate the challenges that will confront China in implementing the new CPL.

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