Article 17 of the Common Program
Text
Article 17 of the Common Program

All laws, decrees and judicial systems of the Guomindang reactionary government which oppress the people shall be abolished. Laws and decrees protecting the people shall be enacted and the people's judicial system shall be established.


Already on February 28, 1949, The CCP decided to abolish the old laws of the GMD government in the “recently liberated areas”.
Document: 28-02-1949
This rejection of the laws and judicial system of the GMD does not mean the new government starts with a blank sheet. On the one hand, they have gained experience before 1949 in the areas that they governed “Many of the laws issued after Liberation—such as the Land Reform Law, the Marriage Law, the various labour laws and the organic laws of legal and quasi-legal bodies, such as the court and the mediation committee had their origins in the pre-Liberation period.”
Li (1970). Pages 76-77
Before 1949, the party had already governed more than 90 million people.
On the other hand, they could copy the Soviet Union model. “During the decade of 1950-60, legal education in China was totally under the guidance of Soviet experts. China not only sent a large number of law students to the Soviet Union, but also invited many Soviet experts to teach in China. For some law-related courses, Soviet textbooks were used in schools.”
Fan (1998).Page 4
Besides several laws without political implications are still in force, for example, laws regulating traffic. The formulation of article 17 gave the party an escape route, to keep some legislation of the GMD intact, because only laws which oppressed the people should be abrogated. "Fervent representations notwithstanding, the “old law standpoint” was not simply an orphaned relic of the past; rather, the Party had actively assimilated, transformed and appropriated it, giving it a new lease on life. That is why it took root in the base areas, outlasted the Nationalist regime, and endured in the PRC. The further forward in time one looks, the clearer that becomes. Between 1949 and 1957, elements from the old law recursively irritated the legal system,.."
Tiffert (2015). Page 99
In 1949,
Wang Ming,
Wang Ming (1904-1974)
a CCP party leader, heads a working group of 41 politicians and lawyers who are drafting new legislation. Several juridical writings are publicized and new legal training programs are started. “Although new personnel were recruited and given brief training courses, a substantial backlog of housing, labour, property, debt, family and other cases confronted the courts from the very outset and led the regime, after screening out obvious undesirables, to retain many Nationalist judicial officials to help dispose of this workload. As of 1952, there were still approximately 6,000 holdovers among the 28,000 cadres who staffed the judiciary.”
Cohen (1969). Page 130
September 1949, a new law school is established in Beijing. It provides a year's course for lawyers, jurists, and professors of law schools.
Major law schools 1950-1954: 1950: Renmin University Law department, 1950 Northeast People’s University Law Department, 1952 Beijing Institute of Politics and Law, 1952 East China Institute of Politics and Law, 1952 Southwest Institute of Politics and Law, 1952 Northwest University, 1953 Central-South Institute of Politics and Law, 1953 Wuhan University, 1953 Central Political Legal Cadre School Northwest Branch, and 1954 Peking University (closed in 1952, reopened in 1954)
Tiffert (2015) remarks "The number of law schools and law departments in China dropped from 53 in 1949 to just eight by 1953, and their faculties and libraries had been broken up and dispersed. During the same period, enrollments fell from 7,338 to 3,908, only 1,740 of whom were in traditional undergraduate programs. The remaining 2,168 were enrolled in the shorter, polytechnic programs designed specifically to prepare skilled cadres for service in the field,..."
Tiffert (2015). Page 254

From July 26 until August 11, 1950, the Ministry of Justice organized a congress to discuss and solve the problem in the judicial system. Some of these measures are “the need to expand the central law courses organised in the Ministry of Justice, as well as to expand the institute of new jurisprudence the chief purpose of which was to re-educate lawyers of the old school. It was also recognised as indispensable that courses for the preparation of judicial-procuratorial cadres be organised in the large administrative regions (in the North-Eastern, Central-Southern, Eastern, South-Central and North- Western regions) and in the larger provinces. In addition, a number of proposals were heard for the improvement of the work of the law faculties which functioned in most of the public and private universities of China. Hitherto, law faculties had worked without maintaining any ties with the organs of justice, stood aloof from routine tasks which were handled by the courts and the procuratorate and consequently turned out the kind of cadres that were not suitable for work in the new, democratic organs of justice.”
Cited in Ginsburgs (1965). Page 57

The emphasis within the judicial work lies on political matters and not on the daily routine and/or formal procedures.
See RMRB 29-05-1951
As long as the struggle against the counterrevolutionary is going on,
Shen Junru
Shen Junru (1875-1963) President of the Supreme People’s Court (1949-1954)Chinese lawyer
, stated in 1951 "Our judicial work must serve political ends actively, and must be brought to bear on current central political tasks and mass movements." To "safeguard the fruits of revolution," political-legal cadres were called upon to conduct mass trials and struggle meetings.”
Cited in Tao (1974). Page 715
A year before, he defined the judicial work as "to suppress resolutely, sternly and in good time all counter-revolutionary activities which undermine agrarian reform, production and the people's democratic reconstruction, and to suppress the resistance of reactionary classes; [and to] protect the gains of land reform, production, reconstruction and democratic order".
Cited in Thomas (1950). Page 267
Li (2019) remarks "In the Party’s early history, dictating judicial outcomes had been an inherent feature of judicial practices. In Party-controlled border-regions during the 1930s, all court decisions on criminal cases had to be approved by Party committees before being issued.91Such “case-approval” practice continued to dominate court activities even after the establishment of the P.R.C in 1949.92At times, the police, procuratorate and courts, worked jointly together, led by the Party, on high-profile cases."
Li (2019). Page 16
Tiffert (2015) shows that the GMD regime, during the last years of its reign over mainland China, the practice of law was also political determinated. The result being that "The courts developed reputations for cronyism and corruption in adjudication and staffing. And those tasked by the CCP in 1949 with revolutionizing the Chinese judicial system, not a few of them veterans of it, shared in this ambivalent Republican heritage. As they tore it down with one hand, they sifted, amplified, and repurposed it with the other."
Tiffert (2015). Pages 19-20
The PRC inherited a shortage of judicial trained employees, a clustering of law schools in east and south China, Beijing and Tianjin, this led inevitable to a shortage of qualified personnel in the least developed areas of the country.
Blaustein
Blaustein (1962). Page X
, divides the laws made between 1949 and 1954 in 3 categories: constitutional, organic, and formal laws. The constitutional laws are the Common Program of 1949 and the Constitution of 1954. The organic laws describe the power, organization and procedures of administrative bodies of government. In the period before 1954 they regulate the CPPCC and the CPGC, in the period after 1954 5 organic laws regulate the NPC, the State Council, the tribunals and the local People’s Congresses.
The formal laws can be categorized in laws dealing with political crimes, corruption and crimes against persons. The law on punishment of counterrevolutionary activities promulgated on February 7, 1951, is an example of the first category. The second category can be represented by the law on punishment for impairment of state currency. The law concerning the strict prohibition of opium and other narcotics of February 24, 1950, represents the third type. The most important formal laws are the Marriage Law, see Article 6, the Land Reform law, see Article 27 and the Trade Union law, see Article 32. These laws were called the country’s “Great Laws.” Together with the 1949 Common Program, the 1953 Election Law, the 1954 constitution, and the Organic Laws.
The main purpose of legalization in People's Republic of China is not to rule conflicts and/or safeguarding the rights and interests of the individual but to protect the political aims of the CCP. An article in the newspaper Yangtse Daily underlines this concept. "It is impossible to talk of justice in isolation from Party principles. Whatever agrees with Party principles is just; whatever disagrees with Party principles is unjust."
Yangtse Daily. Cited in R.R.G. (1960). Wuhan Party Committee November 30, 1951 puts in a different way “The law of the people's State is a weapon in the hand of the people to be used to punish subversive elements of all sorts and is by no means something mysterious and abstruse" (RMRB 21-03-1952.)

There is no Criminal Code, the new laws are vaguely described, and the punishment is not clear. This leaves the possibility for the government and CCP to adjust the laws to their interests and in extreme cases, to personal interests, in particular those of Mao Zedong.
“The natural result of the imprecision and uncertainty in the law and penal system is the creation of fear and terror in the country which effectively put people off the idea of acting or attempting to act against the will of the state, the Party and ultimately the leaders.”
Chu (1994). Page 17
The decrees are often not made public and are constantly revised or changed. Mao Zedong explained in June 1949 in his "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship". "...if people break the law, they will be punished, imprisoned or even sentenced to death. But these will be individual cases, differing in principle from the dictatorship imposed against the reactionaries as a class."
Document: 30-06-1949
On May 11, 1951,
Peng Zhen
Peng Zhen (1902-1997) First Secretary of the Beijing Committee of the CCP (1949-1966)
remarks “… the laws of the country were still incomplete. He contended, however, that there should be no hurry to fix "complete and detailed" law codes which were "neither mature nor urgently necessary." He asserted that laws should be made in accordance with the central tasks of the moment and the pressing problems of people's needs, and should be based on a synthesis of model and mature experience. He added that laws should proceed gradually from simple to complex, from general rules to detailed articles, and from single statutes to codes.27
Cited in Wei (1955). Page 11

Besides having the wrong class background, people can also be arrested for having wrong ideas, incorrect attitudes, little dedication, and having voluntary or involuntary contact with wrong people. Even party members are not excluded from this system and can become enemies of the state.
The courts take into account the class the defendant belongs. The class status is thought to affect the mental state of the offender. An accused person with a bourgeois or middle class background is more likely to have counterrevolutionary intent than a state worker. See Article 7 on class status. According to Tao (1966) "It seems that by taking into account such factors as background and class composition, a person can be convicted of a crime involving counter-revolutionary intent regardless of his actual mental state."
Tao (1966). Page 58
A special category are the so-called lumpenproletarians and vagrants, they are seen as victims of the oppression of imperialists, warlords, and landlords. However they are also considered a threat by disrupting labor and production and colluding with the enemy. Therefore the CCP handled them with compassion and with disapproval, and made a distinction between enemies and those who could be reformed.
Smith (2012). Page 42
The death penalty is one of the weapons against counterrevolutionaries, rapists, murders, and destroyers of state property and drug traffickers. These last group of offenders “…were arrested and punished with great severity as their criminal offences were suspected of having links to counter-revolutionaries and overseas drug cartels. Drug users, on the other hand, were to be subject to detention for coercive rehabilitation.”
Li (2013).Pages 153-154.
"In fact, inconsistency and inefficiency were common during the first phase of the anti-drug campaign. . . . in reality, the Communists simply lacked the resources necessary to carry out this project completely and were too preoccupied with various other tasks they were facing—among which the most important were to revive the economy devastated by the civil war, to rebuild social order at home, and to fight the Americans in Korea.” "…the Communist Party launched a second, secret anti-drug crusade in the summer of 1952, including mass rallies and criminal trials focusing on stamping out widespread corruption. 123 Although the campaign enjoyed remarkable success, Zhou concedes that it was “postponed” in several minority and remote border areas—including parts of Yunnan province in the Golden Triangle." Zhou Yongming (1999). Page 96. For example "On August 30, 1952, the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) (of Zhanjiang) and a local unit of the PLA launched a coordinated strike, resulting in the arrest of 137 people and the registration of over 700 opium users (a minority were arrested, while most were sent for re-education or allowed to remain in Zhanjiang under surveillance) Pieragastini (2017). Pages 125-126
The death penalty can be carried out immediately or after 2 years. The death penalty is not applicable to pregnant women, juvenile criminals and for elderly offenders above 60 years. Persons who receive this deal can improve their attitude during their period of hard labor. (In 1953, it is decided to establish 9 juvenile correctional centers)
Peng Zhen, “…so that the convicted kept alive will not eat his food in vain; he will be forced to produce grain" RMRB 31-05-1951. Document: 08-05-1951
and be sentenced to life imprisonment or to a fixed period.
In the course of time, 2 systems of hard labor develop. There are forced labor camps where the prisoners are supposed to reform through labor (Laogai) and these camps are meant for “serious” political prisoners and for “normal” delinquents. See Table
Laogai institutes 1950-1954
Document: 22-05-1951
.
Kaple (2006) describes that already at the end of 1949, SU experts provided advice on how best to implement reform-through-labor in the PRC as the Soviet Union had done earlier in the Gulag prison camps.
"The Soviet advisers were invited to participate in two pilot projects involving the use of reform-through-labor methods: one using agricultural labor at Qinghe Laogai Farm in Beijing; and the other using industrial labor at the Tianjin Municipal Prison (jianyu). The Soviet experts made many recommendations, based on Soviet experience and practices, on all aspects of the management of convict labor in the laogai camps and provided specific advice about how to make the reform-through-labor methods work more smoothly in the Chinese prisons and camps." Kaple (2016). Pages 9-10.
At the 3rd national conference on public security works May 10, 1951 the basics of the laogai system are determined.This results in two regulations: Labor reform policies August 26, 1954 and Temporary disciplinary methods for the release of criminals completing their terms and for the implementation of forced job placement. August 29, 1954
The other forced labor camps (Laojiao) are meant for criminals who are convicted for minor crimes, or for those pesrsons who were not criminals while were politically aberrant and would bring about problems of unemployment if leaving them alone. The Laogai is an element of the People’ s Dictatorship. It uses existing prisons, which are changed into labor camps or newly built. In 1954, 217 mines and construction workshops (water supply or railway construction) and 640 agricultural companies are working as Laogai camps.
See for details “laogai handbook”, The Laogai Research Foundation Washington, DC 2008 and Frank (2003).
"By the end of 1951, more than 2 million individuals were imprisoned, 670,000 of which were in the new labor camps, where they were required to contribute through labor to their own upkeep." Walder Andrew G. (2015). Page 66. See document 26-08-1954. "Probably the most controversial paragraph in the 1954 Statute on Laogai was Article 62. This article provided the basis for the so-called forced job placement system, or jiuye.103 It stated that those prisoners who wished to remain in the camp area, whose services were needed, who had no residential registration and no job to return to, or who could be settled in sparsely populated areas, should continue to be employed by their local laogai unit.103103 Consequently, the majority of prisoners who had completed their sentences were kept in the camps as “free convicts” for the rest of their lives." Deckwitz (2012). Page 24.
In 1953, the Second National Conference on Laogai expanded the reach of its prison system by instituting the policy of “keeping many and freeing few”.
Besides these labor camps, there are also thought-reform institutions, in which prostitutes, beggars, vagrants, and petty thieves are reeducated. “According to their captors, in 1949 these individuals vehemently resisted the state and sometimes successfully obstructed its efforts, but their rebellion was not categorized as counterrevolutionary… feudal, imperialist, and capitalist oppression had so damaged the Chinese nation that only a radical and revolutionary transformation could save it. Embedded in this construction, however, was the promise that revolution and reform would indeed bring salvation, and reeducators expected benign resistance to evaporate as thought reform progressed."
Smith (2013). Page 939
Smith describes "... during the first few weeks of the internment campaign, reeducators first focused on winning the hearts of their detainees: “We demonstrated caring and unity, and sincerely treated [the internees] with respect,” and after a short while, the internees’ “spirits were high” and there was a “harmonious atmosphere” in the institution. The internees’ 'fear turned into calm and their suffering turned into happiness.'" Smith Aminda M.(2012). Page 208 But she continues "...the numerous reports of internees who were bound, hung, humiliated, and even beaten to death by guards belie the claim that the relationship between reeducatees and their reeducators was one of mutual warmth." Page 210
"The basic missions of political works in labor reform camps were to ensure the party was the sole and absolute leader in ideological education and politics and every policy from the party would be correctly enforced during the reform process. The units of political works in laogai camps were under the guidance of, just as every work unit in the urban areas has it, the secretary of the party committee in corporation with the political work leaders in the public security agencies. "
Lin (2016). Page 38
Each prisoner has his/her own dossier which records name, sex, age, race, birthplace, address, class status, occupation, literacy, specialty, crime, sentence, health, and family. The dossier includes two other files, "such as court judgment, ruling, law enforcement notification, and registration form of a closed case; the second file (fudang) 99 collected materials produced during prisoner’s term in the labor reform camp and duplicates of important documents, including performance appraisal, record of rewards and sanctions, accusation and confession report, court decision copies, and prisoner’s personal information"
Lin (2016). Page 42
Mühlhahn (2009) states "In the beginning the criminal justice system reported many cases of successful reeducation. The last emperor, Pu Yi, was one of the showcase examples widely touted in Chinese state propaganda. Apart from his wellknown case, there were also numerous Guomindang generals and functionaries, as well as Japanese war criminals, who came forward and described their reeducation in writing or in interviews. Not only were many in China won over by these published reports, but so were many observers in the West, who praised the idea of turning prisons into schools for reform. Quite a few said they expected crime and punishment to disappear in China altogether."
Mühlhahn (2009). Page 176
On the other hand, the reputation of the reform through labour had a bad reputation. Therefore in 1954 the name of the institutes changed their names in “local stated owned” production units.
Document: 08-10-1954
Lin (2016) notices "...that production replaced reform or punishment as the first and the foremost goal of prison works and under the mandate that prison must be self-sufficient, prisoners were nothing but exploitable labor force rather than criminals who were needed to be punished or deviants who were needed to be reeducated. Under the circumstance that reform works inherently relied on the production works, it was no doubt that the reform purpose had to yield to the economic demands and the directive “reform first and production second” served as a mere slogan in the labor reform spots despite the central government’s strong appealing. The third trait is that the way of Chinese imprisonment can be summed up as to keep those socially bad elements away from the crowdand therefore prisons had to be established in the remote districts."
Lin (2016). Page 54
The organic law of the central people's government of the PRC stipulates in article 5 The Central People's Government Council shall set up: …and the Supreme People's Court and the People's Procurator General's Office as the highest judicial and supervisory bodies of the country." Article 7 of this organic law states Central People's Government Council should also exercise the authority of appointment and removal of the Procurator-General, his deputies, and the members of the People's Procurator-General's Office. Chapter 5 of this law describes its functions and position.
Document: 27-09-1949
On October 19, 1949
Luo Ronghuan
Luo Ronghuan (1902-1963) CCP PLA
is appointed as attorney general of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
Li Liuru
Li Liuru (1887-1973) CCP
and
Lan Gongwu
Lan Gongwu (1887 -1957) nonparty
are appointed deputy attorney general.
Ginsburgs (1964) claims "Though a great step forward compared to what the earlier enactments had featured on this topic, the Organic Law still left unanswered more questions than it resolved. Nevertheless, it must be given due credit for expressly sanctioning, for the first time, the creation in the immediate future of a Procurator-General's Office to head a nation-wide agency." Ginsburg (1964) observes "...during the first two years of its existence the newly created office transacted very little actual business, in practice playing a minimal role in the momentous revolutionary upheaval directed from above which at this time had already begun to transform the ancient face of the country. "
Ginsburgs (1964). Pages 3 and 21

There are a couple of reasons for this minimal role of the procuratorate. First of all, acute shortage of qualified personnel to man the offices. The staff remaining from the GMD were not qualified for the tasks ahead. The introduction of this legal system was new to them. There has been no predecessor to the procuratorate in China.
Second, the new government was not interested in legal technicalities, they want their revolutionary policies to be implemented as soon as possible.
Third and last, the regime has other canals to implement their plans easier and faster, namely the public security forces, various other instruments of administrative control, the Party, mass organizations and mass campaigns. "Between 1950 and 1953, in nationwide campaigns and movements, several social groups were singled out and isolated from the rest of society: landlords (the Land Reform Campaign, 1950 to 1952), counterrevolutionaries (the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries, 1950 to 1951), corrupt bureaucrats (the Three-Anti's Campaign [anticorruption, antiwaste, antibureaucracy], 1952), capitalists and private entrepreneurs (the Five-Anti's Campaign [antibribery, anti-tax evasion, antifraud, antitheft of state property, anti-leakage of state economic secrets], 1952), and the educational sector and intellectuals more generally (the Thought Reform Campaign, 1951 and 1952)."
Mühlhahn (2009). Page 181
In 1949, officers of the PLA mostly take care of the administration of justice and of maintaining order. Later on "during the period of land reform, several people were chosen from the Peasants’ Association to serve as judicial officers, whereas in cities, several people were chosen from trade unions and other people’s groups to serve as judicial officers."
Zhong (2015).Page 23
The courts have as main task the punishment of counterrevolutionaries. There are 3 kinds of courts.
In the military courts, the judges are chosen by the PLA and/or CCP. In these courts, public is allowed but the judges sentences. The operation of military tribunals in trying civilians under the 1951 Statute on Punishing Counterrevolutionaries is illustrated by an espionage case decided 17 August 1951 by the military court of the Peking Military Control Committee.
Counterrevolutionaries

"… There was no provision for defense, and the defendants were not represented by defense counsel. The Public Security Bureau had already investigated and “proved with conclusive evidence” the guilt of the accused. Typically, all the defendants confessed their guilt….the court applied the statute (on Punishment for Counterrevolutionary Activity) retroactively, as all of the crimes were committed before the statute was enacted on 20 February 1951.”
Rodearmel (1988). Page 36.
Tao (1966) remarks "Other statutes do not have similar provisions, but Communist jurists maintain that their retroactivity"is indicated in the legislative reports. For example, the Anti-Corruption Act83 does not expressly provide that it is retroactive. But the legislative report points out that the act can be applied retroactively to those who offended its provisions before it came into force." Tao (1966). Page 55.
The second sort of courts are the People’s Tribunals, they have lay judges and audience participation. These tribunals are dealing with adversaries of big political campaigns, like the Land Reform. “..legal procedures were rarely followed, lawyers were not assigned for the accused, judges were in-sufficiently trained and inexperienced, records of trials were poorly kept,…”
Dikötter (1997). Page 149
The purpose of these tribunals is twofold, the political opponents receive their punishment, and the political awareness of the people is enhanced, and the people are actively backing the new regime. They were ad hoc in nature and lasted only through the duration of a given campaign.
Document: 20-07-1950
“In 1951 alone, Peking held about thirty thousand mass trials, in which an estimated number of over three million people participated. Other major cities as well as rural areas all over the country also saw the extensive use of mass trials. In Tientsin, more than 20,000 mass trials were held, with the participation of over two million people.”
Tao (1974). Page 717

This system of People’s Tribunals is stopped in 1952 at the moment the purging counterrevolutionaries Article 7 and Wufan Article 30 campaigns are ended, but from 1954 they are put in action at irregular intervals and from 1957 they are fully back in business.
The third courts are also People’s Tribunals with judges. These judges have a GMD background. They are present in cities and deal with minor crimes. They are put under dual control. "… a vertical control by a higher court and a horizontal control by a government council of the same level. Apparently, this dual control was designed to deprive the courts entirely of their “judicial independence. As a rule, the county courts were courts of first instance and the provincial courts were of second and final instance. Under particular circumstances, the first or third trial which was in the People's Supreme Court might be final. However, since the suspension of the right of appeal could be justified as a means to "effectively suppress counter-revolutionary activities and prevent cunning elements from taking advantage of the two-trial system to delay the settlement of a case," it was not unusual that the first-instance trial was the final one."
Lee (1973). Page 57
The role of lawyers is very limited in these 3 courts. "On the criminal side, the law was used largely as a tool of class struggle in the years immediately following the victory of the Communist Party. Justice was often dispensed by administrative agencies or by ad hoc people’s tribunals. To the extent lawyers were involved at all, their participation was limited to seeking leniency in punishment.”
Peerenboom (2002). Page 347

In August 1952, the CCP started a reform campaign in the juridical sector to eliminate the ‘old bourgeois’ ideas about legislation and law enforcement and to solve conflicts within the judiciary. “… the retained personnel and the new cadres had very different understandings of the nature of legal work. There was considerable conflict between the two groups over professional and personal styles. It is not difficult to imagine the differences and problems a former guerrilla squad leader would have in working with a colleague who was an Oxford or Sorbonne trained lawyer.”
Li (1970). Page 83. See RMRB 17-08-1952
Fig. 17.1: Judicial Cadre Composition, July 1950
Source:Tiffert Glenn Douglas (2015). Judging Revolution: Beijing and the Birth of the PRC Judicial System (1906-1958). Page 152
The North China region surrounding Beijing had the largest share of pre-1949 cadres, and beyond that the largest share dating to the Anti-Japanese War period by far. In 1950, the share of unfilled positions in some regions was staggering: Central-South region (58.3 percent), East China region (71.6 percent), Southwest region (80 percent). The competition for cadres throughout the country is fierce, legal work is looked down upon, often physical or mental handicapped cadres were assigned to the jobs and promising judicial cadres were transferred to other jobs with higher prestige, priority or more ‘future’.
"...around 60,000 students enrolled in schools for wounded military veterans from the Korean and civil wars, many of whom had minor disabilities. In view of their sacrifices for the revolution and their high political consciousness, Dong (Biwu) recommended those with adequate levels of education (higher primary or middle school) for leadership positions in the courts after a short course of training.731" Tiffert (2015). Page 194
The large demand for judicial personnel forces the Communist leaders to continue to employ the personnel of the former GMD regime. Many of the retained officials have been suspected of disloyalty and are being purged. For example, in October 1951, even before the start of the reform campaign “…according to one report, over two hundred court officials in Guangxi province, including judges, district attorneys, and jurors, who formerly served the Nationalist regime, were under suspicion and were arrested en masse as potential anti-revolutionaries.”
Wei Henri (1955). Page 11
Document: 13-08-1952 and Document: 03-09-1951
In his self-criticism Han Shuzhi, head of the court in Shanghai, tells "I failed to reform the organization of the court on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and the thought of Mao Zedong...and had not thoroughly mastered by application the little revolutionary knowledge I had learned,"
Dagong Bao 14-09-1952 See also RMRB 13-09-1952
During this reform campaign, which ended in April 1953, about 80% of the old GMD personnel lost their jobs, were reassigned to teaching in primary or middle schools, working in libraries, or as minor clerical functionaries.
The people are asked to report (anonymously) any faults. "For instance in Tientsin, between September 9 and 18, 1952, 475 denunciatory reports were submitted to the office set up jointly by the people's courts, the people's procurator, and the people’s supervision committee, or were dropped (no doubt anonymously) into the special letter-box (检举箱) at the procurator’s office."
R. R. G.(1960). Page 9.
During the campaign, masses were mobilized in a “measured” and “planned” fashion to report and expose “anti-revolutionary” court decisions or practices.41 “Mass line” was systematically introduced to courts.42 People’s assessors were invited to participate in the adjudication and people’s tribunals were established in villages and urban communities for the convenience of residents.43 “Cold cases” were dealt with expediency upon people’s demand.44 University law departments were repurposed for the training of political‐legal cadres.44 “Unsuitable” law teachers were either expelled from universities or reallocated to teach other courses.46 Li (2016). Page 6. See for example RMRB 23-08-1952
The second judicial work conference in April 1953 ends the campaign and concludes “It hailed the Reform Movement as having laid a solid foundation for the consolidation of the People's Dictatorship and the strengthening of the people's judicial work in the New China and declared that the country was now ready for further development of the people's judicial system. It called for specific programmes at central and regional level to train judicial cadres and establish schools for them, for an extension of the use of people's assessors sitting with judges, for the creation of more special courts in factories, mines, railroads and waterways, and for more conciliation committees, more court activity on circuit among the people and for the creation of people's reception offices associated with the courts, to deal with letters, petitions, complaints and enquiries. It thus inaugurated a new period.”
Tay (1971). Page 353

Due to the campaign, there is a shortage of personnel and the courts can not handle all cases. In 1954, some 1140 judges are reappointed after ‘sufficient’ training.
A different obstacle in the judicial work is the execution of the verdicts. The North China Division of the Supreme People’s Court makes mention "According to reports from all regions of Northchina, there is a great accumulation of unexecuted cases at the level of the court of first instance. . . . In some of these cases, it has been two or three years since judgment; in some, the party frequently runs to the court to apply for execution but the problem is not resolved; in some, the party asks, “Is there any law in the court?” and “Does the judgment count for anything?” — this has been the cause of great dissatisfaction among the masses."
Cited in Clarke (1996). Page 1
During the second work conference, Peng Zhen tells the audience the battle against the enemy of the revolution is almost won and the judiciary is ready to enter a new phase. The law enforcement at national and local level will be done by newly trained. Law enforcement agencies will be put in action at factories, mines, and railways. "...all party committees should strengthen their supervision and inspection over the performance of courts and that a standing party committee member should be designated to oversee judicial affairs. … all judicial institutions should proactively and timely submit reports to party committees and strictly follow the request‐for‐instruction‐and‐report rule.”51
Li (2016). Page 7
Special mediation teams are set up.
Document: February 25,1954 Provisional general rules of the PRC for the organization of people’s mediation committees
Huang (2006) describes the mediation theory as part of the mass line. "Maoist mediation was also couched within the ideology of the “mass line”: that is, judges do not just sit at court but must go down to the village to investigate the truth with the help of “the masses” and then resolve or “mediate” a case. Judges must rely on the masses because their eyes were “the clearest” (zuiliang) and because the justice system, like governance as a whole, was to proceed according to the formula “from the masses, to the masses.” This method was supposed to minimize “contradictions” between the leadership and the followers, the courts and the masses. By this ideology, judges would ascertain from the masses whether a marriage was worth reconciling and, if so, would call on them to help work things out. The judges would manage other disputes the same way, investigating to learn the truth from the masses and then working with them to resolve the dispute.
Huang (2006). Page 286.
Huang (2005) "...the judges, after talking with the petitioner and the defendant individually, were expected to “investigate” (diaocha) the facts of the case themselves, not just to render decisions in the courtroom. Doing so usually entailed going to the residence and workplace of the petitioner and defendant and talking to their “leaders” (lingdao). For rural petitioners, these might include the Party branch secretary and brigade head; for urban petitioners, the factory head, school principal, Party secretary, and the like, at the relevant work units. The judges would also talk to “the masses” (qunzhong), such as relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. They would seek to ascertain the facts and background of the situation, focusing especially on the nature of the marital relationship and its main problems (“contradictions,” maodun). Usually, they would also inquire into the character and general work and political “performance” (biaoxian)of the parties in question, factors taken into account in the court’s posture toward the case. Then the court would call in the parties concerned, usually first individually, to seek common ground and concessions required for agreement. This process would include not just the couple but also the parents, other important relatives, and the local leaders. Finally, if and when the terms of a “reconciliation” (hehao)11 had been more or less worked out, the judges would convene a formal “reconciliation meeting” (hehao hui), often involving the local leaders and relatives as well." Huang (2005) Page 157
In 1954, the regime introduces a system of courts and Higher People’s Courts which replaces the people’s tribunals. The emphasis shifts from eliminating the residues of the old regime to a “...second stage of its historical development, that of peaceful construction of the bases of a Socialist community. Literally overnight, the regime's hitherto essentially negative outlook was officially replaced by an ambitious positive programme for the further transformation of the country's social and economic fabric. For the bureaucracy, the switch meant both fresh operational goals and a different style of work from that which had been deemed suitable up till then.”
Ginsburgs (1965). Page 71
At the 8th party congress in 1956, Liu Shaoqi looks back to the period of 1949-1954 and states “During this period, the chief aim of the struggle was to liberate the people from reactionary rule and to free the productive forces of society from the bondage of old relations of production. The principal method of struggle was to lead the masses in direct action. Such laws in the nature of general principles were thus suited to the needs of the time." And he continues "Now, however, the period of revolutionary storm and stress is past…and the aim of our struggle is changed into one of safeguarding the successful development of the productive forces of society, a corresponding change in the methods of struggle will consequently have to follow, and a complete legal system becomes an absolute necessity.”
Document: 15-09-1956
Meanwhile, Mao Zedong complains about the slowness of the revolution, which is mainly caused by “… comrades are tottering along like a woman with bound feet, always complaining that others are going too fast, too fast. They picked on trifles, made inappropriate complaints, expressed endless worries, and set countless pure norms and prohibiting rules, thinking that this is the correct way to guide the socialist mass movement in rural areas.”
Document: 31-07-1955
Mao Zedong is not an opponent of legislation, he also believes that a planned economy has to have rules. 66% out of the 4072 regulations, decrees and laws are related to the economy. "The Communist Government, indeed, had passed 4,072 laws and decrees in the eight years from October, 1949, to October, 1957;50 but these did not form any systematic, coherent or even consistent body of law. They were for the most part directed to particular situations and transitional problems; they were loosely and crudely drafted; many of those enacted during the "revolutionary period" between 1949 and 1953 were frankly designed to uphold the very counterpart of the rule of law."
Tay (1971). Page 365

Li (1970). Pages 76-77 [↩] [Cite]
Fan (1998). Page 4 [↩] [Cite]
Tiffert (2015). Page 99 [↩] [Cite]
Cohen (1969). Page 130 [↩] [Cite]
Major Law schools 1950: Renmin University Law department, 1950 Northeast People’s University Law Department, 1952 Beijing Institute of Politics and Law, 1952 East China Institute of Politics and Law, 1952 Southwest Institute of Politics and Law, 1952 Northwest University, 1953 Central-South Institute of Politics and Law, 1953 Wuhan University, 1953 Central Political Legal Cadre School Northwest Branch, and 1954 Peking University (closed in 1952, reopened in 1954) [↩]
Tiffert (2015). Page 254 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Ginsburgs (1965). Page 57 [↩] [Cite]
See RMRB 29-05-1951 "To further consolidate and develop the people's democratic dictatorship" [↩]
Cited in Tao (1974). Page 715 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Thomas (1950). Page 267 [↩] [Cite]
Li (2019). Page 16 [↩] [Cite]
Tiffert (2015). Pages 19-20 [↩] [Cite]
Blaustein (1962). Page X [↩] [Cite]
Yangtse Daily. Wuhan Party Committee November 30, 1951 puts in a different way “The law of the people's State is a weapon in the hand of the people to be used to punish subversive elements of all sorts and is by no means something mysterious and abstruse" (People's Daily. Peking, March 21, 1952.) Cited in R. R. G. (1960). [↩] [Cite]
Chu (1994). Page 17 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Wei (1955). Page 11 [↩] [Cite]
Tao (1966). Page 58 [↩] [Cite]
Smith (2012). Page 42 [↩] [Cite]
Li (2013). Pages 153-154. [Cite]
"In fact, inconsistency and inefficiency were common during the first phase of the anti-drug campaign. . . . in reality, the Communists simply lacked the resources necessary to carry out this project completely and were too preoccupied with various other tasks they were facing—among which the most important were to revive the economy devastated by the civil war, to rebuild social order at home, and to fight the Americans in Korea.” "…the Communist Party launched a second, secret anti-drug crusade in the summer of 1952, including mass rallies and criminal trials focusing on stamping out widespread corruption. 123 Although the campaign enjoyed remarkable success, Zhou concedes that it was “postponed” in several minority and remote border areas—including parts of Yunnan province in the Golden Triangle." Zhou (1999). Page 96. [Cite]
For example "On August 30, 1952, the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) (of Zhanjiang) and a local unit of the PLA launched a coordinated strike, resulting in the arrest of 137 people and the registration of over 700 opium users (a minority were arrested, while most were sent for re-education or allowed to remain in Zhanjiang under surveillance) Pieragastini (2017). Pages 125-126 [↩] [Cite]
Peng Zhen, “…so that the convicted kept alive will not eat his food in vain; he will be forced to produce grain" Renmin Ribao 31-05-1951.
08-05-1951 The Decision of the CCP on the Policy of Application of the Death Sentence with a Two- Year Suspension to the Majority of Counterrevolutionaries.
Other decisions: "Instructions of the Central Ministry of Public Security on Handling Female, Juvenile and Elderly Prisoners" in October 1951,
"Supplementary Directive on Tacking Female, Sick and Disabled Criminals" in 1952
"Regulations of the East China Military and Political Commission on Land Reform Completed Area Control and Reform of Landlords" on 20-07-1951
"Regulations on the Registration of Secret Agents and Other Counter-Revolutionaries of Reactionary Party Groups in Central South District" on 11-08-1951, [↩]
"The Soviet advisers were invited to participate in two pilot projects involving the use of reform-through-labor methods: one using agricultural labor at Qinghe Laogai Farm in Beijing; and the other using industrial labor at the Tianjin Municipal Prison (jianyu). The Soviet experts made many recommendations, based on Soviet experience and practices, on all aspects of the management of convict labor in the laogai camps and provided specific advice about how to make the reform-through-labor methods work more smoothly in the Chinese prisons and camps." Kaple (2016). Pages 9-10. [Cite]
At the 3rd national conference on public security works May 10, 1951 the basics of the laogai system are determined. This results in two regulations: Labor reform policies August 26, 1954 and Temporary disciplinary methods for the release of criminals completing their terms and for the implementation of forced job placement. August 29, 1954 [↩]
See for details “laogai handbook”, The Laogai Research Foundation Washington. (2008) [Cite] and Dikötter (2003). [Cite]
"By the end of 1951, more than 2 million individuals were imprisoned, 670,000 of which were in the new labor camps, where they were required to contribute through labor to their own upkeep." Walder (2015). Page 66. [Cite]
26-08-1954 Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Labor Reform
"Probably the most controversial paragraph in the 1954 Statute on Laogai was Article 62. This article provided the basis for the so-called forced job placement system, or jiuye.103 It stated that those prisoners who wished to remain in the camp area, whose services were needed, who had no residential registration and no job to return to, or who could be settled in sparsely populated areas, should continue to be employed by their local laogai unit.104 Consequently, the majority of prisoners who had completed their sentences were kept in the camps as “free convicts” for the rest of their lives." Deckwitz (2012). Page 24. [Cite]
In 1953, the Second National Conference on Laogai expanded the reach of its prison system by instituting the policy of “keeping many and freeing few” and ordered every laogai unit to retain at least 70 percent of prisoners after the completion of their sentences, [↩]
Smith (2013). Page 939 [↩] [Cite]
Smith describes "... during the first few weeks of the internment campaign, reeducators first focused on winning the hearts of their detainees: “We demonstrated caring and unity, and sincerely treated [the internees] with respect,” and after a short while, the internees’ “spirits were high” and there was a “harmonious atmosphere” in the institution. The internees’ 'fear turned into calm and their suffering turned into happiness.'" Smith (2012). Page 208 [Cite] But she continues "...the numerous reports of internees who were bound, hung, humiliated, and even beaten to death by guards belie the claim that the relationship between reeducatees and their reeducators was one of mutual warmth." Page 210 [↩]
Lin (2016). Page 38 [↩] [Cite]
Lin (2016). Page 42 [↩] [Cite]
Mühlhahn (2009). Page 176 [↩] [Cite]
Lin (2016). Page 54 [↩] [Cite]
Ginsburgs (1964). Pages 3 and 21 [↩] [Cite]
Rodearmel (1988). Page 36. [Cite]
Tao (1966) remarks "Other statutes do not have similar provisions, but Communist jurists maintain that their retroactivity" is indicated in the legislative reports. For example, the Anti-Corruption Act83 does not expressly provide that it is retroactive. But the legislative report points out that the act can be applied retroactively to those who offended its provisions before it came into force." Tao (1966). Page 55. [↩] [Cite]
Dikötter (1997). Page 149 [↩] [Cite]
Mühlhahn (2009). Page 181 [↩] [Cite]
Zhong (2015). Page 23 [↩] [Cite]
Lee (1973). Page 57 [↩] [Cite]
Peerenboom (2002). Page 347 [↩] [Cite]
Tao (1974). Page 717 [↩] [Cite]
Li (1970). Page 83 [Cite] See RMRB 17-08-1952 "Resolutely overcome the serious impurity in some judicial institutions, the nation will launch a judicial reform campaign" [↩]
"...around 60,000 students enrolled in schools for wounded military veterans from the Korean and civil wars, many of whom had minor disabilities. In view of their sacrifices for the revolution and their high political consciousness, Dong (Biwu) recommended those with adequate levels of education (higher primary or middle school) for leadership positions in the courts after a short course of training.731" Tiffert (2015). Page 194 [↩] [Cite]
Wei (1955). Page 11 [↩] [Cite]
Dagong Bao September 14, 1952. See also RMRB 13-09-1952 self-criticism Wang Feiran, court president Beijing [↩]
R. R. G. (1960) Page 9. [Cite]
During the campaign, masses were mobilized in a “measured” and “planned” fashion to report and expose “anti-revolutionary” court decisions or practices.41 “Mass line” was systematically introduced to courts.42 People’s assessors were invited to participate in the adjudication and people’s tribunals were established in villages and urban communities for the convenience of residents.43 “Cold cases” were dealt with expediency upon people’s demand.44 University law departments were repurposed for the training of political‐legal cadres.45 “Unsuitable” law teachers were either expelled from universities or reallocated to teach other courses.46 Li (2016). Page 6. [Cite]
See for example RMRB 23-08-1952 "The Northwest District launches judicial reform work, Xi'an City mobilizes the masses to report illegal acts of judicial personnel" [↩]
Tay (1971). Page 353 [↩] [Cite]
Cited in Clarke (1996). Page 1 [↩] [Cite]
Li (2016). Page 7 [↩] [Cite]
Huang (2005) "...the judges, after talking with the petitioner and the defendant individually, were expected to “investigate” (diaocha) the facts of the case themselves, not just to render decisions in the courtroom. Doing so usually entailed going to the residence and workplace of the petitioner and defendant and talking to their “leaders” (lingdao). For rural petitioners, these might include the Party branch secretary and brigade head; for urban petitioners, the factory head, school principal, Party secretary, and the like, at the relevant work units. The judges would also talk to “the masses” (qunzhong), such as relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. They would seek to ascertain the facts and background of the situation, focusing especially on the nature of the marital relationship and its main problems (“contradictions,” maodun). Usually, they would also inquire into the character and general work and political “performance” (biaoxian)of the parties in question, factors taken into account in the court’s posture toward the case. Then the court would call in the parties concerned, usually first individually, to seek common ground and concessions required for agreement. This process would include not just the couple but also the parents, other important relatives, and the local leaders. Finally, if and when the terms of a “reconciliation” (hehao)11 had been more or less worked out, the judges would convene a formal “reconciliation meeting” (hehao hui), often involving the local leaders and relatives as well." Huang (2005). Page 157 [↩] [Cite]
Ginsburgs (1965). Page 71 [↩] [Cite]
Tay (1971). Page 365 [↩] [Cite]

Documents....

28-02-1949 Instructions concerning Abolishing the Six Codes of the Guomindang and Determining Judicial Principles for the Liberated Areas
20-07-1950 General Rules for the Organization of the People's Courts
03-09-1951 Provisional Regulations Governing the Organization of people's court
03-09-1951 Provisional Regulations Governing the Organization of the Office of the People’s Procurator General' of the CPG
03-09-1951 General rules for the organization of local people’s procuratorates at all levels
28-08-1951 Statute on labor re-education.
10-08-1952 Provisional Regulations Governing the Organizational Security Committees
22-03-1954 Provisional general rules of the PRC for the organization of people’s mediation committees
31-12-1954 Act of the PRC for the organization of city residents committees
31-12-1954 Act of the PRC for the organization of public security stations
31-12-1954 Act of the PRC for the organization of city street offices

Meetings....

  • 15-10-1949 - 11-11-1949: 1st National Public Security Conference
  • 26-07-1950 – 11-08-1950: 1st national judicial work conference
  • 16-10-1950 - 21-10-1950: 2nd National Public Security meeting
  • 10-05-1951 - 16-05-1951: 3rd national conference on public security works
  • 11-09-1951 - 17-09-1951: 4th national conference on public security works
  • 23-06-1952 – 30-06-1952: 1st national conference on reform through labor
  • 12-10-1952 - 18-10-1952: 5th national congress on public security
  • 10-12-1953 – 24-12-1953: 2nd national conference on reform through labor
  • 11-04-1953 – 25-04-1953: 2nd national judicial work conference
  • 17-03-1954 – 10-04-1954: 2nd national conference on procurators' work
  • 17-05-1954 - 17-06-1954: Sixth National conference on Public Security