Legal Aid Law of the People’s Republic of China

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Order of the President of the People’s Republic of China

No. 93

 

The Legal Aid Law of the People’s Republic of China, adopted at the 30th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Thirteenth National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China on August 20, 2021, is hereby promulgated, and shall come into force as of January 1, 2022.

 

Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

August 20, 2021

 

Legal Aid Law of the People’s Republic of China

(Adopted at the 30th Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Thirteenth National People’s Congress on August 20, 2021)

Contents

 

Chapter I General Provisions

Chapter II Institutions and Workers

Chapter III Forms and Scope

Chapter IV Procedures and Implementation

Chapter V Safeguards and Supervision

Chapter VI Legal Liability

Chapter VII Supplementary Provisions

Chapter I

General Provisions

Article 1 This Law is enacted to regulate and promote legal aid work, to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens and relevant parties, to guarantee the proper enforcement of the law, and to maintain social fairness and justice.

Article 2 For the purposes of this Law, “legal aid”, as an integral part of the public legal service system, refers to the system established by the state to gratuitously provide legal advice, representation, criminal defense, and other legal services for citizens in financial hardship and other parties that meet statutory requirements.

Article 3 Legal aid work falls under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and shall be carried out with the people put front and center, human rights respected and protected, the principles of openness, fairness, and impartiality adhered to, and state support and social participation combined.

Article 4 The people’s governments at or above the county level shall incorporate legal aid work into national economic and social development plans and basic public service systems, and coordinate the cause of legal aid with the economic and social progress.

In order to accommodate the needs arising from the provision of legal aid and promote the balanced development of legal aid, the people’s governments at or above the county level shall build sound systems to guarantee legal aid work, include funds related to legal aid in government budgets at the corresponding levels, and establish a dynamic adjustment mechanism.

Article 5 The judicial administration department of the State Council shall guide and supervise the legal aid work throughout the country. The judicial administration departments of the local people’s governments at or above the county level shall guide and supervise the legal aid work in their respective administrative areas.

Other relevant departments of the people’s governments at or above the county level shall, in line with their respective functions and duties, provide support and guarantees for legal aid work.

Article 6 People’s courts, people’s procuratorates, and public security organs shall, within their respective functions and duties, ensure that the parties obtain legal aid in accordance with the law, and provide convenience for legal aid workers to carry out their work.

Article 7 Lawyers’ associations shall guide and support law firms and lawyers in participating in legal aid.

Article 8 The state encourages and supports people’s organizations, public institutions, and social organizations in providing legal aid in accordance with the law under the guidance of judicial administration departments.

Article 9 The state encourages and supports enterprises, public institutions, social organizations, individuals and other forces of society in supporting the cause of legal aid through donation and other means in accordance with the law, and shall give tax incentives to those who meet the requirements.

Article 10 The judicial administration departments shall regularly give publicity to and education about legal aid so as to popularize knowledge of legal aid.

The news media shall actively give public-interest publicity to legal aid and strengthen supervision by public opinion.

Article 11 The state, in accordance with the relevant provisions, commends and rewards organizations and individuals that have made outstanding contributions to legal aid.

 

Chapter II

Institutions and Workers

Article 12 The judicial administration departments of the people’s governments at or above the county level shall establish legal aid institutions. A legal aid institution shall be responsible for organizing legal aid, accepting and examining legal aid applications, appointing lawyers, community-level legal service workers, legal aid volunteers, and other legal aid workers to provide legal aid, and paying legal aid allowances.

Article 13 To suit the needs of work, a legal aid institution may appoint its employees with lawyer qualifications or qualifications for the legal profession to provide legal aid, and may establish legal aid service or contact stations to process legal aid applications in proximity.

Article 14 A legal aid institution may assign duty lawyers to people’s courts, people’s procuratorates, detention centers, and other venues to provide legal aid in accordance with the law for criminal suspects and defendants who have no defense counsel.

Article 15 The judicial administration departments may, through government procurement and other means, select law firms and other legal service institutions on a competitive basis to provide legal aid for recipients.

Article 16 Law firms, community-level legal service offices, lawyers, and community-level legal service workers shall have an obligation to provide legal aid in accordance with the law.

Law firms and community-level legal service offices shall support and guarantee the fulfillment of the legal aid obligation by their lawyers and community-level legal service workers.

Article 17 The state encourages and regulates voluntary legal aid services, and supports eligible individuals in providing legal aid in accordance with the law as legal aid volunteers.

Higher education institutions and scientific research institutes may arrange for personnel engaged in legal education and research as well as law students to act as legal aid volunteers and, under the guidance of judicial administration departments, provide legal aid services, such as offering legal advice and preparing legal documents.

Specific measures for the administration of legal aid volunteers shall be formulated by the relevant departments of the State Council.

Article 18 The state establishes and improves the mechanism for legitimate cross-regional flow of legal service resources, in order to encourage and support law firms, lawyers and legal aid volunteers in providing legal aid for the regions short of legal service resources.

Article 19 Legal aid workers shall perform their duties in accordance with the law, provide legal aid recipients with standards-compliant legal aid services in a timely manner, and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the recipients.

Article 20 Legal aid workers shall scrupulously observe the professional ethics and discipline, and shall not accept money or gifts from legal aid recipients.

Article 21 Legal aid institutions and workers shall keep confidential the state secrets, trade secrets and personal privacy which they have learned in the course of providing legal aid.

Chapter III

Forms and Scope

Article 22 A legal aid institution may arrange for legal aid workers to provide the following forms of legal aid services in accordance with the law:

(1) legal advice;

(2) preparation of legal documents;

(3) criminal defense and representation;

(4) litigation and non-litigation representation in civil cases, administrative cases, and state compensation cases;

(5) legal assistance from duty lawyers;

(6) representation in labor-dispute mediation or arbitration; and

(7) other forms prescribed by laws, regulations, and rules.

Article 23 A legal aid institution shall provide legal advice through various channels such as service windows, hotlines, and the Internet; and shall remind the parties of their right to apply for legal aid in accordance with the law, and inform them of the requirements and procedures of legal aid application.

Article 24 Where a suspect or defendant in a criminal case fails to entrust his case to a defense counsel due to financial hardship or any other reason, he himself or any of his close relatives may apply to a legal aid institution for legal aid.

Article 25 Where a suspect or defendant in a criminal case is any of the following persons who fails to entrust his case to a defense counsel, the people’s court, the people’s procuratorate, or the public security organ shall notify a legal aid institution that it should appoint a lawyer as the defender:

(1) minors;

(2) persons with visual, hearing, or speech disabilities;

(3) adults who are unable to fully discern their own conduct;

(4) persons who may be sentenced to life imprisonment or death;

(5) defendants in death sentence review cases who apply for legal aid;

(6) defendants who are tried in absentia; or

(7) other persons prescribed by laws and regulations.

Where a defendant in any other criminal case who is tried under ordinary procedures fails to entrust his case to a defense counsel, the people’s court may notify a legal aid institution that it should appoint a lawyer as his defender.

Article 26 For a person who may be sentenced to life imprisonment or death and for a defendant in a death sentence review case, the legal aid institution shall, upon receipt of the notice from the people’s court, people’s procuratorate or public security organ, appoint a lawyer with more than three years of relevant practice experience as his defender.

Article 27 A people’s court, people’s procuratorate or public security organ shall not restrict or impair the right of the criminal suspect or defendant to entrust his case to a defense counsel while notifying a legal aid institution of the need to appoint a lawyer as the defender of a criminal suspect or defendant.

Article 28 Where the respondent or defendant in a compulsory medical treatment case fails to entrust his case to an agent ad litem, the people’s court shall notify a legal aid institution of the need to appoint a lawyer to provide legal aid therefor.

Article 29 Where a victim in a publicly prosecuted criminal case and his legal representatives or close relatives, the private prosecutor in a privately prosecuted criminal case and his legal representatives, or the plaintiff in a civil action incidental to a criminal case and his legal representatives fail to entrust his case to an agent ad litem due to financial hardship, they may apply to a legal aid institution for legal aid.

Article 30 Duty lawyers shall, in accordance with the law, provide criminal suspects and defendants who have no defense counsel with legal assistance including legal counselling, procedure selection recommendations, application for changes to compulsory measures, and opinions on case handling.

Article 31 A party in any of the following claims who has no representative due to financial hardship may apply to a legal aid institution for legal aid:

(1) a claim for state compensation in accordance with the law;

(2) a claim for social insurance benefits or social assistance;

(3) a claim for consolation compensation;

(4) a claim for payment of support for a parent, child, spouse or  another dependent;

(5) a claim for confirmation of labor relationship or payment of labor remuneration;

(6) a claim for determination whether a citizen has no or limited capacity for performing civil juristic acts;

(7) a claim for compensation for personal injuries incurred by an occupational accident or disease, a traffic accident, a food and drug safety incident, or a medical incident;

(8) a claim for compensation for environmental pollution or ecological damage; and

(9) any other claims falling within the circumstances prescribed by laws, regulations and rules.

Article 32  Under any of the following circumstances, a party may apply for legal aid even without financial hardship:

(1) where the close relatives of a hero or martyr bring a case for safeguarding the personality rights and interests of the hero or martyr;

(2) where the party claims for relevant civil rights and interests arising from voluntarily helping others in dire need regardless of danger;

(3) where the party claims for state compensation after a substituted judgment of acquittal following a retrial;

(4) where a victim of abuse, abandonment or domestic violence claims for relevant rights and interests; and

(5) other circumstances prescribed by laws, regulations and rules.

Article 33 Where a party files a petition against, or a motion for a retrial with respect to a judicial organ’s effective judgment or decision with which the party is not satisfied, and the people’s court decides or rules that a retrial should be in place, or the people’s procuratorate appeals against said judgement or decision, the party or his close relatives may apply to a legal aid institution for legal aid if the party fails to entrust a defense council or an agent ad litem due to financial hardship.

Article 34 The standards for financial hardship shall be determined by the people’s governments of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the central government in light of the economic development and the needs of legal aid work within their respective administrative areas and shall be subject to dynamic adjustment.

Chapter IV

Procedures and Implementation

Article 35 When handling a case or the related affairs, the people’s court, people’s procuratorate, public security organ or relevant department shall inform in time the parties concerned of their right to apply for legal aid in accordance with the law.

Article 36 Where a people’s court, people’s procuratorate or public security organ discovers any of the circumstances prescribed in the first paragraph of Article 25, or Article 28 of this Law when handling a criminal case, it shall, within three days, notify a legal aid institution of the need for appointing a lawyer. The legal aid institution shall, within three days after receiving the notice, appoint a lawyer and notify the said people’s court, people’s procuratorate or public security organ.

Article 37 People’s courts, people’s procuratorates and public security organs shall ensure that duty lawyers provide legal assistance in accordance with the law, inform the criminal suspects or defendants who have no defense counsel of the right to see duty lawyers, and provide convenience for duty lawyers to learn about the case, access the case files and meet with the criminal suspects or defendants in accordance with the law.

Article 38 For legal aid in litigation matters, the applicant shall apply to the legal aid institution in the place where the case-handling organ is located. For legal aid in non-litigation matters, the applicant shall apply to the legal aid institution in the place where the dispute resolution organ is located or where the cause of action takes place.

Article 39 Where a criminal suspect or defendant in custody, a convict serving his sentence in custody, or a drug addict in compulsory isolation applies for legal aid, the case-handling organ or the supervisory institution shall transfer the application to a legal aid institution within 24 hours.

Where a criminal suspect or defendant applies for legal aid, including legal representation, criminal defense and other legal aid services, through a duty lawyer, the duty lawyer shall transfer the application to the legal aid institution within 24 hours.

Article 40 Where a person who has no or limited capacity for performing civil juristic acts needs legal aid, his legal representative may file an application on his behalf. Where a legal representative infringes upon the legitimate rights and interests of a person who has no or limited capacity for performing civil juristic acts, other legal representatives or close relatives of said person may apply for legal aid on his behalf.

For a criminal suspect or defendant in custody, a convict serving his sentence in custody, or a drug addict in compulsory isolation, his legal representative or close relatives may apply for legal aid on his behalf.

Article 41 An applicant who applies for legal aid on the ground of financial hardship shall truthfully state his financial situation.

A legal aid institution may verify the financial status of an applicant through inquiries for information sharing or the applicant’s pledge of personal integrity.

When a legal aid institution carries out the aforementioned verification, the relevant departments, entities, villagers’ committees, residents’ committees, and individuals shall cooperate.

Article 42 Applicants for legal aid shall be exempted from verification of their financial hardship if they have materials proving that they belong to one of the following categories:

(1) minors, the elderly, the disabled or other specific groups without a fixed source of income;

(2) recipients of social assistance, judicial assistance, consolation compensation or preferential treatment;

(3) rural migrant workers who apply for payment of labor remuneration or claim compensation for personal injuries incurred by occupational accidents or diseases; and

(4) other categories as prescribed by laws, regulations and rules.

Article 43 A legal aid institution shall examine an application for legal aid within seven days from the date of receiving it and decide whether to provide legal aid or not. If a decision is made to provide legal aid, a legal aid worker shall be appointed to provide legal aid for the recipient within three days from the date the decision is made; if the institution decides not to provide legal aid, it shall inform the applicant in writing of the decision and the reasons therefor.

If the application materials submitted by the applicant are incomplete, the legal aid institution shall inform the applicant once and for all of the missing materials, or require the applicant to provide explanations. If the applicant fails to supplement materials or provide explanations as required, the application shall be deemed to have been withdrawn.

Article 44 After receiving an application for legal aid, a legal aid institution may decide to provide legal aid in advance before formalities are finished under any of the following circumstances:

(1) where there are less than seven days before the expiration of the statutory limitation or period for a lawsuit, or an application for arbitration or administrative reconsideration to be filed in time;

(2) where an application for asset preservation, evidence preservation or advance execution needs to be filed immediately; or

(3) any other circumstances prescribed by laws, regulations and rules.

Where a legal aid institution provides legal aid in advance, the recipient shall complete the relevant formalities and submit the relevant materials in time.

Article 45 Legal aid institutions providing legal aid services for the elderly and the disabled shall, in light of the actual circumstances, provide accessible facilities, equipment and services.

Where laws and regulations have other special provisions on legal aid for specific groups, such provisions shall apply.

Article 46 Once appointed, legal aid workers shall not refuse, delay or terminate the legal aid services he is providing without justifiable reasons.

Legal aid workers shall, in accordance with the regulations, notify the recipients of the handling of his legal aid and shall not harm the legitimate rights and interests of the recipients.

Article 47 The legal aid recipients shall truthfully state to legal aid personnel the circumstances related to his legal aid, provide evidentiary materials in a timely manner, and assist and cooperate in handling legal aid matters.

Article 48 A legal aid institution shall make a decision to terminate legal aid under any of the following circumstances:

(1) where the legal aid recipient obtains legal aid by deception or other improper means;

(2) where the legal aid recipient intentionally conceals material facts related to the case or provides false evidence;

(3) where the legal aid recipient exploits legal aid to engage in illegal activities;

(4) where the financial status of the legal aid recipient has changed and the recipient no longer meets the requirements for legal aid;

(5) where the trial of the case is terminated or the case is dismissed;

(6) where the legal aid recipient himself has entrusted his case to a lawyer or other representative(s);

(7) where the legal aid recipient has justifiable reasons to request termination of legal aid; or

(8) any other circumstances provided by laws and regulations.

Upon discovery of any of the circumstances prescribed in the preceding paragraph, the legal aid personnel shall report it to the legal aid institution in a timely manner.

Article 49 Where an applicant for or a recipient of legal aid disagrees with the decision of a legal aid institution not to provide legal aid or to terminate legal aid, the applicant or the recipient may raise his opinion to the judicial administration department that established the legal aid institution.

The judicial administration department shall review the aforementioned opinion within five days from the date of receiving it, and make a decision either to uphold the decision of the legal aid institution or to order the legal aid institution to correct it.

Where an applicant or a recipient disagrees with the decision of the judicial administration department to uphold the decision of the legal aid institution, the applicant or the recipient may apply for administrative reconsideration or bring an administrative lawsuit in accordance with the law.

Article 50 After the completion of handling of his legal aid, the legal aid worker shall report to the legal aid institution in a timely manner, and submit duplicates or photocopies of relevant legal documents, reports on the handling of the legal aid and other materials.

Chapter V

Safeguards and Supervision

Article 51 The state strengthens the informatization of legal aid, and promotes information sharing and work coordination among judicial administration departments, judicial organs and other relevant departments.

Article 52 Legal aid institutions shall pay legal aid subsidies to legal aid workers in a timely manner in accordance with the relevant provisions.

The standards for legal aid subsidies shall be determined by the judicial administration departments of the people’s governments of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government in conjunction with the finance departments at the same level in light of the local economic development level and the types of legal aid services, basic labor costs, miscellaneous expenses generated in the provision of legal aid services, etc., and shall be subject to dynamic adjustment.

Legal aid subsidies shall be exempted from taxation for value-added tax and individual income tax.

Article 53 The people’s courts shall, according to the circumstances, postpone or waive the collection of litigation costs payable by legal aid recipients, or reduce the amount of such costs; and waive or reduce the charges for copying relevant materials by legal aid workers.

Notary agencies and forensic service institutions shall reduce or waive the notary or forensic service charges payable by legal aid recipients.

Article 54 The judicial administration departments of the people’s governments at or above the county level shall train legal aid workers in a planned manner so as to improve their expertise and service skills.

Article 55 Legal aid recipients shall have the right to inquire about the handling of his legal aid from legal aid institutions and workers. Where a legal aid institution or worker fails to perform its or his duties in accordance with the law, the recipient may file a complaint to the judicial administration department and may request the legal aid institution to replace the legal aid worker.

Article 56 Judicial administration departments shall establish a system investigating and dealing with complaints concerning legal aid work. Upon receipt of a complaint, a judicial administration department shall accept, investigate and handle it in accordance with the relevant regulations, and shall inform the complainant of the results of the handling in a timely manner.

Article 57 Judicial administration departments shall strengthen supervision of legal aid services, formulate quality standards for legal aid services and conduct regular quality assessment through third-party evaluation and other means.

Article 58 Judicial administration departments and legal aid institutions shall establish a legal-aid information disclosure system, regularly publish information about the use of legal aid funds, the handling of cases, the results of quality assessment, etc., and accept public supervision.

Article 59 Legal aid institutions shall take comprehensive measures such as observing court trials, examining case files, consulting judicial organs and making return visits to legal aid recipients so as to propel legal aid workers to improving service quality.

Article 60 Lawyers’ associations shall include in their annual assessments the performance of legal aid obligations by law firms and lawyers, and shall, in accordance with the relevant regulations, sanction the law firms and lawyers who refuse to perform or delay in performing legal aid obligations.

Chapter VI

Legal Liability

Article 61 Where a legal aid institution or a staff member thereof is found in one of the following circumstances, the judicial administration department that established the legal aid institution shall order the institution or the staff member to make corrections within a prescribed time; the illegal gains, if any, shall be returned or confiscated; a sanction shall be imposed in accordance with the law on the directly responsible person in charge and other directly responsible persons:

(1) refusing to provide legal aid for a person who meets the requirements for legal aid, or deliberately providing legal aid for a person who does not meet the requirements for legal aid;

(2) appointing a person to provide legal aid who does not meet the qualifications prescribed in this Law;

(3) accepting money or gifts from a legal aid recipient;

(4) providing paid legal services;

(5) embezzling, privately distributing, or misappropriating legal aid funds;

(6) divulging state secrets, trade secrets or personal privacy learned in the process of legal aid; or

(7) any other circumstances provided by laws and regulations.

Article 62 Where a law firm or a community-level legal service office is found in one of the following circumstances, the judicial administration department shall impose on it a penalty in accordance with the law:

(1) refusing to accept an appointment made by a legal aid institution without justifiable reasons;

(2) failing to arrange for its lawyers or community-level legal service workers to handle legal aid in a timely manner, or refusing to provide support and guarantees for its lawyers or legal service workers in handling legal aid;

(3) conniving at or indulging its lawyers’ or community-level legal service workers’ delaying the performance of their legal aid obligations or terminating, without authorization, the legal aid they are providing; or

(4) any other circumstances prescribed by laws and regulations.

Article 63 Where a lawyer or a community-level legal service worker is found in one of the following circumstances, the judicial administration department shall impose on him a penalty in accordance with the law:

(1) refusing to perform his legal aid obligations or delaying performing the obligations without justifiable reasons;

(2) terminating, without authorization, the legal aid he is providing;

(3) accepting money or gifts from a legal aid recipient;

(4) divulging state secrets, trade secrets or personal privacy learned in the process of legal aid; or

(5) any other circumstances prescribed by laws and regulations.

Article 64 Where a legal aid recipient obtains legal aid by deception or other improper means, the judicial administration department shall order him to pay the expenses for the legal aid that has been provided for him and shall impose on him a fine of not more than RMB 3,000 yuan.

Article 65 Where anyone, in violation of the provisions of this Law, provides legal services under the guise of legal aid and seeks benefits, the judicial administration department shall order him to make corrections, confiscate the illegal gains and impose on him a fine of not less than one time but not more than three times the amount of illegal gains.

Article 66 Where a state organ or a staff member thereof abuses power, neglects duty or engages in malpractices for personal gain in the legal aid work, a sanction shall be imposed in accordance with the law on the directly responsible person in charge and other directly responsible persons.

Article 67 Whoever violates the provisions of this Law, which constitutes a crime, shall be investigated for criminal liability in accordance with the law.

Chapter VII

Supplementary Provisions

Article 68 People’s organizations such as trade unions, Communist Youth League organizations, women’s federations, and disabled persons’ federations shall carry out legal aid work with reference to the relevant provisions of this Law.

Article 69 With regard to providing legal aid for foreigners and persons, if there are the relevant provisions in Chinese law, these provisions shall apply; in the absence of such provisions in Chinese law, the relevant provisions of this Law may apply mutatis mutandis under the international treaties concluded or acceded to by China or the principle of reciprocity.

Article 70 Specific measures for providing legal aid for servicepersons and their families shall be formulated by the State Council and the relevant departments of the Central Military Commission.

Article 71 This Law shall come into force as of January 1, 2022.

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