Happy Year of the Rabbit to all followers and readers of this blog! As a few followers know, I moved recently. The disruption is the reason I haven’t posted in such a long time. Because of the move, some of my archives from my many years of researching the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), like Rip Van Winkle, have emerged from hibernation. They include:
- the address and work number of a now-retired senior SPC judge. He will remain anonymous, as I am concerned there is no statute of limitations for minor violations of 外事纪律 (foreign affairs discipline) by receiving a foreigner in what he considered shabby premises, and being eminently hospitable. I have never had the chance to tell him that he is partly responsible for my interest in the SPC. I recall visiting him in his danwei-supplied housing (宿舍). He lived in a compound of one-story buildings (平房) next to the main SPC building. Thankfully, security was not as difficult as it would be now, and those buildings were demolished long ago. I recall riding my bicycle from Peking University into the one-story building compound to visit him. He must have recommended that I visit the shop of the People’s Court Press （人民法院出版社门市部) (now around the corner from the SPC main building on 正义路) and that simple recommendation was crucial. Among the books that I purchased during that initial visit were the first few volumes of 司法手册. These volumes, edited by the SPC’s Research Office, pre-dated court or other computer databases of legislation and documents. The assortment of SPC and related documents in those volumes led me down the rabbit hole of researching the SPC.
- I fell down that rabbit hole in 1992 or 1993, when I pulled those volumes off my bookshelf and tried to make sense of them. At the time, I was focused on understanding how the SPC operated at the time（and did not read legal Chinese as quickly as I do now) and failed to read some of the historical documents included in those volumes. I can see now that these volumes contain documents issued by the SPC and Party institutions unavailable elsewhere, some relating to the Strike Hard Campaign (严打) of the early 1980’s, others relating to post-Cultural Revolution issues, others relating to divorce policy in the 1960’s, with still others linked to special regulations for foreign-related criminal cases.
- Another book I came across was a 1993 volume edited by the editors of the SPC’s Gazette, containing typical cases (典型案例), judicial interpretations （司法解释),, and an assortment of SPC documents that the editors considered useful but were not published in the Gazette. The book was published before the SPC issued its rules on judicial interpretation work so some of the documents included in that volume would not be incorporated in an analogous volume today. When I wrote my first article on the SPC, this book was a crucial source for me. SPC typical cases themselves fill several volumes (I have multiple volumes of a 2009-2021 collection of typical cases published by the People’s Court Press).
- I have a large collection of name cards given to me by people in the courts and other institutions, including a friend (now deceased) who was enormously helpful when researching my first SPC article. For some reason, I have a half dozen or more name cards from members of the staff of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. At the time (early 1990’s), I took easy access to people in Party and state institutions for granted and never expected that 30 years later, it would be more rather than less challenging to meet them.
- Among the items in my archives are notebooks, with questions that I prepared 30 years ago, to ask a small circle of friends linked to the courts, most as relevant now as then:
- What does a 庭长 （division head) do?
- What does the Research Office (研究室）do?
- Interpretations, litigation, legislation [drafting of judicial interpretations and court rules], administration–which constitutes the bulk of the work of the SPC?
- What are opinions (意见)?
- Are conference summaries (会议纪要) considered to be interpretations by the courts?
- How do NPC representatives supervise the SPC?
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