China’s people’s court system consists of courts at four levels: namely the grassroots, intermediate, higher and supreme people’s courts, in addition to special courts such as the military, railway and water transportation courts. Grassroots courts refer to tribunals in counties/autonomous counties, cities without administrative districts, or administrative districts of cities; intermediate courts are set up in prefectures, cities directly under provinces (also autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government); higher courts are those set up in provinces (also autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government).
Special courts are a component part of the people’s court system and jointly implement the state right of trials with local people’s courts at different levels. The difference of the special courts from local people’s courts lies in the following aspects:
1. Special courts are trial organs set up according to specified organizations or specified ranges to deal with cases while the local courts are trial organs set up according to administrative divisions;
2. Cases dealt with by special courts are of special nature which means in nature these cases are different from those tried by local people’s courts; and
3. The setup of the special courts and the appointment and removal of the staff of the special courts are also different from those of local people’s courts. For instance, the president of the military court is not elected by the people’s congress but jointly appointed by the SPC and the Central Military Commission.
Special courts include the military court, maritime court, railway transportation court, forestry court, agricultural reclamation court and petroleum court.