On the Translation of the Criminal Procedure Law of the PRC

Authored by: Lijin Sha , Jian Li

The Ashgate Handbook of Legal Translation

Print publication date:  November  2014
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409469667
eBook ISBN: 9781315612706
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044239


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In Mainland China, the legislative texts are translated mainly for informative purposes. In other words, the translated versions are not authoritative and have no binding effect. It is not permissible to use the translated versions as one type of authority resource. However, the lack of legal effect of the translated versions never downplays the urgency and importance of producing “satisfactory” English versions of Chinese legislative texts. Since China’s accession to the WTO in 2001, the Chinese government has promulgated or amended volumes of statutes designated to implement China’s commitments. In this study, the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China (CPL) is taken as an example, because CPL is a yardstick to measure the status quo of human rights in China. For the first three decades of its existence since 1949, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had neither a general Criminal Law nor a general Criminal Procedure Law. The post-Mao leadership, however, saw a need for a firmer legal foundation for China’s criminal law regime, and quite quickly (in 1979) promulgated both a Criminal Law and a Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). The 1979 CPL was substantially revised in 1996 in order to bring its provisions in line both with the vast changes in Chinese society that had taken place since the original law was promulgated and with demands for greater rationalization. On the whole, the revised CPL is more hospitable to defendants’ rights. It allows earlier access to lawyers, and makes court proceedings somewhat more transparent than before (Hecht 1996). In amendments to the CPL in March 2012, there are several points deserving considerable attention. For the present study, we took two English versions of the CPL (1997), one from the National People’s Congress and the other compiled by the Chinese Scholar in the USA, and analyze the parts corresponding to which the Chinese articles are still effective in the CPL (effective 1 Jan 2013). We also use the English version translated by Li Changshuan as a reference in our discussion. As will be shown in this study, what an appropriate approach to legal translation is, is not just an issue of the translation quality but an issue of better reflecting the reality of rule of law in Mainland China.

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