China has a four-level court system. At the top is the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing. Lower courts are the higher people’s courts in provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities; intermediate people’s courts at the prefecture level and also in parts of provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities; and basic people’s courts in counties, towns, and municipal districts. Special courts handle matters affecting the military, railroad transportation, water transportation, and forestry.
Constitutionally, the court system exercises judicial power independently and technically is free of interference from administrative organs, public organizations, and individuals. The Supreme People’s Court supervises the administration of justice by local courts and special courts, while courts at higher levels oversee the administration of courts at lower levels. At each level, the courts are “responsible to the organs of state power which created them.” Judges are limited to two consecutive terms running concurrently with the National People’s Congress or local people’s congresses.
The court system is paralleled by a hierarchy of prosecuting organs called people’s procuratorates; at the apex stands the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. The procurators serve as prosecutors, or district attorneys, and are limited to two consecutive terms running concurrently with the NPC or local people’s congresses.