Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, four Constitutions have been formulated, in 1954, 1975, 1978 and 1982 successively. The present 1982 Constitution contains four chapters in addition to the Preamble. These are: "General Principles," "The Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens," "The Structure of the State," and "The National Flag, the National Emblem, the National Emblem and the Capital," totaling 138 articles. Revisions and amendments to some articles were made and adopted by the National People's Congress in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004.
The Constitution stipulates that all citizens are equal before the law and that the state respects and safeguards human rights. It guarantees the basic rights and interests of citizens, including the right to vote and stand for election; freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration; freedom of religious belief; the inviolability of the freedom of the person, the personal dignity, the residences and the legitimate private property; freedom and privacy of correspondence; the right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary and exercise supervision; the right to work and rest and the right to material assistance from the state and society when they are old, ill or disabled; and the right to receive education and freedom to engage in scientific research, literary and artistic creation and other cultural pursuits.
China's legal system consists of seven categories; Constitutional and related law, civil and commercial law, administrative law, economic law, social law, criminal law, and litigation and non-litigation procedural law. Since 1979, the building of China's legal system has developed rapidly and in an all-round way. By the end of 2004, more than 460 laws and law-related decisions had been made by the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee, over 1,000 administrative regulations made by the State Council, and more than 10,000 local regulations made by local people's congresses, covering political, economic and social fields. A relatively complete legal system is now basically in place.