Archives Law of the People's Republic of China

Updated: 2020-06-20

Chapter III

Management of Archives

Article 12 State organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, and other organizations that are required to create archives in accordance with the regulations of the state shall establish an accountability system for archival work and improve their archives management system in accordance with the law.

Article 13 The following records that are directly created and whose preservation is of value to the state and society shall be filed as archives:

(1) Records that reflect the history and main functional activities of state organs, groups;

(2) Records that reflect the major research and development, construction, production, operation, and service activities of state-owned enterprises and public institutions, and records protecting the rights and interests of the said enterprises and institutions as well as their employees;

(3) Records that reflect the governance and service activities of self-governance organizations at the primary level in urban and rural communities;

(4) Records that reflect government activities, economic, scientific and technological developments, features of the society and history, cultural practices and customs, as well as ecological environment in various historical periods; and

(5) Records that shall be kept as archives pursuant to laws or administrative regulations.

Records of entities such as non-state-owned enterprises and social services that fall under the scope of Subparagraph (2) shall be kept by the entities themselves.

Article 14 Records of an entity that should be kept as archives shall, in accordance with the relevant regulations of the state, be regularly transferred to the archives division or archivist of the said entity for centralized management. No individual may refuse to hand over such records or keep such records as his own.

Records that are prohibited from being filed as archives pursuant to the regulations of the state shall not be filed as archives without due authorization.

Article 15 State organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, and other organizations shall regularly transfer their archives to the archival repositories in accordance with relevant regulations of the state, and the archival repositories may not refuse to receive. 

For archival records transferred in advance with the consent of archival repositories, the disclosure of government information contained therein shall be handled by the entity that produced or kept such information if the stipulated transfer period has not expired. After the expiration of the transfer period, archival records involving government information for disclosure shall be handled pursuant to the regulations on the use of archives.

Article 16 Organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, and other organizations shall, in accordance with relevant regulations, transfer archival records to the relevant entities or archival repositories in case of organizational changes, revocations, or mergers.

Article 17 In addition to receiving transferred archival records in accordance with relevant regulations of the state, the archival repositories may collect archival records through purchases, deposits, accepting donations, etc.

Article 18 Archival records that are cultural relics or documents kept by entities such as museums, libraries, and memorial halls shall be managed by the said entities pursuant to relevant laws and administrative regulations.

The archival repositories shall cooperate with the entities as prescribed in the preceding paragraph in the use of archives through exchanging extra copies, duplicates, or catalogs, holding joint exhibitions, and jointly studying, compiling, and publishing relevant historical materials.

Article 19 The archival repositories and archives divisions of organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, and other organizations shall establish a scientific management system to facilitate the use of archives, equipping themselves with storage suitable for keeping archives as well as necessary facilities and equipment in accordance with relevant regulations of the state to ensure the safety of archives, and adopting advanced technology to modernize the management of archives.

The archival repositories, state organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, and other organizations shall establish a comprehensive working mechanism for archives safety, enhance risk management, and improve their capabilities of responding to emergencies.

Article 20 For archives that involve state secrets, the management, use, modification in classification, and declassification of such archives shall be handled in accordance with the provisions of laws and administrative regulations on guarding state secrets.

Article 21 The national archives administration shall be responsible for formulating the principles by which the value of archives for preservation is appraised, the standards for determining the retention periods, and the procedures and methods for disposal of archives.

Tampering with, damaging, forging archives, and destructing archives without authorization are prohibited.

Article 22 Archival records created by entities such as non-state-owned enterprises and social services or by individuals, the preservation of which are of great value to the state and society or which shall be kept confidential, shall be properly kept by their owners. If the said archival records might be seriously damaged or subject to risk due to the owners' inability to meet preservation requirements or any other reason, the archives administration at or above the provincial level may render help, or take measures to ensure the integrity and safety of the archival records including designating a specific archival repository to keep the said archival records on the owner's behalf after negotiation, and purchasing or requisitioning the said archival records pursuant to relevant laws when necessary.

Owners of the archives mentioned in the preceding paragraph may deposit the archives with or sell the archives to state archival repositories. It shall be strictly forbidden to sell or give such archives to foreign individuals or organizations.

Whoever donates important or valuable archives to the state shall be rewarded by the state archival repositories pursuant to relevant regulations of the state.

Article 23 The purchase and sale of archives owned by the state shall be prohibited.

The national archives administration shall formulate specific measures for transfer of the archives concerning the transferred assets of state-owned enterprises or public institutions.

The exchange and transfer of duplicates of archives shall be handled in accordance with relevant regulations of the state.

Article 24 When entrusting such archival services as the arrangement, deposit, development, and utilization as well as digitization of archival records, the archival repositories, state organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, and other organizations shall sign an entrustment agreement with eligible archival service enterprises on the scope, quality, and technical standards of the services, and shall supervise the entrusted party.

The entrusted party shall establish a management system for archival services and follow relevant safety and confidentiality regulations to ensure the safety of archives.

Article 25 The archives owned by the state, the archives specified in Article 22 of this Law, and their duplicates shall not be transported, mailed, carried, or transmitted via the Internet out of China without authorization; where it is necessary to do so, approval shall be obtained pursuant to relevant regulations of the state.

Article 26 The national archives administration shall establish and improve a working mechanism for the collection, arrangement, protection, and use of archives related to emergency responses.

The archival repositories shall improve the study, arrangement, development, and use of archives related to emergency responses so as to provide documentary reference and decision support for handling emergencies.

Chapter IV

Use and Publication of Archives

Article 27 Archival records kept by the state archival repositories at or above the county level shall be open to the public upon the expiration of 25 years from the date of their creation. Archival records in such fields as economy, education, science and technology, and culture may be disclosed to the public at a time earlier than 25 years. Archival records involving the security or vital interests of the state or unsuitable for disclosure upon expiration of the prescribed period may be kept from the public for more than 25 years. The state encourages and supports other archival repositories to make their archival records accessible to the public. The specific measures for the public access of archives shall be formulated by the national archives administration and submitted to the State Council for approval.

Article 28 The archival repositories shall regularly publish catalogues of open archival records on their website or by other means, continuously improve the rules for the use of archives, provide new types of services, enhance their service functions, improve their services, actively promote the use of archives, and simplify relevant procedures so as to provide convenience for users.

Entities and individuals with legal certificates may use the archives that are open to the public. If a state archival repository fails to provide open access as prescribed by regulations, entities and individuals may file a complaint to the archives administration, and the archives administration shall promptly investigate and handle the complaint and inform the complainant of the result.

Where the use of archives affects intellectual property rights or personal information, the provisions of relevant laws and administrative regulations shall be complied with.

Article 29 State organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, other organizations, and citizens may, according to the need for economic development, building of national defense, education, scientific research, and other work, access to restricted archives of archival repositories and archives in the custody of organs, groups, enterprises, public institutions, and other organizations pursuant to relevant regulations of the state.

Article 30 Archival repositories shall be responsible for the review and approval of disclosure of the archival records in their custody, jointly with the entities by which the said records were created or transferred. For archival records that have not been transferred to an archival repository, the entities that have created them or keep them shall be responsible for the review and approval of their disclosure and shall give their suggestion on the matter at the time of transfer. 

Article 31 Entities and individuals that have transferred, donated, or deposited archival records to archival repositories may enjoy priority in the use of said archival records and may propose restrictions of use as to the parts that are not suitable for public access. The archival repositories shall render support and facilitation accordingly.

Article 32 State-owned archival records may only be released by the archival repositories or relevant institutions authorized by the state; no entity or individual shall have the right to release such archives without permission of the archival repositories or relevant institutions. The owners of the archival records created by entities including non-state-owned enterprises and social service agencies, as well as individuals, shall have the right to release said records.

The release of archives shall be in compliance with relevant laws and administrative regulations, and shall not undermine national security and interests or infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of others.

Article 33 The archival repositories shall, based on their own situations, support and facilitate state organs in formulating laws, regulations, and policies, as well as in conducting research on relevant issues.

The archival repositories shall have researchers to enhance the study and arrangement of archival records, organize the compilation and publication of archival records in a planned way, and distribute the publications within a certain scopes.

Archival researchers shall follow the rules of archival management when studying and arranging the archives.

Article 34 The state encourages the archival repositories to make use of their archival records by theme exhibitions, public lectures, and publicity, to educate the people on patriotism, collectivism, and socialism with Chinese characteristics, carry on and develop the fine traditional Chinese culture, inherit the revolutionary culture, nurture advanced socialist culture, and to enhance cultural confidence as well as promote the core socialism values.

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