December 28, 2004


In China, Turning the Law Into the People's Protector (Philip P. Pan, December 28, 2004, Washington Post)

What happened in the Fuyang case highlights a momentous struggle underway in China between a ruling party that sees the law as an instrument of control and a society that increasingly believes it should be used for something else: a check on the power of government officials and a guardian of individual rights. How this conflict unfolds could transform the country's authoritarian political system.

More than a quarter-century after launching economic reforms while continuing to restrict political freedom, the Chinese Communist Party remains in firm control of the courts. Most judges are party members, appointed by party leaders and required to carry out party orders. But the government's claims of support for legal reform and human rights, and an influx of information about Western legal concepts, have fueled public demands for a more independent judiciary.

China's citizens are asserting their rights and going to court in record numbers. About 4.4 million civil cases were filed in the last year, more than double the total a decade ago. Behind this surge in legal activity is a belief that everyone, even party officials, can be held accountable under the law, a belief promoted by a new generation of lawyers, judges and legal scholars trained after the death of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong.

The party appears torn by this rising legal consciousness. It recognizes the value of an impartial judicial system to resolve disputes in a country with growing social tensions and an emerging capitalist economy, and it sees the potential of citizen lawsuits to curb corruption and improve governance. But it is also afraid that rule of law and independent courts might threaten its monopoly on power.

The people want British law and the Party wants French.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 28, 2004 10:07 AM

Yes, with Hong Kong being your "wooden horse."

Posted by: JimGooding at December 28, 2004 11:00 AM
The people want British law and the Party wants French.
How about a traditional French sendoff for the ruling party, then? :-) Posted by: at December 28, 2004 5:25 PM

The CP-PRC has been as corrupt and inept as any previous Chinese regime and Confucian notions have not worked as a corrective, as they have in Singapore. It is not surprising that the people want something different.

Posted by: Bart at December 28, 2004 6:15 PM