China: The Limits of Law in China

January 21, 2017

The Chinese Constitution is clear about the rule of law. “No organization or individual is privileged to be beyond the Constitution or other laws,” declares Article 5. And Article 126 says, “The people’s courts exercise judicial power independently, in accordance with the provisions of law, and not subject to interference by any administrative organ, public organization or individual.”

But don’t fall into the “trap” of believing that this means the law is above the Communist Party, warns China’s top judge. Speaking to a national conference of court officials on Jan. 14, Zhou Qiang, the head of the Supreme People’s Court of China, left no doubt that China’s legal system is not independent of party rule. He called on judges to “show the sword” against erroneous Western notions like judicial independence, separation of powers and constitutional democracy.

Chief Justice Zhou’s comments were all the more noteworthy coming just as President Xi Jinping and a large delegation of Chinese leaders prepared to descend on the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to general plaudits as the new champions of globalization and global trade. At home, Mr. Xi has increasingly cracked down on critics, human rights lawyers and nonprofit organizations.




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