Talk - The Rise and Limits of the Chinese Judiciary: Administrative Litigation in the Reform Period
3:00pm - 4:30pm
Room 3301 (Lift 2 or Lifts 17-18), 3/F Academic Building

This study analyzes the performance of the Chinese judiciary in administrative ligation during the recent reform period using a dataset of over 1.6 million judicial documents. Contrary to the conventional understanding, we find compelling evidence that the judiciary has become increasingly significant in checking the power of the government. Courts accepted 79% more cases from 2014 to 2020, and plaintiffs’ win rate against the government has risen from 33.2% to 42.2%. This increase is even more pronounced in cases with a strong impact on local government, such as those reviewing land expropriations and police penalties. Judicial authority has significantly improved, with chief government officials personally attending more than 50% of trials. Our findings illustrate a judiciary on the rise, but there are fundamental limits to its ascent. Courts carefully distance themselves from reviewing the behavior of any Party organ and remain silent on citizens’ political rights. Judges are reluctant to conduct substantive reviews of government actions beyond procedure matters. These findings present a tripartite theory for understanding the rule of law in China, where the law and the judiciary are instrumental in routine and even hard cases, but their power rapidly wanes in the face of politics.

Room 3301 (Lift 2 or Lifts 17-18), 3/F Academic Building
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Zhuang (John) Liu is an associate professor at the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong. He received a Bachelor of Laws and a Ph.D. from Peking University, and an LLM and a JSD from the University of Chicago. His interests include the role of the courts and judicial behavior, and law and development. He is one of the leading scholars in applying quantitative methods to study Chinese law. His present research projects include work that takes advantage of a large dataset of judicial opinions in China to analyze and predict judges’ decisions; using statistical methods to estimate judicial transparency in China; studying law and development with a combination of court and economic data in China; and performing experimental studies to reveal the hidden behavioral patterns of judges. His work has appeared in a number of prestigious academic journals, including Journal of Legal StudiesJournal of Legal Analysis, Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, and China Quarterly.


Host: Prof Yue HOU, Associate Professor, Division of Social Science, HKUST


Division of Social Science