|Abstract as per original application
I will investigate how courts in China adjudicate eminent domain (i.e., land and housing expropriation) cases. With a combination of quantitative and qualitative research, I will explore what are the key factors contributing to the decisions of courts at all levels, and whether there are any different approaches taken by them respectively. My hypothesis is that judicial behaviours are subject to three constraints: power, expertise and information—the higher the court, the more power and expertise it has, but less information with the increased distance from local governments which exercise the eminent domain power. The overall role and general approach of the judiciary, in light of the balance/tension between economic development and individual property right protection, will be statistically tested and qualitatively observed in answering the practical question, i.e. to what extent can Chinese courts, in adjudicating eminent domain cases, protect individual property rights and how can the courts play a better role?
Theoretically, an individual property owner can challenge a government’s eminent domain decision under the current legal regime. However, property right of individuals might still be under risk if the protections provided by the judicial branch are weak. This seems to be the case as the assumption of weak courts has been widely taken in studies concerning the role of the judiciary in Chinese law and development.
I will examine how Chinese courts review local governments’ eminent domain decisions and whether the problem of weak courts has indeed incurred. I employ the data on eminent domain cases published in the China Judicial Decisions Website (中国裁判文书网), which was fully launched on January 1, 2014. I plan to investigate cases at all levels of the courts, including the Supreme People's Court (SPC), the High People's Courts, the Intermediate People's Courts at the city or prefecture level, and the Basic People's Courts at the county or urban district level. By coding and analyzing these judicial decisions, I plan to generate the pattern of adjudication of Chinese courts and find the similarity and differences therewith. Apart from quantitative studies, my team and I will also conduct qualitatively interviews with judges of different levels of courts with the aim of facilitating and verifying our observation. The final research output would include two articles published in first-tier international law journals and a book published by a first-tier university press.