Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 17616824
Project Title(English) : The Rise and Limits of the Chinese Judiciary: Administrative Litigation in China during the Reform Period 
Project Title(Chinese) :  
Principal Investigator(English) : Dr Liu, Zhuang 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Department of Law
Institution : The University of Hong Kong
Co - Investigator(s) :
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Social and Behavioural Sciences
Exercise Year : 2024 / 25
Fund Approved : 716,000
Project Status : On-going
Completion Date :
Abstract as per original application
This study aims to analyze the performance of the Chinese judiciary in administrative ligation during the recent reform period, using a dataset of over 1.6 million judicial documents. The conventional understanding of the politics in China in the recent decade is its “turn against law.” In a preliminary study conducted by the PI, however, I find evidence that the judiciary in China has become increasingly significant in checking the power of the government. Courts accepted 79% more cases from 2014 to 2021, and plaintiffs’ win rate against the government has risen from 33.2% to 42.2%. This increase is even more pronounced in cases with 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. In this proposed research, I plan to study the causes of the rise of the Chinese judiciary. More specifically, I will study two policy reforms that may have contributed to the rise of judicial power, one regarding court funding, and the other on court’s jurisdiction arrangement. Exploiting a staggered roll-out reform that removed local governments’ fiscal control over local courts, I plan to study whether the independence of court finance improves courts’ ability to hold local governments accountable. Another reform changed jurisdiction rule in administrative litigation from intra-regional to trans-regional. I plan to study whether the trans-regional jurisdiction design increases plaintiffs’ win rate. The proposed study will also explore the limitation of the judiciary. In previous interviews with judges, I found that Chinese courts still 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. In this proposed research, I will substantiate and test these hypotheses using more solid and comprehensive empirical evidence, i.e., data of millions of judicial documents. In total, this proposed research plans to 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.
Research Outcome
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