Stanley Lubman of U.C. Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law writes about the state of legal reform in China for the Wall Street Journal’s new China Real Time Report blog:
Ambiguities in policy toward law are clear: The Chinese Communist Party has never accepted judicial independence as an official goal. Its chief priority for the last thirty years has been economic development, which is the most important basis for its legitimacy, and preventing the occurrence of political or social events that threat that legitimacy.
At the same time, the leadership has promoted the increased professionalization of the judiciary and allowed more space for the growth of the legal profession. It has allowed some expansion in civil society, notably favoring the growth of non-governmental organizations concerned with environmental issues. It has recognized the need to make government more transparent, as shown by the adoption of Open Government Regulations last year and increased experimentation with expanding public participation in legislation and administrative rule-making. Changes in property law are being considered that would expand the rights of peasant landholders and urban residents and limit unlawful expropriation by local officials acting in concert with property developers.
The concern for maintaining social stability, however, currently outweighs any desire for legal reform, except to the extent that law and the courts may be used to punish and discourage official corruption.