Law is not a shield
From China Digital Space
法律不是挡箭牌。 (Fǎlǜ bú shì dǎngjiànpái.): The law is not a shield.
Jiang’s comments were extremely controversial, leaving many netizens asking, “If ‘the law is not a shield,’ what’s the point of the law?” (“法律不是挡箭牌”还要法律干什么) Perhaps the most notable response to Jiang Yu’s comments was Chen Youxi’s editorial in Southern Weekly (translated by China Media Project):
During the “Cultural Revolution” there was nothing left of the law, and this caused the entire nation to slide into civil strife. Injustice prevailed everywhere, and even the chairman of the republic (Liu Shaoqi) could not be protected. To a large extent it was in drawing lessons from this tragedy that our past 30 years of opening and reform have been not just 30 years of economic reform, but also 30 years of rapid development in building a legal system.
“The law should not be used as a shield” is perhaps just a momentary slip of the tongue, but it reveals the hidden thoughts of a number of officials, and it is worrisome. It gives people the impression that China’s legal system is little more than a slogan or an accessory, something that can be used when it suits the purpose. When the government requires the law, the law can serve as a set of mandatory rules the population must respect; when it seems the law restrains one’s hand, it can be set aside. It’s as though the law is one-directional, serving to check the population but not to check power. If the law comes to be used as a tool, then clearly it is seen as something without sacred importance and not deserving of reverence—just as something utilitarian.
This turn of phrase has also been related to more recent events, such as the expulsion from China of Al-Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan in 2012.
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