Friday, April 22, 2022

Ying Sun & Hualing Fu on Judge Quota and Judicial Autonomy: An Enduring Professionalization Project in China (The China Quarterly)

"Of Judge Quota and Judicial Autonomy: An Enduring Professionalization Project in China"
Ying Sun & Hualing Fu
Published on 24 March 2022
Abstract: This article presents the findings of original research on “judge quota” reform. The reform's agenda was essentially aimed at professionalization: by edging out a given percentage of judges, only the better qualified judges would be re-appointed to create a more professionalized judiciary. A key component of the reform was to reduce the level and the intensity of both political and bureaucratic control over judges in adjudication and to decentralize judicial power to the rank-and-file judges, restoring individualized judging while enhancing judicial accountability. This article critically examines the potential and limits of the judge quota reform in the context of incremental legal reform in a party-state.


  1. Prior versions of this article were presented at the workshop on ‘Political Parties, Partisanship, andthe Constitution’at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, University of Oxford in , the con-ference on ‘Judicial Cooperation and Judicial Reform in China’at the City University of Hong Kongin , and the conference on ‘Judicial Reform and Political Development in China’at the NationalUniversity of Singapore (NUS) in . The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers, fellowacademic colleagues, Dr Ewan Smith, Professor Arun Thiruvengadam, as well as the participants inthe said workshops for their helpful comments, and the Centre for Asian Legal Studies at the NUSFaculty of Law for its support and funding.

  2. Drawing on data collected from district-level governments, this article studies how the Chinese state responds to labor protests in South China. It examines both the internal logic and operational patterns of the state response involving the local courts and an assortment of government agencies. Internal documents and interviews reveal an emerging mode of state reaction. In the context of protest, the courts and related government agencies engage protesters on the street, which often grants a favorable resolution. This “street as courtroom” is a result of the weak capacity of the legal system coupled with a government-wide campaign to build a “harmonious society.” These findings compel researchers to reconsider the institutional boundaries of the prototypical court, the outcome of social protest, and the appropriate role of the courts in China.