Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cai Dingjian (蔡定剑), 1956-2010

I am sorry to report that Professor CAI Dingjian (蔡定剑教授), Director of the Institute for Study on Constitutionalism at China University of Political Science and Law, passed away early in the morning of November 22nd. Prof. Cai was a widely respected figure both among his colleagues in China and among the foreign community of Chinese law scholars. He was also a very fine human being.

There's a web site dedicated to his life and work here:

Below is an obituary from the South China Morning Post, and below that, a remembrance from a friend published in 新京报.

Well-respected reformist, rights advocate dies

Ng Tze-wei
Nov 23, 2010    

China lost a heavyweight fighter for legal and political reform yesterday when constitutional law professor Cai Dingjian died at the age of 54.

A gentle but firm advocate of "constitutional democracy", Cai's death stirred an outpouring of condolences from lawyers, academics, students and rights groups.

He had been battling cancer for nearly two years, during which time he continued to write and speak out passionately on a range of legal and rights issues.

Cai switched to academia in 2004 after years of serving the government and was one of the few reformists to command respect both within and outside the government.

A soldier with the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution, he joined the China University of Political Science and Law in 1979, where he began his legal studies. He continued working in the politics department upon graduation, but switched in 1986 to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the country's highest legislative body, where he stayed for the next 17 years. He was vice-bureau-chief of the NPC Standing Committee secretariat when he left at the end of 2003.

Saying he wanted more freedom to do research, Cai returned to the university and taught administrative law. He also advocated constitutional democracy - striving to realise democracy through implementing the constitution and strengthening the law. He was director of the university's Institute for Study on Constitutionalism while also serving as a dedicated member of the Centre for People's Congress and Foreign Legislative Study at Peking University.

A model scholar, he pursued his goals through "a combination of field experience and academic rigour", many of his contemporaries said.

He wrote more than 200 research papers and often made comments in the media, with emphasis on the election and People's Congress systems, raising governance and state budget transparency, and, more recently, fighting discrimination.

Even when he worked for the NPC, he advanced rational arguments on why and how democracy should be realised in China. In 2003 he published a research paper arguing against the contention that electoral democracy would not work because most of the citizens were not educated enough.
Many believe that paper landed him in trouble and prompted his move into academia. His last book, Democracy is a Modern Lifestyle, was published in January.

Online postings and rights advocates mourned his passing. "We have lost an inspiring teacher, a respected scholar in law, a good friend for the civil community, and a public intellectual who fights for the rights of the less privileged in Chinese society," the Yirenping Centre, an anti-discrimination legal aid group, said.


2010-11-23 新京报  

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Professor Cai will be remembered and respected by us forever. May he rest in peace.

Posted by: Fang Lu | Nov 23, 2010 9:41:44 PM

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