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Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cai Dingjian (蔡定剑), 1956-2010

Caidingjian
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: http://www.chinaelections.org/specialtopic/SpecialTopicc.aspx?sortid=1278

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.

*****

我们需要什么样的知识分子?
2010-11-23 新京报  

■ 视点

蔡定剑教授是一位坚忍不拔的建设者,是一位苦口婆心的布道者。

我的同事蔡定剑教授,昨天凌晨离开了我们,我很沉痛,网络上悼念的文章很多。一个并无任何行政头衔的学者,何以获得如此广泛的社会爱戴和尊敬?

如果让我用一句话来形容蔡定剑教授,我认为他是一位古风犹存的横议处士。我国古代把没有做官的读书人叫做“处士”,把直言不讳地纵论时政的行为称为“横议”。蔡定剑教授就是当今为数不多的横议处士。《新京报》等媒体上他有专栏。对于社会重大事件,时常看见他作为知识分子的发言和呐喊。

这些年来,有些学者得了软骨病,放弃了知识分子作为社会良知和正义守护神的责任,这些人其实在害政府而不是帮政府。就在去世前不久,他还发表了“民主是有利于社会稳定的制度”这一重要言论,对那些认为民主会带来社会不稳定的谬论予以反驳。去年冬天,在中国政法大学的一次颁奖仪式上,已知自己癌症晚期的他发表获奖感言:“我们学校有些学者,不被某些官员认同。学校领导对此要有正确的认识,要保护他们。正是这些学者为政法大学赢得声誉,对他们要从历史的角度来判断,不要短视。(大意)”他说话时的调门并不高,但我感觉这是已知自己存世不久的他,对同事的我们沉重的嘱托。

蔡定剑教授不仅是位理论家,而且是民主法治执着的践行者。他对我国的人大制度有着精深的研究,对于中国的民主和宪政历史进程有着准确的判断,对于中国的司法改革,发表过许多重要的观点。他与许多学者包括我自己有一个重要的不同点是,他不满足于对于现实政治的批评,而且执着地参与着中国民主法治的建设。他将很多精力用于法治普及与宣传,推进多处地方政改,参与制度设计,包括四川罗江县专职人大代表工作室、四川雅安党代表直选试验、上海闵行区委全委会改革……

他不像某些空头理论家,用云遮雾罩的理论,忽悠民众,营销自己。他不是厌世者,整天发泄不满,指责别人,而忘记了自己的责任;他不是革命者,从不指望民主法治可以通过激进的行动,毕其功于一役。他一再警醒社会和政府,要尽可能避免动荡的到来;他某些言论虽然有些“出格”,但一直能够比较顺利地发出,我想这和他的建设者姿态有很大关系。他看到社会的不足,同时看到社会的进步;他用言简意赅的文字,轻声细语的言谈,哺育着他的学生,提醒着他的民族。他是一位坚忍不拔的建设者,他是一位苦口婆心的布道者。

大约四月前,在一场关于政府财政公开的学术报告现场。他在主席台上时,面带微笑,完全看不出这是一位癌症晚期的病人。但报告完毕以后,他来到台下,坐在我身边,我目睹他疲惫地用手支撑着头部,闭目养神,额头上渗出细细的汗水。由于担心询问他的病情会加重他心理负担,我没有说话。但在那个夜晚,在那个会场,我真心感受到,坐在我身边这位瘦弱的同事,是民族的脊梁,是一枝明亮的蜡烛,他正在燃烧着自己生命的最后一段,滋养着学生,照耀着社会。
逝者往矣!那么,什么才是对蔡定剑教授最好的纪念?我想,就是更多知识分子像蔡老师那样扛起启蒙的使命,就是坚定不移地推进中国的民主和法治。

愿蔡老师在天之灵安息。

□何兵(学者)

November 23, 2010 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law, People and Institutions | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)