Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Events in the last several weeks have prompted some interesting reflections on the larger nature of the Chinese legal system. Earlier this month, Nicholas Bequelin and Stanley Lubman discussed the significance of the Bo Xilai and Chen Guangcheng cases together. Lubman concludes that they show that Chinese law doesn't matter very much, and Bequelin concludes that Chinese law does matter more than we think. I'm greatly oversimplifying, of course, and if you read both pieces you'll find that they probably don't really disagree.
Today Stanley Lubman published another piece that looks at the Bo Xilai case together with the recent case of Liu Zhijun, the former minister of railways who was cashiered on corruption charges. Lubman notes that in these cases, there is always first an internal Party investigation, following which the subject may or may not be "handed over" to state judicial authorities for appropriate punishment. The key, of course, is that the Party, standing above the law, makes the decision whether or not to "hand over" people to the state authorities. All the talk about building the rule of law in China, increasing government accountability, etc. must be understood in the context of this one critical fact: the Party as an institution has never been subordinate to the law, and there is to date no movement in that direction.