CityU: RCCL Conference on Judicial Reform in China (19–20 August 2016)

Judicial reforms have been an integral part of China’s rule of law efforts. Several important measures have been launched since the Fourth Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in 2014. Given that these measures have been in place for almost two years, critically reviewing their process and policy implications seemed timely and much needed. To further this analysis, the Centre for Chinese and Comparative Law (“RCCL”) of the School of Law of City University of Hong Kong (“CityU”) held a conference on 19 and 20 August 2016 to investigate the practical and theoretical implementations of these recent reforms.

This one and a half day conference brought together 19 scholars, who examined various issues relating to the recent reforms and offered an in-depth analysis from empirical and comparative perspectives. Of the 19 scholars, many were internationally recognised Chinese law scholars who have dedicated many years to researching Chinese judicial reforms.

The conference was kicked off by RCCL Director Prof. Xin He, who gave the welcoming speech. Soon after, the first of the conference’s six panels started with Prof. Hualing Fu of the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong, Dr. Peter Chan of CityU Law School and Prof. Susan Finder of the School of Transnational Law of Peking University presenting their research relating to the profiles and achievements of the first post-Cultural Revolution generation of law students, the empirical studies of judicial conciliation in China, as well as the significance of live broadcast of trials. Dr. Peter Wang of CityU Law School chaired the panel and Prof. Susan Trevaskes of the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science of Griffith University and Dr. Yuqing Feng of the School of Law of Southeast University commented on the three scholars’ insightful presentations afterwards. Audience members also actively participated in the discussion and posed difficult questions to the presenters during the Q&A sessions.

The second panel, chaired by Dr. Mark Kielsgard of our Law School, focused on the judicial reforms under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. During the panel, Prof. Susan Trevaskes and Dr. Ling Li of the Department of East Asian Studies of the University of Vienna presented their papers while Dr.Kwai Ng of the Department of Sociology of the University of California, San Diego and Dr. Peter Wang acted as commentators.

The third panel was chaired by Prof. Baifeng Chen of the School of Law of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. Three scholars, namely Dr.Meng Hou of the School of Law of Peking University, Dr. Xiaohong Yu of the Department of Political Science of Tsinghua University and Prof. Zhong Liu of the School of Law of Tongji University presented papers on various issues relating to the institutional obstacles to judicial reform in China. Prof. Qinghua Wang of the School of Law of China University of Political Science and Law and Prof. Hualing Fu then gave critical comments on the three papers.

Panel four, chaired by Prof. Susan Trevaskes, offered a general discussion about judicial reforms in China. Prof. Stéphanie Balme of the Centre for International Studies (“CERI”) of Sciences Po Paris who joined the conference via Skype, presented her assessment on China’s judicial reforms for the past 35 years. After that, another presenter Prof. Yongjun Li of the School of Law of Jilin University discussed the theoretical problems behind China’s current judicial reform. Dr. Meng Hou and Prof. Albert Chen of the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong acted as the commentators for this panel.

Panel five of the second day was chaired by Dr. Ling Li. Prof. Qinghua Wang discussed the role of the court in social control in China while Dr. Fen Lin of the Department of Media and Communication of CityU presented the empirical studies carried out by her and Prof. Xin He relating to defamation litigation in China. Prof. Baifeng Chen and Dr. Xiaohong Yu were the commentators of this panel.

Panel six, the last panel of the conference, was a book comments session chaired by Dr. Meng Hou. Prof. Xin He and Dr. Kwai Ng first presented their work to participants. After that, being commentators, Prof. Zhong Liu and Dr. Ling Li shared their views on the relevant book project and gave valuable comments to the two authors. Other participants also joined the discussion.

In conclusion, while the time was short, the conference was fruitful and thought-provoking. The speakers’ expert insight and analysis on a variety of important issues relating to judicial reform in China, as well as the critical questions and constructive comments posed by participants made the conference a great success. The discussion has undoubtedly laid a good foundation for further in-depth conversation on related matters.