Suing the Local State: Administrative Litigation in Rural China

China Journal, No. 51, pp. 76-96, January 2004

22 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2008

See all articles by Kevin J. O'Brien

Kevin J. O'Brien

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science

Abstract

This article examines the dynamics of administrative litigation in rural China. It shows how local officials often attempt to preempt, derail or undermine administrative lawsuits by blocking access to official documents and regulations, pressuring courts to reject cases, failing to appear in court or perjuring themselves, discrediting attorneys, and intimidating litigants. It also discusses, however, how villagers fight back by drawing in sympathetic elites (such as people's congress deputies and the media) and mobilizing collective appeals and staging public protests. The paper concludes that administrative litigation provides a useful window on Chinese state-society relations and on the interplay of legal and political mobilization. It also suggests that should more villagers incorporate administrative litigation into their repertoire of contention, a reform designed to extend the life of an authoritarian regime may play a part in nudging China a step closer to rule of law.

Keywords: China, law, administration litigation, rural, courts

Suggested Citation

O'Brien, Kevin J. and Li, Lianjiang, Suing the Local State: Administrative Litigation in Rural China. China Journal, No. 51, pp. 76-96, January 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1099986

Kevin J. O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Lianjiang Li

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Social Science ( email )

Hong Kong

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