The Trial of Li Zhuang: Chinese Lawyers’ Collective Action Against Populism
Asian Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 1 (2014), pp. 79-97.
33 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2013 Last revised: 10 Apr 2014
Date Written: December 8, 2013
The Chinese judicial system has long been influenced by a populist legal ideology that prioritizes public accountability and political legitimacy over professional autonomy. In recent years, however, the Chinese legal profession has begun to mobilize collectively, albeit episodically, to challenge this populism. Drawing on legal documents, interviews, media reports, and online discussions, this article provides a scholarly analysis of the Li Zhuang case in 2009-2011, in which the fate of an individual criminal defense lawyer was linked with the main ideological conflict in China’s legal system and the highest-level political struggles in the Chinese state. It demonstrates that, although populism remains an intimidating force in China’s judicial practice, lawyers, scholars, and other legal professionals may be laying a foundation for collective solidarity to pursue professionalism through their mobilization against populism.
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