Constitutional Courts in Asia: Western Origins and Asian Practice

35 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2019 Last revised: 4 Dec 2019

See all articles by Albert H. Y. Chen

Albert H. Y. Chen

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 17, 2018


Whereas law and courts, and to some extent, ideas of the rule of law, have existed in human history for millennia, written constitutions of states only have a history of approximately two centuries, and the earliest constitutional courts were established less than one century ago. The concept and institution of a constitutional court are, thus, relatively new inventions in the legal history of humankind. Yet, in the early twenty-first century, constitutional courts exist and operate in all corners of the world. They are a global phenomenon that deserves scholarly investigation from legal doctrinal, theoretical and comparative perspectives.

In this paper, we will first trace the origins and evolution of constitutional courts in the Western world and examine the transplantation of this legal or judicial institution to other continents and cultures (Section I of this chapter). The nature, functions and operation of constitutional courts will then be discussed (Section II). Next, we will focus on constitutional courts in East Asia and consider the history, experience and performance of the seven constitutional courts in this part of the world (Section III). Comparative observations on various features of these courts will be made (Section IV). Finally (Section V), we conclude by reflecting on the lessons and implications of the existence and operation of Asian constitutional courts.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Albert H. Y., Constitutional Courts in Asia: Western Origins and Asian Practice (October 17, 2018). University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2019/088, Available at SSRN: or

Albert H. Y. Chen (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong


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