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Judicial Reform in China

How Progress Serves the Party

Police in front of a court in Jinan, China, August 2013. Jason Lee / REUTERS

On January 14, Zhou Qiang, the chief justice of China’s Supreme People’s Court, rejected judicial independence in a speech to jurists in Beijing. China “should not fall into the trap of the West’s erroneous thinking and the independence of the judiciary,” Zhou said, and Chinese courts must resolutely resist constitutional democracy and the separation of powers. For the many observers who viewed Zhou as a reformer, his comments seemed like a betrayal. “This is truly a statement that wrecks the nation and harms the people,” He Weifang, a law professor at Beijing University and a popular liberal reformist, wrote in an online post.

Unlike in Western countries, where the separation of powers means that the judiciary should refrain from commenting on political matters, in China, there are no such barriers: The Communist Party controls all aspects of government. Nevertheless, legal reform has been a key theme for the

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