Legal Profession in the Waning and Ebbing of Liberal Politics: Clashing Rule of Law Ideals in Taiwan and Hong Kong

Entering this century, Taiwan and Hong Kong both saw drastic political transformation while TW liberalized and HK faced further limitation. A puzzle is why, despite diverging legal-political contexts, the local legal profession both grew to split? I argue for an ideational explanation. Namely, the legal profession is not an it but they. Their ideals of rule of law, first embodied in critical state transformation and then prioritized in interactive political processes, explain why and how they represent and uphold different stances in sociopolitical issues. In Taiwan, judges defend independence, lawyers represent peoples’ rights, and prosecutors pursue justice. Their different ideals result in the mosaic image of judicial reform. Conversely in HK, two competing ideals of law and order and moderation of power fundamentally shaped how and when the HK legal profession acts. The intensifying tension contributes both to the judicialization of politics and politicization of judicial policies.