Thirty years from Tiananmen: China, Hong Kong, and the ongoing experiment to preserve liberal values in a Leninist legal system

The 1989 Tiananmen Massacre marked China as an exception in the chapter of world history that saw the fall of international communism. The massacre crystalized the mistrust between China and Hong Kong into an open ideological conflict—Leninist authoritarianism versus liberal democracy—that has colored relations between the two since then. This paper tracks the hold authoritarianism gained over liberal values in Hong Kong in the past thirty years and reflects on what needs to be done in the next thirty years for the balance to be re-tilted and sustained beyond 2047, when China’s 50-year commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy at international law expires. Still surviving (just) as a largely liberal jurisdiction after two decades of Chinese rule, Hong Kong is a testing ground for whether China can respect liberal values, how resilient such values are to the alternative vision offered by an economic superpower, and the potential for establishing liberal enclaves in a Leninist legal system.

How to understand the organizational form of political power in China?

The argument that the principle of the distribution of powers in China is that the combination of discussion and execution was once the orthodoxy. It was deemed as the fundamental difference of the socialist constitution and capitalist constitution. But in practice, the power of legislation, the power of administration and the power of adjudicatory are distributed to different branches. The orthodoxy is challenged. However, the separation of powers seems not a choice, as it had been excluded by the former chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress officially. Neither that the combination of discussion and execution nor the separation of powers, what is it? In other words, the traditional theories do not fit for the case in China. Then how to understand the organizational form of political power in China? This paper will try to answer the question, based on the interpretation of Article 3 of the Constitution of China.

Legality and Socialist Legality

In Pham v. Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] UKSC 19, the UK Supreme Court held that the refusal of the Vietnamese Government to recognise Minh Pham's nationality was not a decision “by operation of law.” It did so by forming its own view on the meaning of socialist law. In doing so, it took an ecumenical approach to the relationship between the government and its judiciary. In fact, law and legality take on new and distinctive meanings in socialist jurisdictions with important implications for decisions like Pham. This paper draws the concept of legality into sharper relief engaging with new reserach on China and Vietnam in Fu, Gillespie, Nicholson and Bartlett’s Socialist Law in Socialist East Asia.

Soviet Human Rights: an Oxymoron?

This presentation will focus on whether it is meaningful to speak of Soviet human rights. Firstly, I will argue that it is meaningful to speak of a distinctly Soviet conception of human rights and not just human rights in the Soviet Union. Based on Marxism, these rights differed from the more familiar ‘Western’ model of human rights in three respects: they were focused on collective rather than individual, socio-economic rather than political, and positive rather than negative rights. This was reflected in theoretical writings, Soviet Constitutions, and Soviet participation in drafting of international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Secondly, I will address the question of enforcement. Even though the Soviet Union’s rhetoric on the international plane focused on enforcing rights, it was not matched by any public law systems of enforcement such as judicial review. This, in turn, impaired the effectiveness of the Soviet model of human rights in practice. Thirdly, continuing with the practical aspect of Soviet human rights, I will turn my attention to ubiquitous violations of these proclaimed guarantees – not only political but socioeconomic – in practice.