Weekend Roundup: Politicizing the ‘Rule of Law’ in China — And the U.S.

Ironies abound. While America is engaged in a bitter partisan battle during this election season over who will control the “non-partisan” U.S. Supreme Court, China’s Communist Party authorities are arresting lawyers in the name of establishing the “rule of law.”

The politicization of America’s highest court will play itself out over the coming months, potentially leading to a constitutional crisis if the Republican-dominated Senate resists timely confirmation of President Obama’s nominee. The framers of the U.S. Constitution created a Supreme Court that was independent from the political branches of government and insulated from public opinion for the very reason that they feared the immediate passions of the public, expressed through an elected Congress, would run roughshod over the “rule of law” whenever decisions were unpopular.

China’s play of contraries is already well underway. As Zheng Yongnian writes from Singapore, “There is a big gap between ideal and reality. Less than one year after the party invoked the building of the ‘rule of law,’ 317 human rights lawyers, activists and their family members in China were reportedly detained.” He explains how the authorities act quickly to stem any “politicization” of cases that could be construed as a challenge to party dominance: “When legal practitioners leave the court and go onto the street, resorting to politically sensitive activities, they step on the bottom line of the party.” Regardless of the contradiction that party guidance of the courts is not seen as “politicization” because it is enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, Zheng says progress in the long march toward the “rule of law” is being made, citing the establishment of circuit courts that take cases away from corrupt local bosses who often abuse their authority. “Beijing’s current reform initiatives and conviction in building the ‘rule of law’ —> Read More