Law and Justice in Contemporary China

Key information

Module not running
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Law

Module overview

This module is designed to introduce students to the legal system of contemporary China, as well as key issues related to law, rights, and justice.

The first part of the module examines, inter alia, the principal features of the pre-Communist Chinese legal tradition, the impact on law of thirty years of Maoist rule, the post-Mao Chinese leadership's changing policies towards law, constitutional law and governmental structure, sources of law and law making system, court and judicial independence, and legal profession.

The second part considers select topics related to Chinese law and justice. Topics may include, but are not limited to, law and policies in respect of crime and criminal procedures, human rights protection and development, environmental litigation and rights, freedom of religion, and the death penalty.

The module presumes no prior knowledge of Chinese language, but students will be expected to familiarise themselves with some Chinese legal terms.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the history and development of Chinese law and legal institutions
  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to critically compare the various methods used by modern scholars to examine China’s legal development and the fraught concept of ‘justice’ within a Chinese context
  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to explain the key legislation (domestic and international) related to law, human rights, and criminal justice in China
  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of key domestic obstacles to effective rights enforcement in China
  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to reconstruct and critically assess the various means through which modern Chinese citizens and government officials engage in debates on law and justice.
  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to critically and knowledgably discuss specific areas of law in China: e.g. freedom of religion; criminal justice; environmental justice; socio-political rights; labour rights; gender and human rights; etc.


  • Weekly 2 hour lecture

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 100% (4000 words)

Suggested reading

  • Chen Jianfu. Chinese Law Context and Transformation (2nd ed. 2015).
  • Eva Pils. Human Rights in China (Polity 2017)
  • McConville/Pils (eds) Comparative Perspectives on Criminal Justice in China (EE 2013)
  • Lutz-Christian Wolff ‘Comparing Chinese Law…But with Which Legal System’ Chinese Journal of Comparative law 6.2 (2018): 151-173.
  • Halliday/Liu, Criminal Defense in China (CUP 2016).
  • Hua, Chinese Legal Culture and Constitutional Order (Routledge 2019).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules