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Australian Journal of Asian Law

Abstract from Volume 5 No 1 (2003)

Seeds of Dissent: The Evolution of Published Commercial Law Court Judgments in Contemporary China

Colin Hawes PhD (British Columbia), Assistant Professor of Eastern Asian Studies, University of Alberta, Canada

This article traces the evolution of published Chinese court judgments from the early to late 1990s, focusing on the official anthology Selected Cases from the People's Courts. The author translates several examples demonstrating growing awareness among the judiciary of the importance of due process and transparency in the judicial system. Analysis of commentaries to these cases suggests that Chinese judges are also becoming more willing to publicly express divergent and dissenting opinions about legal issues that arise when cases are adjudicated. The latter part of the article then discusses a fascinating experiment by the Guangzhou Maritime Court (GMC), perhaps the next logical step in the evolution of Chinese court judgments. This Court currently posts notarised judgment texts on its website, not merely edited versions that were available before. The Court's judges also write dissenting or separate concurring opinions within their judgments, rather than relegating them to ancillary legal commentaries published elsewhere. The conclusion critically analyses the reasons given by the GMC President for introducing this experiment and notes some obstacles preventing such transparent adjudicative practices from spreading to courts throughout China. The author suggests that reforms in judgment writing and publication are one of many factors that will encourage the future development of 'rule of law' in China.

(2003) 5(1) Asian Law 1

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