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Legal Voices behind China’s Great Firewall – A Study of Chinese Judges’ and Lawyers’ Blogs

Date & Time:
14:00:00 - 15:30:00,
Friday 14 May, 2010


China is notorious for its determination to stamp out dissenting voices. This extends to cyberspace, at least to those living behind the great firewall. Yet, cyberspace is a terrain known for its defiance not to be fully tamed. What we witness is an intense struggle for control by the ruler and contention by the mass. It is a difficult dance of pull and push, in the midst of voices and silence.

To better understand the relationship between the power of the Internet and the exercise of free speech in China, this study has chosen to examine judges’ and lawyers’ blogs. In total, 1356 postings from 42 blogs of judges and 1995 postings from 13 lawyers have been collected in the period of 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2008. Judges and lawyers represent two unique groups of professionals; some perceive them to be government representatives, while others see them as guardians of people’s welfare. They may also see themselves as privileged groups within, or close to, the ruling system, yet gaining the trust of the mass, and fighting to uphold justice. The focus of the study is to analyze their comments so as to find out what they said and how far they could go in expressing their opinion.

Judging from the content of postings that have been collected, one finds that critical voices are tolerated to various degrees. In fact, the government seems to be active in capturing dissenting voices and channeling them to build legitimacy for their ruling. What emerges is a responsive, engaging form of justice that endeavours to address grievances in society, and resolve them in their unique way on- and offline.

The current study on blogging patterns of judges and lawyers in China is sponsored by the OpenNetInitiative (Asia).

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  • Name: Anne S.Y. Cheung
  • Affiliation: Department of Law, The University of Hong Kong
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  • Bio: Anne S.Y. Cheung is an associate professor at the Department of Law, The University of Hong Kong. She received her legal education at the University of Hong Kong (LL.B), University of Toronto (JD), University of London (LL.M) and Stanford University (JSM, JSD). She specializes in media law, Internet issues on freedom of expression and privacy, socio-legal studies, the study of domestic violence and feminist legal studies. She is the co-Director of the Law and Technology Centre at the University of Hong Kong, and a committee member of the Hong Kong Press Council.