China’s Evolving Legal System – Part 2/2

December 7, 2010

During the 1990s, Zhou Litai became famous as one of the first lawyers fighting for the rights of workers injured or mistreated by China’s new wave of private enterprises.… Since then, he has handled thousands of workplace injury cases, and even houses and feeds some of his most destitute clients. Source: New York Times

Zhou Litai has been featured in China Daily and on CCTV in China.

In the 2006 documentary, Zhou Litai says, “In Shenzhen every year, 10,000 insured workers get injured.  It’s reported that 95% of injured workers do not file lawsuits.”

“After winning cases,” Zhou Litai says, “some clients went back home to buy a house or to open a home business. Also, a few have started self-education in law such as Fu Shulin, who comes from Anhui Province.”

“Before he came to Shenzhen,” Zhou Litai says, “Fu Shulin was a student at a vocational college in Hefei City and he’s been living with me after filing a lawsuit. During the legal process, he realized the power of the law and decided to study after me.”

In May 2006, a short documentary of China’s changing legal system was produced.

Before becoming a law clerk, Fu Shulin had a hand cut off while operating a machine. He was sent to a hospital.

Shulin says, “At first, the doctor told me that my hand was able to be reconnected. However, after my boss talked to the doctor, he told me that my hand wouldn’t be reconnected because the bones had been shattered.”

Shulin had problems with his factory boss so he saw Lawyer Zhou Litai.

After seeing Zhou Litai, Shulin was offered 30,000 yuan by the factory (less than $4,000 US). He turned it down.

Then the boss had him locked up in a factory room, but Shulin managed to get a note to his lawyer, Zhou Litai, who came with the police to free him.

in 1998, the district court ruled in Shulin’s favor and awarded him 160,000 yuan (more than $19,000 US dollars). The factory boss appealed and lost. The final settlement was 168,000 yuan (more than $20,000 US)

Return to China’s Evolving Legal System – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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Cultural Differences and China’s Changing Laws

September 27, 2010

A colleague and friend sent me a link to a post about a Chinese blind activist lawyer released from prison. Isolda Morillo, for the Associated Press, wrote the post that appeared on

Chen Guangcheng was the blind lawyer. In 2006, he was sent to jail after documenting forced late-term abortions and sterilizations and other abuses in his rural east China community.

Morillo wrote that Guangcheng was an “inspirational figure to others in China”.

According to the AP reporter, Guangcheng is under house arrest and, along with his family, is watched closely.  The piece points out how horrible he was treated by Chinese authorities.

One fact stood out, “He expanded his activism after hearing complaints from people living in nearby villages that family planning officials were forcing women to have late-term abortions and sterilizations to enforce the government’s one-child policy.”

I’m sure there will be people who will see me supporting China’s government when I do not condemn China for how Guangcheng was treated.

With more than 1.3 billion people and only 16% of the land capable of growing food crops and a looming shortage of fresh water, China is facing a possible melt down in a few decades that could dismantle all the progress made since the 1982 Constitution.

To understand China better, it would help to learn that China’s legal system is reinventing itself.

Up until 1911 when the Qing Dynasty collapsed, Chinese law leaned heavily toward Legalism influenced by Confucianism.

Near the end of the Qing Dynasty, efforts were made to reform the law by mainly importing German codes with slight modifications.

After 1911, the Nationalists continued this effort. When Mao and the Communists came to power in 1949, the ranks of intellectuals and legal professionals was devastated during the purges. A Soviet-style legal system was then adopted but that system suffered due to political turmoil that ended with the Cultural Revolution.

It wouldn’t be until 1982, that the idea of individual rights would reemerge as a signify influence on Chinese Law. Even then, business law developed much faster than civil law, which is the laws of a state or nation that deals with the rights of private citizens.

In an interview with James Zimmerman, about China’s Changing Legal System, Megan Rhodes wrote, “China is transforming its legal system at an amazing rate.” 

When Rhodes asked Zimmerman if foreign law has influenced Chinese law, he answered “Yes, absolutely.”

At the end of the interview, Zimmerman says, “China is going through remarkable times, and should be proud of its ongoing judicial and legislative reforms. It has developed—and continues to develop—a legal system from scratch in just over 30 years.”

American law also evolved and reading Law and History: The Evolution of the American Legal System might give you a better understanding of what is going on in China. 

In 1783, America signed a peace treaty with the British Empire and the U.S. officially became a nation state. However, slavery wouldn’t be abolished for eighty-two years in 1865, after the bloody American Civil War.

In addition, women in America even after the Civil War, were still second-class citizens. Source: Women’s history in America

Forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, have existed throughout American History. In fact, it wasn’t until 1938 that the US had, for the first time, Federal regulations for minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children. Source: Child Labor in U.S. History

Then Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

China has had about thirty years to change since 1982 while America took 182 years to cover the same ground. However, there may be another reason why the American media and so many Americans condemn China so often, and that can be explained by the history of Discrimination Against the Chinese in America. Maybe that discrimination is not dead yet.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.