An Empirical Assessment of Legal Mobilization by Criminal Defence Weiquan Lawyers in China

Project: Research

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Weiquan lawyers (or “rights-protection lawyers”) are public-interest lawyers in China. Public-interest lawyers are lawyers who look beyond their immediate commercial interests to advocate for greater causes in society.  Weiquan lawyers generally operate within the political framework of the party-state, but the more radical ones do sometimes challenge that framework.  While much has been written about the nature and practice of weiquan lawyering in China, legal mobilization as a theory that explains weiquan lawyering in criminal lawsuits is under-researched.  Legal mobilization refers to the strategic use of litigation and other law-related avenues to achieve a cause. This project seeks to fill this gap and offer an empirical assessment on how weiquan lawyers litigate strategically and critique its effectiveness.  In measuring “effectiveness”, one needs to move away from the straightforward test of “cases won” and adopt a multifaceted approach to winning. As we look at many weiquan cases, while the defendant may not have been acquitted or received a reduction in sentence (unsuccessful litigation), the involvement of weiquan lawyers had brought about broader changes in the litigation environment that are conducive to rights-protection (overall successful in achieving the cause). For instance, the case may have raised public awareness of the issue to the extent that some form of legislative or policy change occurred due to public pressure.  One specific aspect to watch out for in assessing effectiveness, apart from simply looking at courtroom successes, is the ability of weiquan lawyers in bringing about rule-changes.  


Project number9043251
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/22 → …