Skip to content

Heaven Has Eyes: Judicial Populism in the Chinese Legal Imagination


Haiyan Lee (Walter A. Haas Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature, Stanford University)

This talk begins with two Chinese expressions that seem to endorse opposite justice principles: 親親相隱 (mutual shielding among kin) and 大義滅親 (placing justice above family loyalty). Should one shield one’s kin from the law, or turn them in if justice demands it?

From this apparent contradiction, Professor Haiyan Lee argues that judicial populism—privileging substantive goals over procedural fairness—is built into the Chinese justice tradition in which high justice always trumps low justice. She illustrates this argument with the 2014 film《黄克功案件》(The Case of Huang Kegong).

About the speaker:

Haiyan Lee is the Walter A. Haas Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. She is the author of Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900-1950 (Stanford, 2007), The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination (Stanford, 2014), and A Certain Justice: Toward an Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imagination (Chicago, 2023).