Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Criminal Defense in China
The Politics of Lawyers at Work

Part of Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

  • Date Published: November 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107162419


Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Paperback, eBook

Looking for an examination copy?

This title is not currently available for examination. However, if you are interested in the title for your course we can consider offering an examination copy. To register your interest please contact providing details of the course you are teaching.

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Criminal Defense in China studies empirically the everyday work and political mobilization of defense lawyers in China. It builds upon 329 interviews across China, and other social science methods, to investigate and analyze the interweaving of politics and practice in five segments of the practicing criminal defense bar in China from 2005 to 2015. This book is the first to examine everyday criminal defense work in China as a political project. The authors engage extensive scholarship on lawyers and political liberalism across the world, from seventeenth-century Europe to late twentieth-century Korea and Taiwan, drawing on theoretical propositions from this body of theory to examine the strategies and constraints of lawyer mobilization in China. The book brings a fresh perspective through its focus on everyday work and ordinary lawyering in an authoritarian context and raises searching questions about law and lawyers, politics and society, in China's uncertain future.

    • Featuring rich interview materials, online and social media exchanges, and news media reports, the book offers compelling reading for generalist readers
    • Provides data from 2005 to 2015 to give the reader a historical perspective on how lawyer activism emerged in China
    • Will attract non-China specialists and offer China specialists a new perspective by adopting a comparative and historical approach to Chinese criminal justice
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "In Criminal Defense in China, Sida Liu and Terry Halliday draw together their rich theoretical and comparative backgrounds with unparalleled empirical work to produce what is by far the most probing study in any language of the nature and challenges of criminal defense work in the People's Republic of China."
    William P. Alford, Henry L. Stimson Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, Massachusetts

    "Over the past decades, the theory of the legal complex has transformed the approach to the study of lawyers and the legal profession by showing that at least a tiny portion of the legal profession consistently mobilizes to fight for basic freedoms and political liberalism in the name of 'law'. In this study of criminal defense attorneys in contemporary China, Halliday and Liu find ample support for the theory, and in so doing, demonstrate just how powerful the theory is. This pioneering study can be read with profit by sociologists of law and the legal profession, political scientists interested in law and courts, criminal justice scholars, and South Asian specialists. The book is a stunning achievement."
    Malcolm Feeley, Claire Sanders Clements Professor, Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

    "Liu and Halliday offer a timely and much-needed account of the Chinese legal profession's role in political change. They ask how lawyers strive to institutionalize basic legal freedoms in the context of an authoritarian one-party state. They do so through the hard case of the criminal defense bar. The book's wide-ranging discussion of lawyers' motivations from internationally renowned 'cause lawyers' to unsung grassroots activists underscores the diversity and potential of China's legal profession. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the current situation of China's lawyers during this period of increased political tension."
    Mary E. Gallagher, University of Michigan

    'Viewing criminal defense as a political project, they draw on propositions from scholarship on lawyers and political liberalism across the world - from seventeenth-century Europe to late-twentieth century Korea and Taiwan - to examine the strategies and constraints of lawyer mobilization in China.' Law and Social Inquiry

    ‘Sida Liu and Terence C. Halliday’s Criminal Defense in China is a much needed, courageous, and accomplished book on criminal lawyering in China.’ Ya-Wen Lei, American Journal of Sociology

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107162419
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 4 b/w illus. 5 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The politics of criminal defense lawyers
    2. Recursivity of criminal procedure reforms
    3. Difficulties and danger in lawyers' workplaces
    4. Survival strategies and political values
    5. The courage of notable activists
    6. The trial of Li Zhuang
    7. Lawyer activism through online networking
    8. Between reform and repression.

  • Authors

    Sida Liu, American Bar Foundation
    Sida Liu is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation, and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 2016–17. He received his LLB from Peking University Law School and his PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago. He has written widely on Chinese law, sociolegal theory, and general social theory, including two books (in Chinese) on the legal profession in China.

    Terence C. Halliday, American Bar Foundation
    Terence C. Halliday is Co-Director of the Center on Law and Globalization, Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation, and Honorary Professor at the Australian National University, Canberra. He has written widely on global law-making, professions and national law reforms around the world, including corporate bankruptcy and criminal procedure law reforms in China. He has presented his China research in North America, Europe, Australia, and East Asia, and to the Council on Foreign Relations, New York. He is widely cited in media reports on China, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera and Buzzfeed.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.