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Constitutional Courts in Asia
A Comparative Perspective

Part of Comparative Constitutional Law and Policy

Albert H. Y. Chen, Cheryl Saunders, Björn Dressel, Maartje de Visser, Jiunn-rong Yeh, Wen-Chen Chang, Chaihark Hahm, Tom Ginsburg, Chimid Enhbaatar, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, Simon Butt, Teilee Kuong, Andrew Harding, Yasuo Hasebe, Qianfan Zhang, Ngoc Son Bui
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  • Date Published: September 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107195080
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About the Authors
  • The founding of a constitutional court is often an indication of a chosen path of constitutionalism and democracy. It is no coincidence that most of the constitutional courts in East and Southeast Asia were established at the same time as the transition of the countries concerned from authoritarianism to liberal constitutional democracy. This book is the first to provide systematic narratives and analysis of Asian experiences of constitutional courts and related developments, and to introduce comparative, historical and theoretical perspectives on these experiences, as well as debates on the relevant issues in countries that do not as yet have constitutional courts. This volume makes a significant contribution to the systematic and comparative study of constitutional courts, constitutional adjudication and constitutional developments in East and Southeast Asia and beyond.

    • Provides systematic narratives and analysis of Asian experiences of constitutional courts and related developments
    • Introduces a comparative, historical and analytical perspective that shows the international significance of the development of constitutional and legal institutions and their improvement over time
    • Discusses the importance of constitutional adjudication in Asia
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'We live in an age of constitutional courts. Yet courts around the world differ markedly in their approach to upholding democracy and human rights. This volume provides a timely and fascinating study of how these differences play out in Asia: from the super-strong judicial review practiced in Thailand, to the weak review found in Japan, it explores the social and political context for these differences, and the extent to which they are likely to remain stable over time. Theoretically and factually rich, it draws on insights from scholars around the world who are experts in Asia. It also combines canonical and new cases to provide a wide-ranging exploration of the variation we now find in 'Asian constitutionalism'.' Rosalind Dixon, University of New South Wales, Australia

    'This is an excellent book that discusses the design and operation of constitutional review in East and Southeast Asia. It aptly combines a systematic presentation of the seven constitutional courts existing in the region with theoretical and comparative analysis of the problem. Undoubtedly, the book will serve as an essential reference for academic research as well as for debates on constitutional reform in other countries.' Lech Garlicki, University of Warsaw, Judge of the Constitutional Court of Poland (1993–2001) and of the European Court of Human Rights (2002–12)

    'For comparative legal scholars and social scientists, this is a rare and precious book: a conceptually sophisticated and empirically rich collection of case studies and comparative reflections on constitutional courts in Asia. The volume directs attention to the variation that matters most - why have some constitutional courts succeeded in transforming their political environments, creating new forms of constitutional law and politics, while others have failed? Everyone engaged in the study of Asian law and politics needs to read this book.' Alec Stone Sweet, Saw Swee Hock Professor of Law, National University of Singapore

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    Customer reviews

    19th Nov 2018 by PhillipTaylor

    ‘A GLOBAL PHENOMENON’: CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS IN SOUTH AND SOUTH EAST ASIA ARE PLACED UNDER SCRUTINY IN THIS ABSORBING COMPARATIVE STUDY An appreciation by Elizabeth Robson Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, As one of the latest titles from the ‘Constitutional Law and Policy’ series published by the Cambridge University Press, this book shines the light of analysis on constitutional courts in South and South East Asia. There are seven of them: Taiwan, South Korea, Mongolia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Myanmar. And in the interests of providing further comparative perspectives, attention is drawn to certain East Asian countries which do not have a constitutional court, namely Japan, the Philippines, China and Viet Nam. By now you are probably, or possibly, thinking that anyone involved in foreign policy, or in any aspect of global geo-political matters should have a read of this book. Editors, Albert Chen and Andrew Harding of the University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore (NUS) respectively, have brought together in this volume the work of a distinguished international team of scholars, all of whom have contributed essays on specific aspects of this subject, many based on conference papers presented at the Sixth Asian Constitutional Law Forum at the NUS. Read their biographical details and be overwhelmingly impressed. Commenting on the significance of this book, Professor of Law, Alec Stone Sweet of the NUS refers to one of the key questions which have animated this project, namely: ‘why have some constitutional courts succeeded in transforming their political environments…while others have failed?’ The title of the book’s first chapter by Albert Chen – ‘Constitutional Courts in Asia: Western Origins and Asian Practice’ -- is perhaps indicative. He goes on to point out that in these early decades of the twenty-first century, constitutional courts exist and operate in all corners of the world. ‘They are a global phenomenon,’ he adds, ‘that deserves scholarly investigation from legal doctrinal, theoretical and comparative perspectives.’ Here then, is an erudite and informative comparative study which illuminates certain contemporary issues raised by the differences and similarities between these more than seven constitutional courts under scrutiny. For practitioners as well as scholars in comparative law, the book also functions as a convenient source of references -- via the copious footnotes -- for those undertaking detailed research is this area of study. The information and insights therein will certainly make a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate worldwide, on the formidably wide range of issues pertaining to constitutional reform. The date of publication is cited as at 20th September 2018.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107195080
    • length: 406 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.7kg
    • contains: 7 b/w illus. 5 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Constitutional courts in Asia: Western origins and Asian practice Albert H. Y. Chen
    2. Constitutional review in Asia: a comparative perspective Cheryl Saunders
    3. The informal dimension of constitutional politics in Asia: insights from the Philippines and Indonesia Björn Dressel
    4. Towards more intra-Asian judicial cooperation in the constitutional sphere Maartje de Visser
    5. An evolving court with changing functions: the constitutional court and judicial review in Taiwan Jiunn-rong Yeh and Wen-Chen Chang
    6. Constitutional Court of Korea: guardian of the constitution or mouthpiece of the government? Chaihark Hahm
    7. Avoiding rights: the constitutional tsets of Mongolia Tom Ginsburg and Chimid Enhbaatar
    8. The Constitutional Court of Thailand: from activism to arbitrariness Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang
    9. Indonesia's Constitutional Court and Indonesia's electoral systems Simon Butt
    10. Constitutional Council of Cambodia at the age of majority: a history of weathering the rule of law storms in peacetime Teilee Kuong
    11. The short but turbulent history of Myanmar's Constitutional Tribunal Andrew Harding
    12. The Supreme Court of Japan: a judicial court, not necessarily a constitutional court Yasuo Hasebe
    13. Establishing judicial review in China: impediments and prospects Qianfan Zhang
    14. Why do countries decide not to adopt constitutional review? The case of Vietnam Ngoc Son Bui.

  • Editors

    Albert H. Y. Chen, The University of Hong Kong
    Albert H. Y. Chen is an LL.B. and LL.M. graduate of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and Harvard University, respectively. He began his academic career in 1984 at HKU. He served as Head of the Department of Law (1993–96), Dean of the Faculty of Law (1996–2002), and is currently the Cheng Chan Lan Yue Professor in Constitutional Law at HKU. His areas of specialization include Hong Kong constitutional law, the study of Chinese law and Asian law from the comparative law perspective, and legal and political theory. He is the author of An Introduction to the Legal System of the People's Republic of China (2011), and co-editor of Human Rights in Asia (2006), Administrative Law and Governance in Asia (2008), Legal Reforms in China and Vietnam (2010), and Public Law in East Asia (2013). He is the editor of Constitutionalism in Asia in the Early Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, 2014).

    Andrew Harding, National University of Singapore
    Andrew Harding works in the fields of Asian legal studies and comparative constitutional law. He commenced his academic career at the National University of Singapore (NUS) before moving to the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, where he became Head of the Law School and Director of the Centre for South East Asian Studies. In 2012, he joined NUS, as Director of the Centre for Asian Legal Studies and Director of the Asian Law Institute, from the University of Victoria, Canada. He has worked extensively on constitutional law in Malaysia and Thailand, and more recently Myanmar, and has made extensive contributions to scholarship in Asian comparative law. He is co-founding-editor of the book series Constitutional Systems of the World, a major resource for constitutional law in context, and has authored the books on Malaysia and Thailand in that series (2011, 2012). He has recently edited Constitutionalism and Legal Change in Myanmar (2016).


    Albert H. Y. Chen, Cheryl Saunders, Björn Dressel, Maartje de Visser, Jiunn-rong Yeh, Wen-Chen Chang, Chaihark Hahm, Tom Ginsburg, Chimid Enhbaatar, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang, Simon Butt, Teilee Kuong, Andrew Harding, Yasuo Hasebe, Qianfan Zhang, Ngoc Son Bui

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