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Abstract

This thesis uses Hong Kong's National Security Law (NSL) as a case study to examine how the idea of "rule of law" is used in contemporary China, determining its theoretical contours, and situating it in relation to Western understanding. It begins by laying the fundamental conceptual basis for rule of law by exploring various definitions from law and political science, before moving on to a detailed examination of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) definition as it has evolved historically and under Xi Jinping. The thesis contends that fazhi reflects a "higher degree of rule of law" within current CPC discourse, which has taken on a self-consciously developmental direction under Xi Jinping, based on an analysis of official documents. The focus then shifts to current legal and political developments in China to see how this rule of law concept is reflected in the adoption of a centrally legislated NSL in response to public upheaval in Hong Kong. As a formal legal response that violates the majority will of the governed, the NSL embodies the disjunction of Chinese and western “rule of law.” From the perspective of legislative procedure, the NSL technically complies with the Basic Law due to the precedent of its flexible interpretation, but this is undermined by the technical stipulations for how it is to be interpreted. However, in terms of prosecutions, the NSL has been more deterrent than punitive. The thesis concludes that the formal legality revealed in fazhi, the Chinese rule of law, is more than "rule by law" in that it accentuates procedural justice, but less than "rule of law" in that it lacks constraints on the Party's authority. NSL in this case, is a regression of the “rule of law” in the eyes of residents but may be perceived as a modernizing move forward by mainland Chinese.

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