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Eva Pils

King's College London
L’ état de droit et ses opposants en Chine
19 April 2022 -
12 June 2022

Eva Pils is a professor of law at King's College London, an external researcher Centre for Human Rights Erlangen-Nürnberg and affiliated scholar at the US-Asia Law Institute of New York University. She studied law, philosophy and sinology in Heidelberg, London and Beijing. After a short period as a lawyer in Frankfurt, she studied for a PhD at University College London. Her research focuses on law and human rights in the People's Republic of China; authoritarian legal regimes, human rights advocacy and political resistance, and forms of complicity in autocratic wrongs. Until 2014, Eva was an associate professor at the Faculty of Law of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In Avril 2022, she integrates the European Institute for Chinese Studies (EURICS).

Research interests

Human rights in China; law of authoritarian systems; legal and political resistance, complicity with autocratic wrongs

The rule of law and its opponents in China

During China’s post-Mao reform era, the rule of law was an idea that the Chinese government and the international community could work to promote on the assumption that China was in transition towards a model of global constitutionalism, or at least towards a ‘thin’ version of the rule of law. In the “New Era” proclaimed by Xi Jinping, however, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party has turned away not only from laws and legal institutions, but also from liberal conceptions of law. At the same time, the rule of law and human rights principles are also being challenged from within liberal democratic orders.

In this context, this project seeks to answer three questions. First, what has replaced liberal conceptions of the rule of law, and what conception of law shapes the legal-political order in China today? Second, how do liberal legal ideas and practices endure and how (and by whom) can they be defended? Third, what are the implications of the changes discussed here for international and transnational principles of the rule of law in a context of global democratic regression?


Key publications

  • Conceptualising China’s challenge to the international rule of law: a case of corrosive synergies?,’ forthcoming in Current Legal Problems.
  • ‘Complicity in democratic engagement with autocratic systems,’14 Ethics & Global Politics (2021), 1-22, https://doi.org/10.1080/16544951.2021.1958509.
  • ‘Rule of law reform and the rise of rule by fear,’ in Fu Hualing, Chen Weitseng (editors), Authoritarian Legality in Asia, Cambridge University Press, 2020, 90-113.
  • Human rights in China: a social practice in the shadows of authoritarianism.  Polity, Cambridge, 2018

Contemporary period (1789-…)