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Recent Publication: Roy L. Sturgeon, “China’s Homegrown Free-Speech Tradition”

“China’s Homegrown Free-Speech Tradition: Imperial Past and Modern Present. And Post-Modern Future?

Roy L. Sturgeon, Tulane University Law School

Florida Journal of International Law 26, no. 2 (2014): 291-330.


Freedom of speech, or the right to publicly criticize government officials and policies without being criminally prosecuted or otherwise deprived of personal liberty, is the most important right citizens have in nations claiming to be democratic, respect human rights, and follow the rule of law. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) Constitution grants citizens this right. But those exercising it in the political sphere have met grave problems since the PRC’s founding in 1949. Tension and conflict over free speech in China, however, are not only recent phenomena. They have existed for millennia. A recounting of six important free-speech cases throughout Chinese history shows why the ruling Communist Party should give ordinary citizens a greater say in public affairs to help fix the nation’s chronic legal and political problems and sustain breathtaking economic reforms begun in 1978. Albeit hard, this is the best way for the Party to save itself and avert full-blown social unrest in the short term as well as transform the PRC into more than the world’s sweatshop by century’s end.

Note: This article is available on HeinOnline, LexisNexis, and Westlaw, and freely available on SSRN:



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