Jiang Ping, the ‘Conscience of China’s Legal World,’ Dies at 92

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Jiang Ping, a legal scholar who helped lay the foundation for China’s civil code, and whose experiences with political persecution shaped his relentless advocacy for individual rights in the face of state power, died on Dec. 19 in Beijing. He was 92.

His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by the China University of Political Science and Law, where he had served as president and was a longtime professor.

Often called “the conscience of China’s legal world,” Mr. Jiang established himself in the 1980s as a highly regarded teacher and leading scholar, one of four professors who helped oversee the drafting of China’s first civil rights framework. His reputation was cemented during the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, when as university president he publicly supported the student protesters.

After the government quashed the protests and massacred the protesters, Mr. Jiang was removed from the university presidency. But he remained wildly popular on campus. Even after his removal, law students wore T-shirts printed with one of his best-known refrains: “Bow only to the truth.”

In the preface to his 2010 autobiography, Mr. Jiang outlined two qualities he said were important for Chinese intellectuals: “One is an independent spirit that does not succumb to any political pressure and dares to think independently. The other is a critical spirit,” he wrote. “My only wish is to earnestly inherit these two qualities,” he added.

His moral authority was augmented by his own story. In the 1950s, as a young teacher, he was denounced as anti-Communist after criticizing excessive, top-down bureaucracy and ordered to be “reformed,” as the government called it, through labor. He was not allowed to teach law for two decades. And while working, he was hit by a train, leaving him with a prosthetic leg.

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Jiang Ping, the ‘Conscience of China’s Legal World,’ Dies at 92

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