Thursday, 20 December 2012

Conceptions: Rule of Law Pyramid by Associate Professor Benny Tai, HKU

Professor Benny Tai of University of Hong Kong, in his book 法治心:超越條文與制度的法律價值 The Passion for Rule of Law: Values beyond Legal Text and Legal Institutions, considers rule law in four levels of progress [1]:

(1) Existence of law 有法可依

  • Laws of the legal system must satisfy certain qualitative requirements: generality, publicisedstability, clarity, non-retroactivity, non-contradictory, against impossibility, against arbitrariness and general congruence of law with social values.
  • Laws must also have covered major areas of human activities

(2) Regulation by law 有法必依

  • The sovereign adopts law as the major governing tool.
  • Officials are commanded to apply laws in governing though there is still only internal mechanism to ensure officials’ compliance with law.
  • Public order is basically maintained.
  • Disputes in the society are mainly resolved through peaceful and legal means.

(3) Limitation from law 以法限權
  • Law imposes external limits on the exercise of governmental powers through various channels including limitation by separation, constitutional limitation, administrative limitation, judicial limitation, political limitation and social limitation.
  • The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.
  • Corruption must have been substantially contained.
  • Competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators, attorneys or representatives provide access to justice.

(4) Justice through law 以法達義
  • Law serves justice of different conceptions including procedural justice, civil rights justice, social justice and deliberative justice (the ability for public to meaningfully participate in the law making process).

[1] 戴耀廷Benny Y.T. Tai, 法治心:超越條文與制度的法律價值 The Passion for Rule of Law: Values beyond Legal Text and Legal Institutions (Hong Kong Educational Publishing Co., 2012) [Chinese]


  1. Hi,,
    Thanks for this great post about .. "Rule of Law Pyramid by Associate Professor Benny Tai, HKU"

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  2. The chart has inconsistent English and Chinese presentation. So, what will be the top of the pyramid? justice through law?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. the chinese and english presentations are reversed. The english version is correct, while the chinese version is inverted

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