On 13 December 2019, the University of Helsinki, represented by Vice-Rector of Internationalisation, Professor Hanna Snellman had the pleasure to welcome a delegation from Peking University led by Professor Ye Jingyi, Vice Chairperson, University Council, Peking University, Professor and Director, Institute of Labour and Social Security Laws, Peking University Law School. During the visit, Peking University delegation met also with Dr. Erkki Raulo, Senior Advisor of Research Services, and Dr. Anna-Maria Salmi, Head of Development of International Affairs, and Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Director of the Finnish China Law Center and Board Member of the European China Law Studies Association.
The visit was an excellent opportunity for Peking University and University of Helsinki to update on topical affairs and current collaborations in the framework of their strategic partnership, and renew the exchange agreement strengthening academic contacts between the two universities.
Peking University has been one of the oldest partners of the University of Helsinki since 1983. The two Universities enjoy high level of international cooperation in research and education, especially in the legal field.
Professor Liukkunen recalled the long history of cooperation, in which Peking University Law School, the Finnish China Law Center, and its member institutions have worked together on many successful research projects, as well publications. The fruitful Sino-Finnish collaboration, she remarked, has been made possible through fundamental support from Professor Ye, Assistant Professor Yan Tian, Assistant Professor Yifeng Chen, and many other colleagues at Peking University Law School.
Professor Ye commented that Peking University has greatly benefited from strategic partnership with the University of Helsinki, especially in law, air quality, education and medicine. Most notably, she regarded the joint legal activities as great achievement, which helps foster and develop comparative studies and understanding of Finland and China’s unique legal models and legal cultures. She hoped the long-last cooperation between two Universities will continue for many years to come.
On 29 November 2019, Björn Ahl, Professor from University of Cologne and President of the European China Law Studies Association, gave a guest lecture at the Finnish China Law Center. The topic of his presentation was ‘Judicialization in Authoritarian Regimes: The Expansion of Powers of the Chinese Supreme People’s Court’.
Professor Björn Ahl aimed to demonstrate how the Chinese constitutional system works and what the position and function of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) are through this lecture. He firstly introduced the global phenomenon of the 20th-century judicialization, under which, judicialization can be distinguished into two forms: expansion of the courts’ scope of action at the expense of politics, and the absorption of methods of judicial decision-making by other executive and legislative state organs.
The development of judicialization has been seen in three layers. First, legal discourses, legal terminology, legal rules, and procedures diffuse into processes of judicial decision-making. Then, courts expand their competence and increase their influence over the outcomes of political possesses. And finally, courts decide important political questions. These can be reflected from the development of the Chinese legal system. While some scholars stated that there was no judicialization in the authoritarian legal system, Professor Ahl contended that the strengthened rule of law in China can also be observed in the development of other constitutional systems.
As a One-party system concentrates powers of decision-making in the organs of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and in the executive organs of the state, Chinese courts, particularly the SPC become an integral part of the party-state structure and political institutions. This, as Professor Ahl presented, has led to some special feature of a limited and reversible judicialization in China as dynamics have been seen as intrinsically local’ and courts rely on party support and active engagement of administrative agencies under administrative litigation.
As for the SPC, Professor Ahl said that motivated by institutional self-interest, it was now less influenced by party leadership or legal reform ideologies and had transformed into a relatively autonomous policy-making organization. He then analyzed from four aspects of SPC: Fundamental rights in courts, self-empowerment through judicial interpretations, guiding cases mechanism, and mandatory death penalty review power, in which Professor Ahl emphasized the last three aspects and how they worked under the current special constitutional structure in China as a reflection of the strengthening of the SPC’s power.
Professor Björn Ahl finally concluded that Chinese judicialization bore significant differences from the judicialization in liberal constitutional systems. According to this opinion, judicialization in China has its own characteristics. The SPC still operates as an ‘active lawmaker’ even though it possessed parallel law-making powers, and has no ultimate power of decision-making on critical problems in society. As SPC’s power increasing, political decision-making of other actors of the party-state would not be changed into more rule-based judicial forms of decision making.
The text is contributed by the Center’s intern, Ms. Xiaodan Zhang who is completing her Masters in International and Comparative Law (International Business Law) at the University of Helsinki.
For all inquiries please contact the Director of the Network, Outi Luova at email@example.com or tel 029 450 3058.
Background to the event
This year, the Asian Studies Days brings together people from academia, business, public administration, and civil society with a shared interest in Asia to discuss the recent trends, prospects, and challenges in the implementation of science and university policies in Asia. The theme is of topical importance considering the significant science capacities of China and many other Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
The event aims to deepen understanding of the specific features in the academic research and education that should be taken into account when pursuing cooperation with Asian actors. The discussions will also help develop realistic and sustainable cooperation with Asian countries in the field of science, technology, and education.
On Friday 13 September 2019, Professor William Hui-yen Hsu from National Dong Hwa University gave a guest lecture at the Finnish China Law Center. The topic of his presentation was ‘The judicial implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in Taiwan – observations on the decisions of the two Supreme Courts.’
Professor Hsu began with a short introduction to Taiwan and its effort to promote and enforce several international human rights treaties. Despite having been a non- member of the United Nations (UN) since 1971, Taiwan retains a strong will to contribute to international society. It has attempted to internalize many human rights standards as envisaged in the human rights treaties endorsed by the UN through ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
He added that nevertheless, Taiwan’s instrument of ratification was rejected by the UN Secretary-General and thus, was never a formal member of the ICESCR. The ICESCR became binding on Taiwan by means of unilateral declarations made by the President and the Government. To prevent any misunderstanding regarding the bindingness of the ICESCR on Taiwan, the Parliament passed legislation which incorporated the content of the covenant into Taiwan’s domestic law.
Professor Hsu observed that Taiwanese domestic courts have increasingly used the ICESCR as tool for implementing and enhancing domestic law, and confirming the legality of administrative acts. Training is developed for judges and lawyers to deepen their understanding of the covenant. From 2009 to 2019, the ICESCR has been invoked in 94 civil, criminal and administrative cases before the Supreme Courts, primarily regarding the right to adequate standard of living under Article 11 (invoked 32 times), family rights provided by Article 10 (invoked 15 times), right to work stipulated in Article 6 (invoked 11 times), and cultural rights under Art 15 (invoked 10 times). In 30 of these cases, the Courts have positively applied the covenant. The Professor concluded his presentation with an overview of the landmark 2019 Asia Cement Company case where Article 15 of the ICESCR and Article 17 of the ICCPR have been called upon to give enhancement to the provisions of the Indigenous People Basic Law.
The ILO 100th Anniversary Seminar – International Labour Standards Their Future Role in the Globalised World will be held on 18 September 2019 at the University of Helsinki.
This year marks the celebration of ILO Centenary. Participating in the worldwide anniversary, the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Law takes this as an opportunity to look at the achievements, future challenges and prospects of the ILO. The Seminar, thus, provides a platform for discussion on the roles, monitoring and enforcement of international labour standards as well as the implementation of labour rights in culturally diverse legal systems and regulatory frameworks. The seminar will also discuss the experience of China and other Asian countries with the ILO.
A Nordic meeting of Nordic level collaboration in China law activities was held after the 10th Sino-Finnish bilateral seminar. The meeting took place at the Headquarters of the Nordic Investment Bank in Helsinki on 11 June 2019. The meeting was attended by representatives of Universities of Helsinki, Turku, Eastern Finland, Örebro, Lund, Oslo, Copenhagen and Peking.
The participants were received by the Bank’s General Counsel and Head of Legal Department Heikki Cantell who gave the Nordic delegation an insightful introduction to the history, culture and mission of the Bank.
After the introduction, the delegation was given a presentation on the enforcement of transnational labour standards by international financial institutions from a Chinese perspective by Associate Professor Chen Yifeng from Peking University.
In the meeting, the participants discussed developing Nordic China law cooperation in terms of research and education activities where synergy could be sought by joint activities. Professor Ulla Liukkunen introduced recent Center activities that have a Nordic dimension. Several future opportunities were discussed and will be developed further under the preparation of the China Law Center and the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki.
(Thanks to Mr. Jani Mustonen for contributing text for this article).
On 10-11 June 2019, the China Law Center together with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and in collaboration with Faculty of Law at University of Helsinki, organized the 10th Sino-Finnish Bilateral Seminar on Comparative Law. The seminar is held annually and its location alternates between Finland and China. This year the seminar was hosted by University of Helsinki.
Sino-Finnish seminars form an important part of the bilateral cooperation with CASS and are meant to facilitate legal dialogue in different fields of law. This year the 10th seminar was delighted to have six academics from CASS which is the leading Chinese research and education institution in the field of social sciences in China. These scholars were Director of Institute of Law, Professor Chen Su, Professor Xie Zengyi, Professor Zhai Guoqiang, Associate Professor Zhao Lei, Assistant Professor Yue Xiaohua and Assistant Professor Wang Shuaiyi.
The seminar was opened by remarks from both Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, the Dean and Chair of the Board of the Finnish China Law Center, and Professor Chen Su. Both highlighted the importance of the work of the Center, as well as the collaboration between Chinese and Nordic scholars on a widening array of topics.
The general theme of the 10th seminar was sustainability and different sessions covered this theme from the viewpoints of environment, business and labour as well as corporate governance. In addition to sustainability, the seminar also saw two sessions focusing on law, language and culture and public law.
The seminar’s first session covered law, language and legal culture beginning by a comparative analysis of culture and legal culture in China and the Nordic countries by Professor Ditlev Tamm. Professor Matti Nojonen’s presentation addressed the concept of ‘practical rationality’ analysed traditional and contemporary Chinese legal thinking. Assistant Professor Wang’s presentation was about the influence of Chinese traditional culture on law from the viewpoint of civil law and criminal law. Finally, Marinna Hintikka and her colleagues gave a presentation on workplace communication at Law Faculty reflecting methodology, motivation and practical application.
The second thematic area covered was sustainability and environment. This session saw two presentations: one from Professor Kai Kakko under the title “From environmental law to sustainability law – some general aspects and a case study about the forest definition” and the other from Assistant Professor Yue Xiaohua under the title “Regulation development and its system improvement of China’s natural resources”.
A third thematic area discussed sustainability and business and it saw presentations from University Researcher Harriet Lonka on the topic of food law as a tool for advancing sustainable business, from Associate Professor Zhao Lei on the role of credit in the era of big data in promoting business development, from Professor Veli-Matti Virolainen on sustainable business models and ecosystems and from Professor Ellen Eftestøl-Wilhelmsson on the topic of the proposed EU regulation on electronic freight transport information.
In the second day of the seminar, themes incorporating sustainability and labour as well as public law developments were discussed. The first session included a presentation from Professor Ulla Liukkunen on the topic of employee participation in corporate governance, from Professor Xie Zengyi on the topic of employee participation in corporate governance in terms of Chinese experience and from Professor Jukka Mähönen on the topic employee participation in corporate governance: a possibility for or a threat to sustainability.
The seminar’s final session covered developments in public law with presentations on the developments in evidence in criminal procedure by Professor Tuomas Hupli, the development of constitutional structure in People’s Republic of China (1949-2019) by Professor Zhai Guoqiang and, thirdly, on law and development in a global context by Professor Kimmo Nuotio.
The seminar also celebrated a joint publication by CASS and University of Helsinki. The title of the book is “Legal Reform and the Development of Rule of Law: A Comparison of between China and Finland” and it features contributions from legal scholars in both China and Finland, gathering together papers of the 8th and 9th Sino-Finnish seminars. The book has been edited by Chen Su and Ulla Liukkunen.
Next year’s 11th bilateral seminar will be held in China.
Professor Chen noted that traditionally, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) had not been active in labor rights protection. However, since the late 1990s, the IFIs have grown more involved in labor matters. He pointed to the fact that since the 2000s, labor standards have been incorporated into the policy instruments of the IFIs, with examples set by the Asian Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Nordic Investment Bank, the African Development Bank and so on.
However, IFIs’ approach to labor protection has been different from each other. Specifically, the levels of labor protection afforded are uneven among the institutions and the enforcement of labor rights remains diverse in practice. Additionally, institutionalization of labor standards within the financial institutions varies in terms of degree and means. In the course of this development, the ILO has played a very important and indispensable role in the dissemination of knowledge and expertise about labor standards.
Professor Chen posited that IFIs’ growing engagement with labor protection has created a recognized body of labor standards that are formulated, applied and enforced in a transnational context. The application of labor standards is project-specific, and is not based on the principle of personam jurisdiction, but instead the principle of in rem jurisdiction, linked to projects financed by the IFIs.
He then discussed what constitutes the content of IFI labor standards. All four ILO core labor standards, namely freedom of association and collective bargaining, prohibition of forced labor, prohibition of child labor, and non-discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, are generally recognized. Additionally, IFI labor standards may involve safe working conditions and other workers’ rights. His presentation also illustrated how controversial labor standards recognized by the IFIs are by referring to the World Bank’s position regarding the highly politically sensitive issue of freedom of association.
According to the event organizers, East Asian countries are among the most advanced in the utilization of robots and the development of AI. Robots are already deeply embedded in the Japanese society, South Korea’s industry is the most robotized in the world, and China aims to become an AI super power by 2030.
Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are rapidly transforming our societies. While robotics is quickly advancing, discussions on fundamental ethical issues, laws and policies lag seriously behind (and are far from being solved). These issues range from end-of-life decisions taken by engineers to defining human-robot relationships. While there has been an emerging literature on ethical challenges of robots and AI, little comparative research has been done on European and East Asian perspectives in this debate.
The aim of this event was to bring together scholars and practitioners from East Asia and Europe to discuss general perspectives and attitudes towards robots and AI as well as ethical aspects. The focus was on technology that already has practical applications, and thus is affecting our societies the most, like self-driving cars and care robots.
The event organizers were the Centre for East Asian Studies in cooperation with the discipline of Philosophy, the Faculty of Science and Engineering of the University of Turku and the Turku AI Society.
For more information
Please contact University lecturer Sabine Burghart at sabine.burghart[at]utu.fi or University lecturer Outi Luova at outi.luova[at]utu.fi.
The Global Faculty consists of 20 invited international members and is the first of its kind in China, and was established with the aim of furthering the internationalization of the activities of PKU Law School.
The appointment was made public at the Global Faculty Inaugural Ceremony held as part of PKU Law School’s International Day 2018 on 19 October 2018.