Guest lecture: International Law in Chinese Courts

On Tuesday 6 September 2022, Professor Björn Ahl from the University of Cologne will give a guest lecture on the topic of ‘International Law in Chinese Courts’. The event will be in hybrid (live & online) format.

Samuli Seppänen, Associate Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Law will act as the commenter for Professor Ahl’s lecture.

Time:  6 September, 10:15 – 11:45 Finnish time

Venue: Zoom and Lecture room P668, 6th floor of the Porthania Building (Faculty of Law), University of Helsinki, Yliopistonkatu 3.

The lecture is open to all, but registration is required. We kindly ask you to register by 2 September by completing the following electronic form:

If you have any questions, please contact the Center’s Coordinator via


Whereas statutory provisions and government statements regarding the domestic implementation of international law often remain vague, court practice reveals the actual significance of international law within a domestic legal system. Previous research has demonstrated that courts in China in principle refrain from applying international treaties directly if there is no specific enabling legislation that commands courts to apply international norms. Apart from reviewing scholarly writings and analysing legislation, the study makes use of open access court decision databases in order to investigate the interpretation and application of international law by Chinese courts. The study analyses a number of treaties from various areas of international law in order to answer, inter alia, the following questions: What kind of international treaties are applied by courts? Do judges give primacy to national law or to international law in case of conflicting provisions? What standards of interpretation do judges apply when interpreting international treaties? The study further analyses court practice with regard to other sources of international law such as international customary law. Moreover, it addresses the questions of how Chinese courts fit into global trends of applying international law in domestic courts, whether Chinese judges selectively adapt international norms or engage in international norm-making.

About the speaker

Björn Ahl is Professor and Chair of Chinese Legal Culture at the University of Cologne. Currently, he is a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of Helsinki University. His research in Chinese law focuses on constitutional development, in particular on judicial reforms and rights litigation. Chinese practice of public international law, comparative law, legal transfers and legal culture, which are related to Greater China and Chinese legal development are further areas of his research. He is President of the European China Law Studies Association. He received a Ph.D. in Law from Heidelberg University and studied law and Chinese language at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Nanjing.