Hybrid Seminar: Understanding Laws with Chinese Characteristics

On 16 September 2022, the Finnish China Law Center will hold a hybrid seminar on the topic of ‘Understanding Laws with Chinese Characteristics’. The event is part of the Center’s new mini seminar series on topical issues of Chinese law.

The speakers include Ronald Brown, Law Professor at the University of Hawai’i Law School,  Martin Lavička, Assistant Professor at Department of Asian Studies at Palacky University Olomouc, and Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki. Professor Brown will present on Chinese Labor Practices, Treaties, Uyghurs, and CAI. While Professor Lavička and Professor Chen will discuss Recent Development of the Rule of Law with Chinese Characteristics.

The seminar programme can be found here.

The event is free and open to all audiences. You can attend the seminar via Zoom or in person at Room P668, 6th floor of the Porthania Building (Faculty of Law), University of Helsinki, Yliopistonkatu 3.

We kindly ask you to register by 13 September by completing the following electronic form:


Background of the presentations

Chinese Labor Practices, Treaties, Uyghurs, and CAI: Keeping Promises

As China becomes a growing global economic power, it also is seen to be increasingly embracing international standards. Yet, some argue that China is changing without change, and that it is old wine in a new bottle as the new contains the same “Chinese characteristics,” as before. These “characteristics” include China’s legal-political and CCP-dominated “rule BY Law system. Xi Jinping said, “the law in China should embody the excellence of traditional Chinese legal culture and draw lessons from beneficial legal achievements from abroad.” China’s plan is to “gradually form a unique legal tradition, which will not only absorb modern Western traditions, but also incorporate classical Chinese traditions.

This presentation traces the highlights of the modern evolution of China’s Socialist legal system in its domestic law and more recently in its international agreements in the context of labor laws and adherence to international standards. What is observable is while China signs and often ratifies some international standards, it often reserves the right to adhere to domestic law in its implementation, which tends to undercut the international standard. For example, China has not signed the ILO Convention for free association and collective bargaining, largely because China allows only one national union, and while signed UN Covenants may require it, China reserves the right to defer to domestic law.

Perhaps the issue comes to the forefront with the pending EU-China CAI which contains obligations to strive to end forced labor, e.g., with the Uyghurs. China recently ratified ILO Conventions to end forced labor. How will China implement this obligation? Will past practice produce the same old wine?

Recent Development of the Rule of Law with Chinese Characteristics: Evidence from New Measures in Governing Religions in China

This article joins the current scholarly discussion on China’s attempt to replace some of the international legal norms with their own version, or the so-called laws “with Chinese characteristics.” This results in part from China’s increasing self-confidence in world politics, and is in part due to the impotence of international law enforcement mechanisms to make states comply with universal human rights. We examine five newly adopted measures governing religions in China to show this trend. Our review does not just highlight how these new religion laws could significantly impact religious communities in China. More importantly, we show how the Chinese state’s redefinition of religious rights differs from existing international legal standards, weakens international human rights protection mechanisms and further threatens their universality.

About the speakers

Ronald Brown is a Law Professor at the University of Hawai’i Law School. He has worked as an attorney for U.S. Government, continues as a labor arbitrator, and served as the University’s Director of the Center for Chinese Studies. Professor Brown teaches labor and employment law, and international labor law on China and Asia, and has lectured throughout China and Asia. He has taught at Beijing University Law School and currently serves as an Editorial Board Member on the Hague Institute for Global Justice, International Labor Rights Case Law Journal.  He has authored numerous articles and published several books on China and Asia and served as a Consultant with the World Bank on China. As a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, he taught at both Peking University Law School and Tsinghua University Law School. Recent publications have looked at China’s FTAs and BRI in Europe and South

Julie Yu-Wen Chen is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland. Chen serves as one of the Editors of the Journal of Chinese Political Science (Springer, SSCI). Formerly, Chen was chair of Nordic Association of China Studies (NACS) and Editor-in-Chief of Asian Ethnicity (Taylor & Francis). Chen’s research and teaching are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary spanning cross Political Sciences, ethnic studies, sociology and Chinese studies.

Martin Lavička is Assistant Professor at the Department of Asian Studies, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic, where he teaches modern Chinese history and Chinese politics. He is also Junior Researcher in the Sinophone Borderlands Project focusing on the PRC’s ethnic policies and laws.