Multiple Visits to China Cap Year of Growing Bilateral Legal Research and Education Collaboration between the University of Helsinki and China

The end of 2017 saw a flurry of visits of scholars and staff to China from the University of Helsinki, one of the 10 member institutions of the Finnish China Law Center.

The visits capped off a year marked by ever-deepening cooperation between the University of Helsinki and Chinese scholars and institutions.

In October 2017, Rector of the University of Helsinki, Jukka Kola, led a large delegation of scholars and staff to China.

The purpose of the Rector’s visit was to underscore the significance the University of Helsinki attaches to its friends and partners in China.

During his visit, Rector Kola further developed the important relationship between the University of Helsinki and Peking University, a key partner institution in China of the Finnish China Law Center.

Rector Kola also spoke at an event organized by the Beijing Alumni Club hosted by Finland’s Ambassador to China, Jarno Syrjälä.

The event organizer and Head of the China Alumni Board – Chen Yifeng, Assistant Professor of Law at Peking University – is also Docent of the University of Helsinki and a legal scholar of international renown who played a central role in establishing, and growing, the Finnish China Law Center.

Rector of the University of Helsinki Jukka Kola speaking with Professor Chen Yifeng of Peking University at the China Alumni Club event held at the residence of the Finnish Ambassador to China on 14 October 2017 (Photo credit: Helsingin yliopiston alumniyhdistys)

More about Professor Chen’s engagement and research in the University of Helsinki and the Finnish China Law Center can be found in the recently published Report on the First Four Years of the Center.

Sanna Villikka, acting Head of Administration of the Faculty of Medicine, was also part of the Rector Kola’s delegation.

Ms Villikka visited China in her former capacity as Senior Advisor in Research Funding Services at the University of Helsinki’s City Centre Campus. The purpose of her trip was to develop staff exchange between the University of Helsinki and Peking University, to further enhance the University of Helsinki’s relationship with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and to emphasize the high esteem with which the University of Helsinki views its relationship with the Faculty of Law of Peking University.

Another important visit to China was by then Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Kimmo Nuotio.

Professor Kimmo Nuotio of the University of Helsinki speaking at the CASS Rule of Law Forum, Beijing, November 2017 (Photo credit: Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

Professor Nuotio joined the Annual Meeting of the Silk Road Law Schools Alliance hosted by Wuhan University.

The Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki is one of the founding members of the Alliance, which is composed of leading law schools from China and abroad.

The Annual Meeting has become a platform for law schools to meet and discuss academic research, collaboration and legal education.

Doctoral Candidate Kangle Zhang, contact person of the Alliance from the University of Helsinki, also joined the meeting.

Professor Kimmo Nuotio and Doctoral Candidate Zhang Kangle of the University of Helsinki with representatives from other institutions involved in the Silk Road Law Schools Alliance, at the Alliance’s annual meeting in November 2017 (Photo credit: Wuhan University)

Professor Nuotio was invited to give public lectures at universities across the country, including Peking University, the University of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Wuhan University, Shandong University, and Wuhan University of Technology.

Professor Nuotio also gave a presentation at the Chinese Academy of Social Science’s annual international Rule of Law conference in Beijing.

Held on 17–18 November, the theme of the 2017 conference was ‘Modes of Rule of Law and Modernization of State Governance’.

Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Helsinki, Sakari Melander, was similarly invited to present at the CASS Rule of Law conference, which doctoral candidate Zhang Kangle also attended.

Professor Sakari Melander of the University of Helsinki speaking at the CASS Rule of Law Forum, Beijing, November 2017 (photo credit: Institute of Law, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences).

Professor Jukka Viljanen, of Finnish China Law Center member institution the University of Tampere, was also invited to give a presentation at the conference.

Yet another senior scholar from the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki to visit China in late 2017 was Senior Lecturer and Adjunct Professor Dr Jarna Petman, who lectured on human rights at Peking University in October 2017.

In addition to her many academic and professional responsibilities, including serving as a Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists, Professor Petman also visits and lectures at the prestigious Peking University Law School on a regular basis.

These visits have been supported by CIMO’s funding for the collaboration between Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights and Peking University’s Institute of International Law.

Senior Lecturer (att. to the duties of Professor) of the University of Helsinki / University of Turku and Sanna Villikka (University of Helsinki) in Beijing, October 2017 (Photo credit: Sanna Villikka)

The CIMO project, the result of an application made by Kangle Zhang, was jointly managed by several staff of the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki prior to its conclusion at the end of 2017.

During its two years of operation, the project facilitated a range of successful activities that deepened collaboration between the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki and Peking University Law School.

The end of 2017 also saw a flurry of visits from China to Finland.

These inbound visits included two delegations in November alone.

The first of these, a large delegation of judges from the Chinese province of Yunnan, resulted in a productive seminar on comparative juvenile justice in Finland and China.

The second visit, by the leadership of Beihang University Law School, lead to the signing of a new MOU on legal research and education cooperation.

This new relationship has already borne fruit, with the announcement by Beihang University Law School of the establishment of its Nordic Law Center, the first of its kind in China.

2018 is shaping up to be even busier for the University of Helsinki and the Finnish China Law Center.

In addition to guest lectures, visiting speakers and other smaller-scale activities, the Center is hosting or co-organizing a number of international events.

These include a China Law Workshop (Helsinki, April – tbc), the 9th Bilateral Comparative Law Seminar (Beijng, August – tbc) with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the 6th China-Europe Legal Forum with the China Law Society (Helsinki, November – tbc).

Follow the Finnish China Law Center on Twitter (@ChinaLawCenter) and Facebook (@ChinaLawCenter) to keep up-to-date with the latest news, events, publications and other activities of the Center and its member institutions.

Finnish China Law Center hosts seminar ‘Juvenile Offenders in China and Finland’ with Senior Chinese Judges from Yunnan Province

On 21 November 2017, the Finnish Center of Chinese Law and Chinese Legal Culture, with member institutions the University of Helsinki (Faculty of Law) and the Finnish Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, hosted a bilateral legal seminar with six senior judges from the Chinese province of Yunnan. Yunnan is situated in the south of China and has a population of roughly 50 million.

The theme for the seminar was ‘Juvenile Offenders in China and Finland’.

The Chinese delegation was headed by Mr. Li Xuesong, Vice President of the High People’s Court of Yunnan Province. Mr Lu Xiaokun, Chief Judge of the High People’s Court of Yunnan Province, was also a member of the delegation.

The Finnish speakers in the bilateral seminar were Dean Kimmo Nuotio, Professor of Criminal Law and the University of Helsinki, Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Director of the Finnish China Law Center, and Professor Tapio Lappi-Seppälä, Director of the Finnish Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy. Other contributors included Professor Sakari Melander and Dr Yihong Zhang, among other academics present from the University of Helsinki. Both the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy are member institutions of the Finnish China Law Center.


Professor Tapio Lappi-Seppälä, Professor and Director of the Finnish Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy, and Board Member of the Finnish Center of Chinese Law and Chinese Legal Culture, speaking with Professor Kimmo Nuotio on ‘Juvenile Offenders in Finland: General Situation, Trial Proceedings, Rights Protection and Best Interests of the Child Principle’ on 21 November 2017 in the Law Faculty of the University of Helsinki.

During his presentation, Vice President Li underscored that the treatment of children and the centrality of the ‘best interests of the child’ principle are paramount. ‘Governments everywhere’, he said, ‘should take care of children and strive to create better conditions, including educational opportunities, to promote the healthy development of youth’. Vice President Li also emphasized that the treatment of juvenile offenders by the criminal justice system was an issue the Yunnan legal system takes very seriously. Yunnan province has advanced the protection of children in its criminal justice system in a number of ways. ‘For example’, Vice President Li said, ‘we are strengthening judicial institutions and training judges to better deal with juvenile justice issues…and constantly innovating to improve the treatment of children in the court system’.

A notable initiative by the Yunnan judicial system was collaboration with the Save the Children charity to ensure the protection of juvenile offenders and promote judicial diversion through inter-departmental cooperation and the establishment of a community support system. Begun in the Panlong District Court, this international cooperation spread throughout Yunnan province and then beyond. ‘After a long period of practice and exploration, this project became known as the ‘Panlong Mode’ and has had a great impact within the whole of China’, Vice President Li told participants. Overall, Yunnan province was experiencing a decrease in the total number of criminals, the total number of juvenile offenders, and the proportion of juvenile offenders.

Professors Nuotio and Lappi-Seppälä noted that while there were differences between the Chinese and Finnish approaches to juvenile offenders, the similarities in terms of underlying principles and many aspects of the treatment of juveniles in court were notable.

During his presentation, Lappi-Seppälä gave an overview of the ‘Nordic’ model of the treatment of juvenile offenders, noting that the state criminal justice system operates independently alongside municipal child protection services, with the primary emphasis in dealing with juvenile crime lying with child welfare and social services.

Professor Lappi-Seppälä noted that the criminal justice system and child welfare institutions operated under different principles. ‘Child welfare interventions are undertaken under the principle of the ‘best interests of the child’, Professor Lappi-Seppälä observed. ‘All such interventions are supportive and criminal acts have little or no formal role. In contrast, on the ‘criminal justice side’, specific penalties applicable to juveniles are restricted – but now expanding – and the general structure is as follows: diversion, fines, community alternatives, and the finally, custody’.

During their presentation, Professors Nuotio and Lappi-Seppälä shared a number of statistics about juvenile offenders in Finland. Of particular interest to the Chinese judges was the fact that at present, there are only five children aged 15-17 in custody in Finland, a figure so low that it also surprised those more familiar with Finland’s legal system.



Professor Ulla Liukkunen, speaking at the ‘Juvenile Delinquency in China and Finland’ seminar in the Law Faculty of the University of Helsinki on 21 November 2017.

During its visit to Finland, the delegation of judges will also visit the Finnish Ministry of Justice and the District Court of Helsinki.

The importance of the visit to Finland by senior judges should not be underestimated. The delegation visited Finland to learn from its experience because of Finland’s, and more generally the Nordic region’s, international reputation in reducing the total number and proportion of juvenile offenders, and to reducing to virtually zero the number of children in custody. As Professor Nuotio noted, the population of Yunnan province, at close to 50 million, was around double that of the all the Nordic countries together. Given the size of Yunnan province, even a small change in judicial practice, therefore, would affect the lives of a great many children.


Organizers and participants of the bilateral seminar on ‘Juvenile Delinquency in China and Finland’ (left to right): Stuart Mooney (Finnish China Law Center / University of Helsinki); Li Kunbin (High People’s Court of Yunnan); Lu Xiaokun (High People’s Court of Yunnan Province); Professor Tapio Lappi-Seppälä (Finnish Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy); Li Xuesong (High People’s Court of Yunnan Province); Professor Kimmo Nuotio (University of Helsinki); Yin Dekun (Pu’er Intermediate People’s Court); Yihong Zhang (University of Helsinki); Chen Chang (Yuxi Intermediate People’s Court); Zhu Chongfang (Chuxiong Intermediate People’s Court). Absent: Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Director of the Finnish Center of Chinese Law and Chinese Legal Culture.


Following the seminar, the judges were given a tour of the China Center Collection, housed in the University of Helsinki’s main library, Kaisa-talo. Special thanks to librarians Leena Huovinen and Eeva Henriksson for giving the tour and for their efforts in supporting the growing collection of publications in the Collection on Chinese law and legal culture.


Mr. Li Xuesong, Vice President of the High People’s Court of Yunnan Province, with other members of the judicial delegation visiting Finland from China, touring the China Law Center collection in the University of Helsinki’s main library.


Interview with Renwen Liu, Director of the CASS Criminal Law Department

Mr. Liu in the office of the Center Coordinator, Iina Tornberg.

Prof. Dr. Renwen Liu, Director of the Criminal Law Department of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), is a specialist in Chinese criminal law. Starting his career at the CASS Law Institute as early as 1993, he has extensive experience in the field both in China and abroad. Mr. Liu has been a research fellow at top-ranked universities such as Oxford, Yale, Harvard, and Columbia University in New York, and has visited a number of universities across Western Europe as well as in Russia and in Asia. His post as the Director of the Criminal Law Department has a wide array of responsibilities in Beijing, which currently binds him to the city for most of the time. The Finnish China Law Center had the great pleasure to host Mr. Liu during the Chinese New Year, a big Chinese holiday celebration – a time when Beijing is bustling with festive social activities. Even though engaged in research and seminars during the holiday, Mr. Liu finds the stay in Finland “nice and relaxing.”

As Professor of criminal law and Director of the Criminal Law Department of CASS, Mr. Liu is involved in an array of different fields. The CASS professors work closely with the government, offering consultancy, advice and expertise in the field of law, which they gain from research as well as cooperation with other sectors of the society. For instance, Mr. Liu’s recent cooperation with the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission gets him on top of the newest developments in financial criminal activity. He has also assumed the responsibility for researching major judicial topics for the Supreme Court, such as that of cybercrime and the difficulties in applying justice in cyberspace.

The current challenges faced by the Chinese legal society have an international dimension and are faced by countries worldwide. Even though the Chinese legal system is different from that of European states, China’s approach is to be open-minded and learn from others. “It is very important that we learn from each other and from the international community, especially in new areas such as terrorism and cybercrime. China learns from other countries and cares about the reactions of the international community.”

In the light of cross-border challenges, Mr. Liu emphasizes the importance of comparative research in the drafting of new Chinese laws. For example, Mr. Liu was one of the advisors in drafting a new Chinese anti-terrorist law.  For background and guidance, information was collected from other countries such as Germany, France, Russia and the United States to see how they were dealing with similar issues. “Each country usually focuses on its domestic system of criminal justice. They have their relatively independent criminal law, criminal court and legal culture. We should share mutual respect for each other’s systems and approach them with understanding. But in areas such as counterterrorism, we need to strengthen cooperation in international criminal justice and its application in order for it to become more effective.”

China is also challenged by international pressure to abide by certain western standards, for instance in defining a suitable punishment for criminals, and its implementation of the death penalty. On the one hand, criminal activity has to be punished. “But the other side of the coin is that we also need to protect human rights,” Mr. Liu says. China often faces criticism from the international for the treatment of criminal suspects, defendants and prisoners. However, fundamental differences between China and Western societies should not to be neglected. China is still a developing country. “Thirty years ago, the Chinese society was still very poor. Even today many peasants in the countryside are poor,” Mr. Liu reminds. The pace of economic reforms in China has been very rapid, and as a result of government policies, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty. “China’s economic development is not only a contribution to the international community, but has also helped to restore wealth and wellbeing to many of the Chinese poor areas. This is the most important contribution to the human rights development. I really think that our human rights situation is getting increasingly better.” Mr. Liu also notes that this development has been possible due to the relative stability of the country. “There is no war, no massive movements, no fighting.”

Mr. Liu checking out Iina Tornberg’s books.

The newfound wealth and the still-existing poverty in China are not the only differences between China and Western Europe. Also the vast size of the Chinese population – 1.3 billion people – and the differing cultural traditions sometimes pose an impediment for reaching mutual understanding. “In Chinese criminal law, death penalty is perceived as a normal punishment for serious crimes. This is accepted by our culture – our people and our government. But the international trend is for the abolition of the death penalty.” Mr. Liu points out that the trend of abolishing the death penalty has, however, been noticed in China: the number of death penalties has decreased by half compared with the number ten years ago. Still, Western critics and human rights advocates claim that it should be abolished all together. “Execution as a payment for taking away the life of another human being is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture. Therefore, even though for non-violent crimes we can abolish the death penalty, for the crime of murder, the death penalty is still relevant. We shouldn’t try to run before learning how to walk; we need to progress gradually. Of course, even for the crime of murder we are limiting the scope of death penalty implementation,” says Mr. Liu.

The different perceptions of the domestic and international audiences are highlighted by the example of the death penalty. “For Chinese, these numbers are great progress. But for the international community the numbers are still unacceptable. From the domestic standpoint, there has been big improvement in the condition of human rights. But from the international standpoint, there is still distance to the ideal situation.” As we speak of human rights, Mr. Liu admits that China is not perfect – but then again, each country has their own problems. As long as the Chinese society keeps steady in its course towards improving the quality of people’s wellbeing, Mr. Liu sees the situation in a positive light.

Coming back to the role of comparative research, Mr. Liu believes there are great benefits in engaging with the international community. “In the past years, we’ve learned a lot from the UN and the international society. We are thankful for that. They give us good references when we make our laws.” It is clear that in comparative research, China is looking to other big powers such as the US, Germany and France. But what about a small country like Finland? Mr. Liu sees Finland as a part of a greater whole: the Nordics. The Nordics as a region has become a major point of interest to the Chinese. “Most Chinese people think that the Nordic countries are good. In China, we also say that we are a socialist country. And we say that the Nordic countries are the newest socialist countries. They don’t have such a big gap between the rich and the poor. But for China this is a big social problem. We have highly advanced cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, but the countryside and western areas are poor. So people say that we should learn from the social welfare system of the Nordic countries.”

Mr. Liu appreciates the dedication of Finland towards comparative study of law between Finland, as well as the Nordics, and China. Certainly there are big challenges in adapting desired Nordic elements into the Chinese society. Yet, through continued cooperation and comparative research which identifies key similarities and differences between the approaches of our respective countries, we can foster mutual understanding, create a good platform for communication and cultural exchange, and together develop better solutions for the future.