On 15 June 2022, Professor Eva Pils from King’s College London delivered a guest lecture on the topic of “China’s challenge to international human rights law: a case of synergic corrosion”.
The lecture commenced with the case of Cao Shunli (1962-2014), a Chinese human rights activist arrested by Beijing in 2013 and subsequently died in a military hospital. Another incident mentioned in the prologue is the recent visit to China of Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who was then criticized for failing to speak for Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The two cases shown that, while UN principles were still referred to as international standards by domestic human right advocate, China is yielding increasing influence on international human rights law domestically and via international organizations.
Professor Pils presented China’s challenges to human rights law in five aspects. She first pointed out that the human rights violations of China within its borders have transnational impacts. Examples include the prevention of Cao Shunli and suppressed Xinjiang Uyghurs from reaching international audience, and also the suspected export of forced labour to other countries.
The second challenge concerns the suppression of facts by intimidation and ‘drowning out’ of criticism. The suppressive actions by China were not only domestic but also extended to affect international researchers working on the Xinjiang issue (e.g. Zenz, Smith Finley, Jerden). China’s denials of human rights violations, avoidance of international accountability mechanisms, and soliciting support from other countries exemplified the international challenge.
Thirdly, Professor Pils talked about China’s discursive strategies to deflect human right criticism. In the Xinjiang case, Beijing claimed the re-education camps were to develop detainees’ vocational skills for economic development. Another common argument by China is national security and anti-terrorism.
At the global level, China is propagating its system as liberal and democratic to propose an alternative governance model in Chinese style, giving rise to the fourth challenge. Xi Jinping suggested the idea of ‘shared future for mankind’ and that the world should be ruled by “Ritual propriety” in substitution of the existing universal human right principles.
The fifth challenge is external to China. The withdrawal of populist or nationalistic state actors from international law institutions posed threats to the binding force of international law and legal norms. For instance, the US quitting UN Human Rights Council, UNRWA, WHO was a sign turning against legal institutions.
After conceptualising the synergic corrosive effects among China and other would-be autocrats in liberal democracies, Professor Pils concluded that we need to reaffirm human rights indivisibility and buttress civil and political rights to defend international human rights law.
This blog post was written by the Center’s intern, Lam Kam To Kuinton.
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.
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 Center is proud to contribute to an important academic and social discussion within the Nordic region about the role and significance of law in China, and China’s increasing involvement in global affairs’, Professor Liukkunen said.
For Professor Liukkunen, the strength of Nordic China Law Week 2018 lay in the breadth and relevance of themes covered, the wide appeal of events to both the public and private sectors, and the involvement of scholars and participants from China, the Nordic region and other countries.
‘That the events during the Week were so well-attended testifies to the fact that Nordic interest in Chinese law and the Chinese legal system continues to grow’, Professor Liukkunen said.
‘I was particularly pleased at the diversity of participants during the Week. While the focus was primarily scholarly and academic, the organizers were careful to balance law, theory and concrete practice. This was important, including because of the Nordic business community’s deepening engagement with China’.
‘As Nordic China Law Week 2018 was organized to take account of both academic and practical perspectives, its events attracted participants not just from Nordic and Chinese academia, but also from legal practice, the Finnish corporate community – including entrepreneurs from Finland’s thriving startup scene, which is increasingly engaging with China – as well as participants from NGOs, international organizations, the media and the diplomatic community’.
‘For example, over 10 nationalities were represented among the more than 80 registered participants in the China Law Research Workshop. Startup founders, ambassadors, students, Finnish government representatives, leading Nordic scholars and representatives of multinational corporations discussed how to research and apply Chinese law, including the practicalities of doing field work and conducting business in China’, Professor Liukkunen said.
‘The Center is grateful to Professor Jukka Kola, Rector of the University of Helsinki, for his support of Nordic China Law Week 2018, including through holding a Rector’s Reception after one of the Week’s flagship events, the China Law Research Workshop, hosted by the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo’.
‘This reflects ever-deepening interest in Chinese law in the Nordic academic, and broader public, arena’.
‘In addition, Nordic China Law Week 2018 is being held in response to strong and growing interest in Chinese law and the Chinese legal system from the private and non-profit sectors’, Professor Liukkunen says.
‘In light of corporate demand, including from local SMEs and startups, Nordic China Law Week 2018 will include many events on Chinese business and corporate law, including Chinese intellectual property law’.
The Week is targeted at lawyers, those in business (including entrepreneurs), people working in governments or international organizations, academics, students, those working in NGOs /civil society and anyone with an interest in learning about Chinese law and legal culture.
All events are free and open to the public, with the exception of the Nordic China Law Scholars Meeting (aimed at senior scholars from education and research institutions in the Nordic region, though junior academics, including doctoral candidates, are welcome to join). The host of the Nordic China Law Scholars Meeting will be Professor Pia Letto-Vanamo, Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The event’s keynote speech was given by Jean-Philippe Béja of the Centre national de la recherche scientifique & Centre de recherches internationales, who spoke on ‘Liu Xiaobo’s Legacy: Life in Truth, the Magic Weapon Against Post-Totalitarian Lie’.
Other speakers included Hermann Aubié (Aston University), who spoke on ‘Unlearning Enmity and Hatred: Listening to Liu Xiaobo’s Voice of Conscience by Revisiting his Struggle for Human Dignity and a Future Free China’ and Fu Hualing (University of Hong Kong), who spoke about public interest lawyering in China.
Professor Panu Minkkinen of the University of Helsinki spoke about the significance of human rights in the context of critical legal theory, after which Eva Pils (King’s College, London) discussed ‘China’s Dual State And Its ‘Enemies’ Under Xi Jinping’.
Professor Jan Klabbers of the University of Helsinki discussed ethical leadership, drawing upon his research on virtue ethics, and Post-Doctoral Researcher Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça’s (University of Helsinki) talk covered values and China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’.
9:30 – 10:10 Key note speech:Jean-Philippe Béja (Centre national de la recherche scientifique & Centre de recherches internationales): “Liu Xiaobo’s Legacy: Life in Truth, the Magic Weapon Against Post-Totalitarian Lie”
10:10 – 10:30 Hermann Aubié (Aston University): “Unlearning Enmity and Hatred: Listening to Liu Xiaobo’s Voice of Conscience by Revisiting his Struggle for Human Dignity and a Future Free China”
Coffee Break until 11
1. Rights, Constitutionalism, Democracy (Chair: Maria Varaki)
11:00 – 11:20 Fu Hualing (University of Hong Kong): “Public Interest Lawyering in China: Escalation and Backlash?”
11:20 – 11:40 Panu Minkkinen (University of Helsinki): “Why Are Human Rights Important (Even For A Crit)?”
11:40 – 12:00 Eva Pils (King’s College, London): “China’s Dual State And Its ‘Enemies’ Under Xi Jinping”
12:00 – 12:20 Michael W. Dowdle (National University of Singapore): “China and Dual Constitutionalism”
Discussion until 13
Lunch 13:00 – 14:30
2. Ethical Leadership and Chinese Ethics (Chair: Pamela Slotte)
14:30 – 14:50 Jan Klabbers (University of Helsinki): “On Ethical Leadership”
14:50 – 15:10 Justin Tiwald (San Francisco State University): “Character-centered Theories of Governance in Confucian Political Thought”
15:10 – 15:30 Ralph Weber (University of Basel): tbd
15:30 – 15:50 Guilherme Vasconcelos Vilaça (University of Helsinki): “Values and the Belt & Road Initiative”
Discussion until 16:30
Please contact Project Coordinator Hector Nystedt at hector.nystedt (at) helsinki.fi.