Understanding Law with Chinese Characteristics

On 16 September 2022, the Finnish China Law Center hosted a hybrid seminar on the topic of ‘Understanding Law with Chinese Characteristics’. This event was part of the Center’s mini seminar series on topical issues of Chinese law.

On the left: Professor Ronald Brown, 16 September 2022

The seminar consisted of two presentations. The first was by Ronald Brown, Law Professor at the University of Hawai’i Law School and was titled as ‘Chinese Labor Practices, Treaties, Uyghurs, and CAI: Keeping Promises’. In his presentation, Professor Brown was speculating whether Chinese labor policies have shifted towards international standards or is it just that China is changing without change. The presentation examined the latter by calling attention to China’s many reservations of its signed and ratified international agreements.

The debate on Uyghurs have hampered China’s relationship with the West in the recent years. This issue was also raised in the presentation by Professor Brown who pointed out the different language used by the two sides: the West accuses China of ‘genocide’ while China constantly refers to the re-education camps which are needed in the thought-reform of the Uyghurs. The EU-China CAI might be pending, but the US’ new 2022 Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and EU countries’ Due Diligence laws were brought up as new legislation to watch for. Professor Brown concluded his presentation with recent comments by the UN Human Rights Committee that, for China, made an unfavorable assessment of the situation.

 

From left to right: Professor Martin Lavička, Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen and Professor Ulla Liukkunen, Director of the Finnish China Law Center, Helsinki, 16 September 2022

The second presentation of the day was presented by 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. The duo discussed the topic of ‘Recent Developments of the Rule of Law with Chinese Characteristics’. Like Professor Brown, this presentation was also opened with a rationale on China’s international law standards before moving onto the on-going discussion about rule of law in China.

The core of the presentation focused on the development of religious freedoms under Xi Jinping. The assessment included a look on the recent administrative measures which, in summary, imply growing control of the party-state. Religious groups are set to function in accordance with the CCP’s ideologies. Assistant Professor Lavička and Professor Chen noted that this process started long before Xi and is set to continue in these times when the CCP’s tolerance to any contesting ideologies is becoming lesser. The duo concluded the presentation by an observation that the convergence of law-in-practice and law-in-books, considering China’s recent developments, may not always be a good thing.

The blogpost was written by the Center’s intern, Samppa Penttinen.

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:

https://www.lyyti.in/Understanding_Laws_with_Chinese_Characteristics_2041

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.