Asia Law Weekly Guest: Cardinal Zen

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On Tuesday, October 3, 2017, retired Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong came to NYU Law School to take part in the weekly dialogue on Asian law and society of the US-Asia Law Institute. For over an hour, in an informative and lively session, Cardinal Zen answered questions from USALI Faculty Director Jerome A. Cohen and other USALI colleagues and students concerning the plight of the 12 million Catholics in Mainland China and the long-running negotiations over the normalization of relations between the Vatican and the People’s Republic of China.

USALI Affiliated Scholar Teaches at Columbia

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On August 24, Aaron Halegua, a Research Fellow at USALI, taught a class at Columbia University introducing U.S. labor and employment law to a group of over 30 law students from China. The content of the course drew upon some of the Institute’s work on anti-discrimination law and labor law in China. The study program was organized by the American International Education & Exchange Center (AiEEC), which is housed at Columbia University, and the students came from top Chinese law schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Hong Kong. As part of the two week program, they were taught about various aspects of U.S. law by a range of American legal academics.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his mission to China

NYU Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council reports on the extreme poverty and human rights on his mission to China from 15 to 23 August 2016. The purpose of the visit was to evaluate and to report to the Human Rights Council on the extent to which the policies and programmes of China relating to extreme poverty are consistent with the country’s human rights obligations and to offer constructive recommendations to the Government and other stakeholders.



Delegation from Japan Federation of Bar Associations Visits New York

Photo: JFBA, USALI Staff and Scholars with Judge Steven Gold, and representatives of the legal community Robert Long, Jan Rostal and Justine Harris, Washington Square, New York

Photo: JFBA, USALI Staff and Scholars with Judge Steven Gold, and representatives of the legal community Robert Long, Jan Rostal and Justine Harris, Washington Square, New York

April 13, 2017

In a 2006 film from Japan, Soredemo boku wa yattenai (“I Just Didn’t Do It”), a man, on the way to a job interview, is falsely accused of molesting a teenage girl on the train and is arrested. He then refuses to admit to the crime. Over the next two hours, the director, Masayuki Suo, takes viewers on a compelling journey through Japan’s criminal justice system, showing how it places enormous pressure on defendants in order to secure confessions and convictions.

In 2018, Japan will change this system with the introduction of a limited form of plea bargaining. Suspects accused of bribery and white collar crimes will be able to receive deals from prosecutors in exchange for information about accomplices. At the same time, a new system will require that a small percentage of criminal interrogations—those for the most serious offences, such as murder and kidnapping—will be video-recorded.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (日本弁護士連合会) (“JFBA”) has welcomed the video-recording measures, but has concerns about the plea bargaining system, noting that it creates incentives that may lead to the production of false information.

From April 2-7, a delegation of lawyers from the JFBA, led by Mr. Yuji Maeda, visited New York to engage in focused research on two issues: plea bargaining and the role of defense lawyers in interrogations immediately following arrest of a suspect. The JFBA met with representatives from the New York Police Department, the New York State and Federal Courts and the legal community. The JFBA were also given lectures and Q&A sessions by academics at New York University School of Law, including Professors Jerome Cohen, Frank Upham, Andrew Schaffer, Erin Murphy and Ira Belkin.


Photo: A JFBA delegate is given a mock interview by a staff member at New York’s Criminal Justice Agency


Video Highlights: Their America: The U.S. in the Eyes of the Rest of the World Post-Election

NYU Law Professor and USALI Director Jerome A. Cohen participated in a New School panel discussion which brought together experts on China, Israel and Palestine, Latin America, the Middle East, and Russia to discuss the ways in which political and social perceptions of America are changing and are likely to change as a result of the new administration. The event examined the effects of our changing political identity as a way of deepening understanding of our current situation and what is likely to be in store not only for us, but for the rest of the world.

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

The week January 15 to 20 was a busy week in Taiwan for our ten-member committee of international human rights specialists who were invited by the ROC Government to review its progress in implementing the two major UN human rights covenants.

This was the second such review, the first having been in 2013. It was an impressive exercise and culminated in a stimulating lunch with ROC President Ms. Ing-wen TSAI. After lunch my wife, Joan Lebold Cohen, who specializes in Asian art history and photography, my very able colleague, Ms. Yu-jie CHEN, who just received her doctorate in law from NYU, and I spent another hour exchanging ideas with President Tsai. The Concluding Observations and Recommendations of the Second Review Committee can be found here.

USALI Visits East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPL)

As part of our work on preventing and redressing wrongful convictions, the U.S.-Asia Law Institute partnered with NYU Law Professor Erin E. Murphy, a nationally recognized expert on DNA typing, whose research focuses on technology and DNA evidence and whose work has been cited multiple times by the Supreme Court. On this trip to China she shared  findings and research of her newly published book, Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA. We also invited University of Virginia Professor Brandon Garrett, whose research interests include criminal procedure and wrongful convictions to name a few. During his time in China he also presented on the findings of his 2011 book, Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong. We believe the depth and breadth to our two experts’ experience and research offer new insights into the possible development of mechanisms that could improve the prevention and redressing of wrongful convictions. Among their travels, Professor Murphy and Garrett visited East China Normal University of Political Science and Law for a lecture and roundtable session which you see here.

A Year End Letter

Dear Friend,

As we begin the New Year, we at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute would like to express our gratitude for your continued support. We would also like to take this opportunity to provide a brief synopsis of our activities over the past year. 2016 has been a wonderful and ambitious time at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute!  

We began the year auspiciously, welcoming labor law expert Mr. Huang Leping as a Visiting Scholar for the month of February. While at NYU he studied the U.S. legal system, meeting with judges, scholars and other individuals in mutually beneficial legal exchanges.
Spring blossomed on a high note in April with an immensely popular public dialogue with Joshua Wong, Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution Activist. He spoke about the foundation of the student activist group Scholarism in 2011, which was heavily involved in the protests against the introduction of Moral and National Education into Hong Kong school curricula in 2012. 
In March, we welcomed Ms. Masako Mori, Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child-Rearing in Japan, for one of our weekly lunch dialogues. In total, we held over 33 weekly lunches hosted by USALI Faculty Director Jerome A. Cohen. We also coordinated 20 special events including a conversation with Jenny Yang, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and welcomed many visiting delegations including one from East China University of Political Science and Law, led by ECUPL’s President, Professor Ye Qing.  Throughout the year, Professor Cohen and USALI-affiliated scholar, NYU Adjunct Professor Peter Dutton of the U.S. Naval War College, also convened multiple meetings and roundtable discussions concerning the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the disputes in the South China and East China Seas, both anticipating and then analyzing the Philippines arbitration decision handed down July 12, 2016.
Over the summer we kept busy with our institute projects and finalizing the details for our forthcoming bilingual publications on best practices to avoid false confessions during police interrogation and protecting individual’s rights during pre-trial release and detention decision-making. Keep an eye on our website in the New Year for updates. We also began preparations for our workshops in China on criminal justice, labor law, anti-discrimination law and professional responsibility for lawyers, scheduled for December 2016 and January 2017.
We spent a productive October with a group of Chinese visiting scholars to share experiences relating to wrongful convictions in the United States, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Meetings with experts from the U.S. Innocence Project, as well as the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan, proved an excellent opportunity for U.S. and Asian experts to learn about how to prevent and redress wrongful convictions. One of the highlights of the visit was a tour of New York City’s state-of-the-art DNA laboratory. Also in October, USALI-affiliated scholar Aaron Halegua published a major report on labor rights in China. Based on over 100 interviews, observations of legal proceedings, and extensive documentary research, Who Will Represent China’s Workers? Lawyers, Legal Aid, and the Enforcement of Labor Rights examines the legal violations suffered by workers, the range of legal service providers, and how workers fare in litigation. 
In November, we held our 22nd Annual Timothy A. Gelatt Memorial Dialogue on the Rule of Law in East Asia. This year we focused on the recent Philippine arbitration award and invited maritime law experts from several countries to participate. USALI-affiliated scholar Professor Peter Dutton and Visiting Scholar Isaac Kardon, both of the U.S.-Naval War College, helped to steer this fascinating dialogue. You can watch the entire event on our website.
December and January have brought a series of activities, meetings, and workshops in China for the Institute. With experts including Professors Sida Liu, Randy Hertz, Paulette Caldwell, Cynthia Estlund, Erin Murphy and Brandon Garrett, we held legal exchanges with Chinese experts at Chinese law schools on labor law, anti-discrimination, professional responsibilities of lawyers, and criminal justice.
Lastly, this year also saw many changes at the Institute. Having completed her JSD degree at NYU, Research Scholar Ms. Yu-jie Chen became a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute, while continuing her collaboration with Professor Cohen and other USALI scholars on the role of human rights in China-Taiwan cross-strait relations, a project sponsored by the Smith Richardson Foundation. Program Assistant Jean Lee left us to enroll in Harvard Law School. We expect great things from her. In August, we welcomed Ms. JoAnn Kim as Program Assistant, and she has been doing a wonderful job coordinating Institute logistics and weekly lunches. This December we also bade farewell to Administrative and Program Director Trinh D. Eng. Trinh joined USALI in 2011, and her guidance has been instrumental in helping USALI to grow into the organization it is today. We are sad to see her go, but happy to know that she will still be in the NYU family, just a few short blocks away. Mr. Eli Blood-Patterson (J.D. ’14) took the helm of Program Manager this December, and has hit the ground running. Come January, we expect to welcome Mr. Allen Clayton-Greene (LLM ’14), as a Research Scholar. 
As we begin 2017, we remain committed to our mission to promote constructive engagement with Asian partners to advocate for legal reform in Asia and the United States.  This goal can only be accomplished with the support and active participation of our colleagues and friends around the globe. Please consider making a gift to the U.S.-Asia Law Institute.

With your continued support, we look forward to another successful year!
Warm regards,
Ira Belkin
Executive Director
U.S.-Asia Law Institute


International Human Rights Day

International Human Rights Day

Saturday, December 10, 2016

By Jerome A. Cohen

Reports about human rights advocates in China suffering in detention and abuse such as this one on Hada, an Inner Mongolian dissident and this one on rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang certainly inspire feelings of sadness and even hopelessness. Yet the odd thing is that many Chinese human rights lawyers and other advocates continue to enter the fray, even though now fully aware of the potential consequences. Efforts are gradually being made to learn what makes them tick. Infectious Western political ideology? Religion, Eastern or Western? The psychology of martyrdom?

Some even now maintain that the numbers of human rights activists are growing, a claim that is plainly difficult to verify. It all reminds me of the situation in South Korea in the ‘70s under General Park while China was still in Cultural Revolution. The late Kim Dae-jung seemed to be motivated by Jeffersonian democracy, indeed believed that the tree of liberty has to be periodically nourished by the blood of patriots, and was prepared to die for the cause, as he almost did on at least three occasions. He was also a devout Roman Catholic and strongly supported by his highly religious wife. South Korea, well over a decade later, experienced a stressful but largely peaceful revolution, and Dae-jung was liberated, vindicated and empowered.

Prospects for his Chinese heirs seem very gloomy at present. Yet, as we mark International Human Rights Day today, we should admire them, wish them well and hope that the UN Declaration on Human Rights, which was adopted with considerable pre-1949 Chinese input, will soon prevail in China too.


China Talk Interview: Jerome A. Cohen and Scott Scavitt

Crashing the Party: An American Reporter in China is Scott Savitt’s singular account as one of the first Americans in post-Mao China. Arriving in Beijing in 1983 as an exchange student from Duke University, Scott stepped into an environment rife with political unrest and had the rare opportunity to witness a nation on the brink of monumental change. Join us at China Institute on Tuesday, November 22, where Mr. Savitt will tell stories of his experiences living through and reporting on China’s historic transformation, including his founding of Beijing Scene, China’s first independent weekly newspaper; befriending and working with a legendary group of Chinese artists, writers, and musicians; interactions with Chinese and American politics; and his time in prison.

Part I

Discussion held with Scott Savitt, discussing his book "Crashing the Party". Moderated by Jerome A. Cohen

Part II

Part III

Congratulations to the Taiwan Association for Innocence

The U.S.-Asia Law Institute congratulates the Taiwan Association for Innocence for their recent legislative accomplishment: the passage of a new law allowing post-conviction DNA testing. This is a victory for the innocence movement and will provide potential xonerees access to critical evidence to prove their innocence.  We are grateful for TIFA’s continued partnership with us and we wish them continued success.

Associated Scholar Maggie Lewis Featured on ChinaFile

USALI Associated Scholar Maggie Lewis was featured as a contributor on the ChinaFile post, "What Can We Expect from China at the G20?" An excerpt from her post is included below:

"I picked up the newspaper this morning to read the headline, “U.S. and China Set Aside Rifts for Climate Accord.” Especially as someone who frets about the world in which her young children will live, this is certainly welcome news. Yet deeper in the front section were accounts of extremely strict media control surrounding the G20: “In six years of covering the White House, I had never seen a foreign host prevent the news media from watching Mr. Obama disembark [from Air Force One].” While I understand Chen Weihua’s point that “the G20 is foremost a forum for the global economy,” human rights is not a distraction when the P.R.C. government itself makes an issue of freedom of expression, assembly, and other internationally recognized rights. These rights are enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that China signed in 1998 but still has yet to ratify.

As I have argued elsewhere, not every interaction between the U.S. and P.R.C. governments must have human rights as the focal point. For example, addressing human rights in the context of exchange rate policies would require an artificial linkage. To use the Chinese idiom, adding human rights to the discussion could at worst be like “drawing feet on a snake” (画蛇添足): changing the effect by adding something superfluous. The discussion would be about exchange rates and human rights, not the human rights implications of exchange rates. But when human rights are inextricable from an issue, then human rights should also be inextricable from bilateral conversations regarding that issue.

Accordingly, I would add “clarity” to Sophie Richardson’s call for “tenacity, confidence, and unity” when responding to China’s conduct with respect to human rights. The U.S. government should formulate a clear plan for articulating how human rights connect to items on the bilateral agenda and then for taking concrete steps to effectuate that plan in a true whole-of-government approach."

To read her entire contribution, as well as other's, read

You may also access her paper on this topic (slated for publication in spring 2017) here. 

East China University of Political Science and Law Delegation Visits USALI

On June 1, 2016, a delegation from Shanghai visited the U.S.-Asia Law Institute (USALI). Led by Professor Ye Qing, President of East China University of Political Science and Law, this delegation sought to learn more about institutional and legal mechanisms securing the independence of prosecutors and judges in the U.S. and Canada. USALI Executive Director Ira Belkin and Faculty Director Professor Jerome Cohen both introduced the U.S. prosecutorial system to the delegation, discussing how the principle of checks and balances helps to harness prosecutorial discretion. 

Our guests also reviewed recent reforms within the Chinese judiciary system, including moves to decoupling local government from the procuratorate and court in matters of finance and human resources. These measures ensure independence and personal responsibility for individual judges, promoting the central role the trial plays in the proceedings. 

Exchange between top US and Hong Kong anti-discrimination officials arranged by USALI

U.S.-Asia Law Institute research fellow, Aaron Halegua, organized a meeting between Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and American anti-discrimination officials and experts on May 3, 2016. Participants from the United States included David Lopez, General Counsel of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Richard Fincher, a professional mediator and arbitrator of labor and employment disputes, and Mr. Halegua. The group met with Professor Alfred Chan, the recently appointed Chairperson of the EOC, and members of his staff. The participants discussed the legal framework for anti-discrimination protections in both jurisdictions and the various institutions and procedures for resolving allegations of discrimination. Mr. Lopez also introduced the history of the Civil Rights Act and EEOC as well as more recent developments in protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and religion, including decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.



A Conversation with Joshua Wong

April 18, 2016 - Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution Activist Joshua Wong spoke at New York University about the foundation of the student activist group Scholarism in 2011, which was heavily involved in the protests against the introduction of Moral and National Education into Hong Kong school curricula in 2012. He also spoke about the Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests of 2014.  Joshua Wong was one of Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014 and one of Fortune Magazine's World's 50 Greatest Leaders of 2015.  He is a founder of the political party Demosisto, which is expected to contest the upcoming Hong Kong Legislative Council elections in September 2016.

Meeting with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair

On Saturday, April 9, the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at NYU Law School hosted a meeting between Jenny Yang, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Aaron Halegua, a research fellow at the Institute, and several leading Chinese anti-discrimination advocates. Chair Yang introduced the structure of EEOC and the many functions it performs, including investigating claims of discrimination, collecting data from employers, issuing guidance documents, and litigating cases in federal court. The participants also discussed various forms of discrimination that are found in both countries, such as discrimination based on sexual orientation, pregnancy, and disability, as well as strategies for combating discrimination.


Visit from Scholar Fabian Duessel and a Discussion on An International Bill of the Rights of Man

On Thursday, April 7, 2016 USALI hosted Fabian Duessel, a research fellow at the Chair of Constitutional Law, Public International Law and Human Rights Law at the University of Tuebingen.  The aim of this presentation is to assess to what extent Sir Hersch Lauterpacht’s revolutionary work, An International Bill of the Rights of Man, published in 1945, may be applicable to the 21st century Asian context. Lauterpacht’s book was written at a time when the notion of international human rights protection was in its infancy. However, his analysis proved to be an invaluable handbook for architects of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Two points are of special interest. First, Lauterpacht strategically situated his project within Western notions of the law of nature, natural rights and international law. He also specifically addressed difficulties presented by particular constitutional cultures, such as the uncodified British constitution. Similarly, one must consider to what extent an Asian human rights mechanism may be dependent on specific philosophical legacies and constitutional peculiarities in the region. Second, Lauterpacht strongly argued against the use of a system of international judicial review, and thus did not support the establishment of a purely international judicial enforcement mechanism. His thoughts on enforcement may thus be of value in the current Asian political context, where flexibility and elasticity may be more appropriate.

Without ignoring recent international, regional and sub-regional developments, it is hoped that by “going back to basics”, applying the most fundamental principles to the contemporary context, progress can be made in furthering international human rights protection in Asia.

About Fabian:

Fabian Duessel is currently a research fellow at the Chair of Constitutional Law, Public International Law and Human Rights Law at the University of Tuebingen. He holds an LL.B. from the London School of Economics (2010) and is currently an LL.M. candidate at the University of Tuebingen. He also holds an M.A. in Governance from the University of Hagen (2015). At the University of Tuebingen he regularly teaches UK public law (since 2012) and occasionally gives lectures on public international law (since 2014). As visiting scholar at National Taiwan University he co-taught an intensive course on international human rights law with Prof. Jau-Yuan Hwang (2014) and Prof. Jochen von Bernstorff (2015). At the 6th Asian Constitutional Law Forum (2015), held at the National University of Singapore, he presented a paper comparing regional human rights protection in Europe and Asia. He is particularly interested in the development of constitutionalism and human rights in East Asia. His other research interests include international organisations and global governance. Having lived extensively in the UK, Germany and Taiwan, he speaks fluent English, German and Mandarin. 

Seeking Summer Interns!


The U.S.-Asia Law Institute is seeking exceptional interns with a demonstrated interest in the legal, social, political, and economic challenges in Asia. This intern should have strong research/writing skills and proficiency in an Asian-language is preferred.

The intern will research current legal developments in Asia; write, edit, and translate documents (especially Chinese-language). They will also have an opportunity to provide administrative and digital media support as needed.

Internships are unpaid positions.

Candidates should be able commit to a minimum of 6 weeks, and at least three days per week, or the equivalent of 24 hours per week. Full-time availability in the summer is preferred.

Education and prior experience most suited for this internship:

Law or graduate student preferred; strong research, writing, and editing skills; excellent attention to detail; reliable; proficiency with Microsoft Office; flexibility handling diverse tasks; native or full professional proficiency in English is preferred.

How to apply:

 E-mail: 1) a cover letter to indicating your interest in the position and the days and hours you are available; 2) a resume; and 3) a writing sample/translation sample (2–5 double-spaced pages; abstracts are accepted, Chinese to English translations are preferred) in Word or PDF format with the subject line "USALI Summer Internship: [Last Name, First Name]”

 DEADLINE: May 2, 2016