Gelatt Dialogue 2017: Watch & Read

On November 6, 2017 the U.S.-Asia Law Institute held its 23rd Annual Timothy A. Gelatt Memorial Dialogue on the Rule of Law in East Asia. This year’s theme - “China and International Law: Human Rights, Sovereignty, and Maritime Disputes” - focused on China's approach to international law during the Xi Jinping era as seen through the Communist Party's human rights record, Taiwan-Mainland cross-strait legal problems, China's maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas and the erosion of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong. This all-day event will feature speakers from China, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong as well as the United States.

Panel I: The United Nations, China, and Human Rights



  • Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law and Faculty Director and Co-Chair, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU School of Law; UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

  • Sharon Hom ’80, Director, China and International Human Rights Research Program of the Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights, and Adjunct Professor of Law, NYU School of Law; Executive Director, Human Rights in China

  • Teng Biao, Former Law Professor and Lawyer in China, Affiliated Scholar, U.S.-Asia Law Institute, NYU School of Law

Panel II: Taiwan, Cross-Strait Relations, and Human Rights



  • Yu-Jie Chen LLM ’08, JSD ’16, Postdoctoral Researcher, Academia Sinica (Taiwan), Affiliated Scholar, U.S.-Asia Law Institute, NYU School of Law

In the second panel, “Taiwan, Cross-Strait Relations, and Human Rights,” Ms. Yu-Jie Chen described the highly-publicized case of Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese human rights advocate who was detained and later arrested during a visit to (Mainland) China.  Mr. Lee’s case demonstrates a new threat to NGOs and civil society, and sends a warning to overseas activists wishing to promote human rights in China.  Ms. Chen described how Mr. Lee’s arrest has undermined China’s “hearts and minds” policy, and demonstrated the need for Taiwan to reflect on its cross-strait policy, including whether there is any room for human rights in cross-strait relations.

Panel III: Hong Kong: Is the Sino-British Joint Declaration Still Operable?  



  • Alvin Cheung LLM ’14, JSD (Year 2), Nonpracticing Hong Kong Barrister and Affiliated Scholar, U.S.-Asia Law Institute

Panel IV: Japan, China, and Disputes in the East China Sea


Consul General Reiichiro Takahashi and USALI Senior Fellow Ren Ito ('18) offered a candid assessment of East China Sea disputes.


  • Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi, Consul General of Japan in New York

  • Ren Ito LLM ’04, Senior Fellow, U.S.-Asia Law Institute, NYU School of Law

Panel V: The South China Sea After the Philippine Arbitration



  • Peter Dutton, Professor of Strategic Studies and Director, China Maritime Studies Institute, US Naval War College; Adjunct Professor of Law and Affiliated Scholar, U.S.-Asia Law Institute, NYU School of Law

  • Isaac Kardon, Assistant Professor, US Naval War College; Affiliated Scholar, U.S.-Asia Law Institute, NYU School of Law

The final panel of the day explored recent developments in the South China Sea sovereignty dispute in the wake of the Philippine Arbitration Award.  Peter Dutton demonstrated how, despite Beijing’s refusal to recognize the arbitration award, China’s statements and actions throughout the dispute have given us clues about the legal perspectives they hold.  Isaac Kardon examined the political elements of this story, including how China is simultaneously working to consolidate physical control in the South China Sea and engage its neighbors diplomatically, and all the while working to reshape the norms of the law of the sea to reflect their preferences.

Photos from the Event