USALI Hosts Delegation from China's Ministry of Land and Resources on Urban Planning Study Tour

In late November, 2013, the U.S.-Asia Law Institute welcomed a delegation of Chinese government officials from the Ministry of Land and Resources interested in learning more about urban planning from U.S. academics and practitioners in New York City.

Over the course of a two-day visit organized by Professor Frank Upham, USALI co-director and Wilf Family Professor of Property Law, Mr. Shitong Qiao, USALI Research Scholar and J.S.D. candidate at Yale Law School, and Ms. Heather Han (LL.M. ’10), USALI Research Scholar, the officials met with several members of the NYU community and beyond to discuss theoretical and practical approaches to urban planning.

Presentations featured Professor Vicki Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law and Director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at the NYU School of Law, who discussed transferable development rights; Professor Zhan Guo, Assistant Professor at the Wagner School at NYU, who spoke about development conflict resolution in New York City; Mr. Stephen Louis, Chief of the Legal Counsel Division of the NYC Law Department, who discussed the city’s government structure; Ms. Lisa Bova-Hiatt, Deputy Chief of the NYC Law Department, who highlighted the eminent domain issues in the city; Winston Von Engel, Deputy Director of the Brooklyn Office at the NYC Department of City Planning, who introduced the history of urban planning in NYC; and Professor Gerald Korngold, Professor of Law at New York Law School, who presented on U.S. Real Estate Transactions and Finance.

In addition, the delegation took a tour of City Hall and witnessed a public hearing at the NYC Department of City Planning.

In a letter written upon his return to China, delegation leader Mr. Lu Jing complimented the USALI team on the relevancy of the topics to the delegation’s interests, the comprehensive nature of the academics’ and practitioners’ presentations, and the overall tone of the meetings, which Mr. Lu described as “free and harmonious.”

USALI’s involvement in the organization of the delegation visit is representative of the Institute’s greater effort to increase intellectual exchanges between Chinese and American practitioners and scholars.

Asia Law Society's Legal Mandarin Class Now Available Online

The U.S.-Asia Law Institute and the Asia Law Society (ALS) at NYU Law are excited to announce the weekly posting of ALS's Fall 2013 Legal Mandarin Class, which takes place on Wednesdays from 6-7:30pm in Furman Hall, Room 120. Please click this link to access recordings of the Asia Law Society's Fall 2013 Legal Mandarin Class.  

From the Asia Law Society:

The purpose of the Legal Mandarin classes is to both increase students’ knowledge of Chinese and Taiwanese law and to improve their Mandarin skills. Therefore, we’re hoping that classes will be interactive, and have allotted time each week for students to ask questions and discuss the materials. Because the class will be entirely in Mandarin, proficiency in the language is recommended. Nonetheless, you do not need to participate in the discussion if you don’t want to, so students with more beginner-level skills who are interested in the class should definitely come check it out.

Here is our current curriculum for the classes we will be holding this semester:

Weekly Curriculum:

1. History of Chinese Law - Kai-chih (9/11) 2. Family Law & Gender Equality - Sylvia (9/18) 3. Human Rights - Shang-yun (9/25) 4. Criminal Law - Luping (10/2) 5. Constitutional/Administrative Law - Xiaoyi (10/9) 6. Tort Law - Yingjun (10/16) 7. Contracts - Jean (10/23) 8. Labor & Competitions - Longtao (10/30) 9. International Relations - Kai-chih (11/6) 10. IP Law - Sylvia (11/13) 11. Marriage Law - Meng (11/20) 12. Negotiations workshop - Zhouzhang (11/27)

Please click this link to shoot the Asia Law Society an email if you have any questions.

USALI Hosts Visiting Delegation of Judges from Taiwan Studying Jury Trials

In late October, 2013, the U.S.-Asia Law Institute welcomed a delegation of nine judges from Taiwan’s Judicial Yuan, High and District Courts, and Judges Academy interested in studying the American jury trial system as a possible model for citizen participation in Taiwan’s judicial system.

Over the course of a three-day visit organized by Ms. Yu-Jie Chen, USALI Research Scholar and J.S.D. candidate at the NYU School of Law, the judges held in depth discussions regarding the American jury trial system with Jerome Cohen, USALI Co-Director and Professor of Law at NYU; Ira Belkin, USALI Executive Director and Adjunct Professor of Law at NYU; James B. Jacobs,  Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts at NYU; Margaret K. Lewis, USALI Affiliated Scholar and Associate Professor of Law at Seton Hall School of Law; and Andrew Schaffer, Adjunct Professor of Law at NYU and former Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters for the New York City Police Department.

In addition, the delegation visited New York federal and state courts. While at the courthouses, the delegation observed a probation violation hearing and jury trial, met with United States District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Southern District of New York and Judge Martin Marcus of the Bronx County Supreme Court, and discussed the American jury system with a representative of the Commissioner of Jurors.

USALI’s involvement in the organization of the delegation visit is representative of the Institute’s greater effort to increase intellectual exchanges between Taiwan and American practitioners and scholars. USALI’s recently launched Taiwan Rule of Law Initiative intends on accomplishing this through the following activities:

  • Publish scholarly books, articles and op-eds on Taiwan’s legal development and current legal debates;

  • Host visiting scholars and practitioners from Taiwan who are researching various aspects of Taiwan’s legal system, including criminal justice, human rights, legal institutions and public interest law;

  • Hold Chinese and English-language workshops and public programs about Taiwan’s legal development for NYU law students and faculty as well as the wider intellectual community;

  • Organize conferences that feature exchanges among experts from the United States, China and Taiwan on issues of common interest; and

  • Facilitate issue-focused study tours for Taiwanese scholars and legal professionals who visit the United States.

US State Department Invites Ira Belkin to Participate in U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue

On November 7-8, 2013, USALI Executive Director Ira Belkin took part in the sixth U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue, an event that brings together government and non-government experts from the United States and China to discuss the benefits and practical implementation of the rule of law. Belkin led the discussion concerning the role of lawyers in promoting the rule of law and emphasized the need for protected space for lawyers to represent unpopular causes and unpopular clients.

Please see below for the official announcement.

Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

November 5, 2013

The U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue will take place in Charlottesville, Virginia, November 7-8, 2013. Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Uzra Zeya and Acting Legal Adviser Mary McLeod will lead the U.S. delegation. Supreme People’s Court Senior Judge Hu Yunteng will lead the Chinese delegation.

This is the 6th Legal Experts Dialogue and the third since President Obama and then-President Hu Jintao agreed in 2009 on the importance of resuming the dialogue. The dialogue brings together government and non-government experts from the United States and China to discuss the benefits and practical implementation of the rule of law.

Please follow this link for the original media note on the U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue from the Office of the Spokesperson.


Professor Frank Upham and Shitong Qiao of USALI Discuss Property Rights in China

On Thursday, October 31, 2013 Professor Cohen sat down with Professor Frank Upham, Wilf Family Professor of Property Law and USALI co-director at the NYU School of Law, and Mr. Shitong Qiao, USALI Research Scholar and J.S.D. Candidate at Yale Law School, to discuss their views on contemporary Chinese property rights topics and property law in general.

During the lunch, Professor Upham described how he became interested in Chinese property rights. The turn toward China marks his latest focus of inquiry in a career-long interest in law and society, particularly the extent to which global practice can help us rethink existing theory on the relationship between property rights and the law. Having studied many diverse regions, including Japan, Cambodia and China, he is now working on a book that investigates the evolution of property law across many regions, beginning with the enclosure movement in England in the sixteenth century.

Mr. Shitong Qiao, who is now in his fourth year in Yale’s J.S.D. program, introduced his fieldwork in Shenzhen, the birthplace of China's market economy and urban land use reform. Mr. Qiao advised the Shenzhen municipal government on land reform and urbanization during his one-year fieldwork there. His research on small properties in Shenzhen has been accepted by the Canadian Journal of Law and Society and as a book chapter to be published by Cambridge University Press. He also detailed his approach toward studying Chinese property rights, which combines law and economic theories with on-the-ground observation and participation.

In addition, Professor Upham and Mr. Qiao discussed their ongoing collaboration, a project that examines the evolution of land rights in a rapidly changing world. In answering questions from the audience, both speakers proposed an integrated and dynamic approach to understanding property rights in China, which emphasizes the crucial roles of community-building and the establishment of political power for all stakeholders involved in the process of owning and transferring land.

NCUSCR: Ira Belkin and Margaret Lewis Lead China Town Hall

On Monday, October 28, 2013 the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (NCUSCR) hosted its annual China Town Hall, an event that combined a webcast interview from Washington with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright with on-site presentations by China specialists on topics of interest to local communities. USALI Executive Director, Ira Belkin and USALI Affiliated Scholar Margaret Lewis led two of the sixty-six on-site presentations from Fordham University and Bucknell University, respectively.

At Fordham University, Professor Belkin followed Secretary Albright’s comments on major bilateral issues such as trade, energy security, piracy, and peacekeeping with a discussion moderated by Carl Minzner, Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University, on the intersection between human rights issues and doing business in China.

Professor Belkin opened the discussion with his observation that there used to be a divide between business-related conversations about China, which involved talk about open markets and free trade, and human rights-related dialogue. Yet, with the recent surge of public confessions by prominent Chinese and foreign businessmen and journalists who have not been charged or given a trial, as dictated by Chinese law, this has begun to change. “China is using illegitimate means to shape public opinion,” Professor Belkin stated, citing the cases of Peter Humphrey, a British risk consultant who publicly confessed to using illegal methods to buy and sell personal information, Charles Xue, a Chinese-American entrepreneur and human rights advocate who publicly confessed to soliciting prostitutes, and Chen Yongzhou, a journalist who publicly confessed to defaming a partly state-owned firm in articles exposing alleged corruption. When asked to put the situation in historical context, Professor Belkin emphasized that the practice of public confessions is reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, not of China’s legal developments over the last few decades. There is no law that prohibits confessions, he elaborated, but there is a law against coerced confessions.

On the issue of progress, Professor Belkin brought up the planned abolition of China’s re-education through labor system, a practice which has been in effect for over fifty years. Yet, he cautioned, China’s progress cannot be viewed from a linear perspective. “Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps backward, or two steps forward, one step backward,” he said, admitting that he once thought that Weibo, China’s largest social media platform with over 500 million users, was the way to a “free China.” But the implementation of recent policies that label forwarded posts as “rumors” has led him to reconsider.

On what has caused these draconian policies and where China is headed, Professor Belkin posited that these new strategies are an effort on the part of the authorities to reclaim authority, but that there is no crystal ball when it comes to prophesying China’s future. It’s what he and all of the other China watchers out there are “always trying to figure out.”

At Bucknell University, Professor Lewis, Associate Professor of Law at Seton Hall School of Law, focused on the Bo Xilai Case and the Rule of Law in China. Professor Lewis’ talk stimulated questions from the audience about corruption in the Party, particularly the investigation of Zhou Yongkang, the former head of China’s Central Political and Legislative Committee, a powerful organ that oversees the country’s legal enforcement authorities. Zhou has recently come under scrutiny over allegations regarding corruption at the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

Audience members were also interested in the role of social media in shedding light on officials' activities and the recent crackdown on Weibo.

Please click this link for more information on the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations Town Hall. 

Robert Barnett, Modern Tibetan Studies Program Director at Columbia University, Speaks at USALI

On Wednesday, October 9, 2013 Professor Jerome Cohen sat down with Professor Robert Barnett, Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University, to discuss Columbia's programs and his involvement with Tibet since visiting Lhasa for the first time in 1987.

Over the last twenty six years, Professor Barnett has devoted his work to informing the public about developments in Tibet.  Of his first visit there along with other foreign tourists in 1987, he said. “I suddenly realized it was up to us to collect information and pass it on.” In the late 1980s, Professor Barnett founded the Tibet Information Network, a news agency in London specifically focused on Tibet. In 1998, at the request of Professors James Seymour and Andrew Nathan, he traveled to Columbia University as a visiting scholar. At the time, although many universities still tended to treat Tibetan Studies as “marginal” and “exotic,” over the following years, at the urging of Professor Barnett and his colleagues, Columbia created a Master’s program and a Ph.D program in Modern Tibetan Studies, and is a leading force in the study of the region, including its cultural, religious, social and “geopolitical” dimensions. Professor Barnett oversees these programs.

Please click this link for more information on Columbia's Tibetan Studies Program.


Professor Jerome Cohen Receives Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Comparative Law

On Friday, October 11, 2013 USALI Co-Director Professor Jerome Cohen received the American Society of Comparative Law's Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his "extensive and rich work in Chinese law." The award was given at the Society's Annual Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The American Society of Comparative Law, Inc. (ASCL) is the leading organization in the United States promoting the comparative study of law. Founded in 1951, it is a thriving organization of more than 100 institutional sponsor members, both in the United States and abroad, and a growing number of individual members. It is a member in good standing of the American Council of Learned Societies and International Association of Legal Science.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 2003 to honor living senior comparatists whose writings have changed the shape or direction of American comparative or private international law. It is a “non-monetary recognition of lifetime extraordinary scholarly contributions to comparative law in the United States.” Previous awardees are Alan Watson, Distinguished Research Professor and Ernest P. Rogers Chair, University of Georgia School of Law, and Mirjan R. Damaška, Sterling Professor of Law Emeritus, Yale Law School.

Please click here to learn more about the American Society of Comparative Law. 

Please click here for NYU Law's news coverage of Professor Cohen's Lifetime Achievement Award. 

USALI and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice Host Vietnamese Delegation

On October 1, 2013 USALI and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU Law met with a five-member ministerial-level delegation from the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) to discuss human rights curricula in legal education institutions.

VASS is a research institution under the Government of Vietnam with 37 research institutes and centers, and is comprised of over 900 professors, associate professors, and high-degree holders in the social sciences.  VASS recently established a Graduate Academy of Social Sciences to conduct research, advise the government, and provide master’s and doctoral degrees in the law and social science fields and public policy.  Human rights issues have become an urgent issue in Vietnam. The delegation came to the U.S. to explore and discuss different models of graduate training and research on human rights.

The three main purposes of the delegation visit were to:
1.      Engage in academic exchange of experiences in research and education of human rights;
2.      Build partnerships for cooperation in developing research, education and human rights training, and for formulating policy advice on human rights issues, laws and legal enforcement;
3.      Enhance VASS’ capacity to provide training in human rights at their institute and in Vietnam.  This includes exploring training programs, teaching curriculum, teaching materials/ books and learning about what students are expected to know and be able to do, what amount of training is classroom, thesis writing, faculty mentoring, externship, and so forth, the relationship between teaching and research, and the link between research and policy.

Joined by USALI Program Director Trinh Duong and NYU Law student Wendy Liu ('14), USALI Co-Director Professor Jerome Cohen and CHRGJ Faculty Director Professor Philip Alston discussed their experience with developing human rights curricula and programs for legal education settings. Additionally, Ms. Liu spoke about her experience in the International Human Rights Clinic, and delegation members discussed their interest in corporate social responsibility and environmental protection training.

2013 Year End Letter

Dear Friend of USALI,

Thank you for your support of NYU’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute (USALI) this past year. 2013 was a great year and we expect the coming year will be even better. 明年会更好! Here is a quick summary of our accomplishments for the year.

Public Events

This year, USALI organized nearly sixty events at the law school, including:

  • The Nineteenth Annual Timothy A. Gelatt Dialogue on the Rule of Law in Asia, featuring seven members of NYU’s law faculty in an informal discussion of academic engagement with China

  • Expert speaker events with Evan Osnos, former China correspondent for The New Yorker; He Weifang, one of China’s leading public intellectuals and legal scholars; Zhou Dan, Chinese lawyer and LGBT rights advocate; and Guo Jianmei, China’s leading women’s rights lawyer

  • Roundtables with key participants in the East and South China Sea disputes, including Annette Lu, former Vice President of Taiwan; Francis Jardeleza, the Solicitor General of the Philippines; and representatives from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Viet Nam and the People’s Republic of China

Expert Support of Legal Reform in China 

We also directly participated in legal reform workshops in Beijing, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Wuhan, and Xi’an through our three-year project on Criminal Procedure Reform.  This year we focused on implementation of the new provisions in Chinese law designed to prevent torture and coercion during police interrogations.  To that end, we shared with our Chinese colleagues world-renowned expertise and best practices in interrogation as well as the award-winning documentary, Central Park Five, which showed the grave injustice that false confessions may lead to.


This past year, USALI staff published fourteen academic articles and op-eds on legal reform in China, as well as Challenge to China: How Taiwan Abolished Its Version of Re-Education Through Labor (Berkshire), a book co-authored by USALI Co-Director Professor Jerome Cohen and USALI Affiliated Scholar Professor Margaret K. Lewis on Taiwan’s abolition of police-imposed punishment.


Professor Cohen’s work as a pioneer in the field of East Asian Legal Studies was acknowledged this year though a Lifetime Achievement Award granted by the American Association of Comparative Law, the Pacific Century Institute’s Building Bridges Award, established to honor people who have enhanced relations between Americans and Asians, and The American Lawyer magazine’s “Top 50 Innovators” award, given in recognition of Professor Cohen’s innovative work in the field of international law over the last five decades.

Expert Advice

Throughout the year, our staff was frequently called on as experts in various human rights and legal expert dialogues and as witnesses in Congressional hearings:

  • USALI Co-Director and Professor Frank Upham and Research Scholar Qiao Shitong organized a training on property rights for a delegation from China’s Ministry of Land and Resources

  • USALI organized a training for a delegation of judges from Taiwan studying the American jury system

  • Professor Cohen and I participated in the National Committee on U.S. China Relations Human Rights Dialogue

  • Maggie Lewis and I were asked to give testimony to Congress on the prospects for reforming Re-Education Through Labor

  • I was invited by the U.S. State Department to participate in the 6th annual U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue

We expect that next year will be another banner year for us.  Here are a few things we are looking forward to:

  • Shanghai Semester Abroad Program – USALI Co-Director Frank Upham has organized the first semester abroad program in Shanghai, and he and I will teach a winter session course at NYU Shanghai entitled, “An Introduction to Chinese Law”

  • Criminal Justice Reform – We will continue to focus on the new provisions of China’s amended Criminal Procedure Law regarding investigative techniques, detention and charging decisions

  • Public Interest Law Projects – We will continue work on the development of public interest law in China, especially in the areas of labor law, land rights and anti-discrimination law

  • Taiwan Rule of Law Initiative – We will continue to learn and share information about Taiwan’s transformation from martial law to democracy and the rule of law

USALI would not have been able to accomplish all that it has this year without the financial support of our friends.  We are grateful for your support. Please consider making a donation that will go toward next year’s activities. Click this link to donate to USALI's webpage.

We wish you happy holidays and a happy New Year and hope to see you at as many USALI events as you can attend in the coming year.

Warmest wishes,

Ira Belkin
Executive Director