Ira Belkin

Gelatt Dialogue 2018 Video Highlights

In November 2018, the U.S.-Asia Law Institute hosted our 24th Annual Timothy A. Gelatt Memorial Dialogue on the Rule of Law in East Asia. The theme to the forum was “East Asia, America & International Law'“ with noted speakers from Asia and the United States to discuss human rights, intergovernmental and territorial disputes, and international tribunals.

Experts explore implications of Philippine arbitration award at 2016 Gelatt Memorial Dialogue

On November 10, Jerome Cohen, professor of law and co-director of the US-Asia Law Institute (USALI), convened a panel of international experts for the annual Timothy A. Gelatt Memorial Dialogue on the Rule of Law in East Asia. The topic was “Implications of the Philippine Arbitration Award,” focusing on the outcome of a recent dispute between the Phillipines and China over sovereignty in the South China Sea.

The area has emerged as a major flashpoint in international relations, not only for countries in the region, but also for its potential to spark a showdown between the US and China. Cohen has written on the outcome of the Philippine arbitration and spoken on the situation in the South China sea more generally. Please click this link to access Professor Cohen's Wall Street Journal article "The Wisdom of the Hague's South China Sea decision" or click this link to listen to Professor Cohen's talk "Working Towards Peace in the South China Sea."

The first panel, “The Path to a Just and Lasting Peace in the South China Sea,” was introduced by Paul Reichler, counsel for the Philippines at the law firm Foley Hoag. He spoke about details of the arbitration and its implications. The second panel focused on exclusive economic zones, which confer the right to marine resources around a landmass. The discussion was introduced by Professor Bernard Oxman, director of the Graduate Program in Maritime Law at the University of Miami.

The Gelatt Dialogue was established in 1994 by the US-Asia Law Institute in memory of the former NYU law professor and avid Asian law scholar.

Please click this link to view Professor Cohen's biography or click this link to visit the U.S.-Asia Law Institute's website. 

Watch Video of the Panels

The Path to a Just and Lasting Peace in the South China Sea (2h, 26min)

When is an island entitled to an EEZ? (1h, 59min)



Published on December 6, 2016

2015 Year End Letter from Ira Belkin

Dear Friend,
We are writing to wish you a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year!  As we prepare to close the books on 2015, we would like to express our gratitude for your continued support and provide a snapshot of our activities over the past year.
2015 has been a momentous year here at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute!  This spring we organized workshops in China with Chinese experts and lawyers on overcoming challenges to the implementation of workplace safety laws and employment discrimination prohibitions.  We also brought the founders of the American and Taiwanese Innocence Projects to speak at the Chinese Public Security University and Beijing’s leading law schools. They discussed their experiences securing exonerations and bringing about positive reforms in their respective criminal justice systems. As always, our goal is to foster constructive international legal exchange and our events in China have continued to advance that goal.
Throughout the year, we have continued working with colleagues from China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea to learn more about international developments and share our expertise. We also continued our weekly lunch forum, which offers a unique perspective into the careers and ideas of notable figures in the field of Asian Legal studies. Among this year’s guests were Hon. Dennis Tang of the Grand Council of Justices in Taiwan; Professor Carma Hinton, a native Beijinger who came of age during the Cultural Revolution and who screened for us her renowned film, Gate of Heavenly Peace; Steve Orlins, the President of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations; and many, many more. 
We also recently convened the 21st Annual Timothy A. Gelatt Dialogue on the Rule of Law in East Asia. This year we focused on the question of Due Process for Foreign Businesses in China.  Our guests included U.S. and Chinese experts and practitioners who analyzed several of the high-profile cases, including the Anti-Monopoly case against Qualcomm and the criminal prosecution of ChinaWhys founder Peter Humphrey. Through these programs we play an effective role in helping China and other countries improve their legal systems while serving as a bridge between American and Asian legal experts.
Our founder and faculty director, Professor Jerome A. Cohen, published many editorials in leading news outlets in English and Chinese on subjects ranging from cross-strait relations to the disputes in the South and East China Seas, China’s Draft Foreign NGO Law, the Obama-Xi Summit, the situation in Hong Kong, and U.S.-China Cyber Security Perspectives. Please click this link to access Professor Cohen's 2015 editorials. Professor Cohen and I also published an op-ed for the New York Times. Please click this link to access Professor Cohen and I's op-ed on the draft for China’s foreign NGO Management Law. The Institute’s Research Scholars have also been busy publishing their work. Please click this link to access the U.S.-Asia Law Institute's website where you can find our 2015 highlights.
We have welcomed new Research Scholars Elias Blood-Patterson, Yuan (Amy) Gao, and Alvin Cheung. We are also pleased to have Professor Sida Liu of the University of Wisconsin to support our work on the legal profession in China. We have also welcomed our new Program Coordinator Alexis Agliano Sanborn and Program Assistant Jean Lee.
As we look towards 2016, we remain committed to our mission to promote constructive engagement with Asian partners to advocate for legal reform in Asia and the United States.  These goals are admittedly ambitious and 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

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.


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. 

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