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

From the Archives: Just Fifteen Books on China?

It would be a delightful summer diversion. What China-watcher wouldn’t relish an assignment to select fifteen good books to introduce general readers to contemporary China? It promised to be easy. After all, I had recently reviewed the state of the art while my wife and I were working on our last book, China Today (Harvard Magazine, February 1975, Page 31). And the assignment would be worthwhile, spurring me to catch up on a flurry of new books. I had visions of days spent reading in the hammock or on the beach, and the evenings devoted to the new parlor game of challenging fellow Sinologues to name their fifteen favorites…

Read More

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

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.

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.

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

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.