The Leitner Center, and before it the Crowley Program in International Human Rights, long have had a substantial interest in the promotion of fundamental rights and the rule of law in East Asia. Most members of the Center have a special interest in particular regions and sets of issues despite being generalist. For East Asia, that role is filled by Martin Flaherty, a founding Co-Director of the Center who has taught at China University of Politics and Law in Beijing and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul.
Asia Law and Justice Center
Since 2007, the Leitner Center has housed the Asia Law and Justice Center. This new initiative complements existing centers on: International Security and Humanitarian Law, International Law and the Constitution, and Sustainable Development. The mission of the ALJC is to study, promote, and provide opportunities for students interested in the rule of law and adherence to basic human rights in China, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines. ALJC aims to do this through: direct advocacy projects; conferences, symposia, and panels; capacity-building initiatives, such as exchanges of lawyers, judges, and scholars; and partnerships with NGOs based both in the US and Asia. Since 2008, the work of ALJC has been supported by a full-time Fellow who works with Professor Flaherty and the rest of the Leitner Center to further the Center’s goals. Immediate projects involve supporting criminal defense lawyers in China and the legal status of North Korean refugees in East Asia.
The Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers, housed at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School in New York City, is comprised of lawyers outside China who support lawyers in China in their quest to develop the rule of law-a quest to which the Chinese Government itself has said it is committed. The committee’s mission is to (1) develop information about the situation of lawyers in China and track cases of individual lawyers who are the subjects of persecution or intimidation because of the clients or causes they represent; (2) advocate or coordinate advocacy on behalf of threatened or abused lawyers where there is reason to believe that such advocacy would be helpful; (3) support capacity building and exchange between Chinese lawyers and lawyers outside China; and (4) educate lawyers and the public around the world about these matters. For more information, visit: http://www.csclawyers.org
North Korean Refugee Project
The Asia Law and Justice Center at the Leitner Center is currently working with a law firm in New York City on a North Korean refugee research project and hopes to produce and disseminate a white paper on the findings. The white paper will: a) give a brief overview of the problem of China returning or refouling North Korean refugees; b) provide a clear analysis of China’s international law obligations relevant to the practice, China’s justifications, and counterarguments; and c) if possible, an analysis of Chinese constitutional, statutory and administrative law relevant to the practice, especially with an eye to seeing whether refoulement may run counter to any Chinese legal standards. The Leitner Center will develop an advocacy strategy to disseminate the study to relevant parties, including the State Department, Congress, other NGOs, and representatives of China and North Korea.
In 2007, the Leitner Center established a new Master of Laws in International Law and Justice. This program enrolls students from Asia, Africa, and Latin America in particular in the hope that they eventually will return to their home countries to undertake human rights work or do human rights work related to their home countries. The first two students in the program are women from China, Yanfei Ran and Ying Dai. Ms. Ran was a criminal defense lawyer before she came to New York to study. Ms. Dai is a recent graduate in law of China University of Politics and Law. For more information about current LLM students, please visit here.
The Crowley Program has undertaken two missions to East Asia. In 1999, the Program traveled to Hong Kong to assess judicial independence and the protection of human rights generally in the wake of the handover of the city to Chinese sovereignty. The mission led to a landmark report, One Country, Two Legal Systems? that is still cited today. The Program’s other East Asian mission was to Malaysia in 2002, to investigate the administration of security laws, particularly against Muslim political parties, in the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11 in the United States. This project led to another widely citied report, Unjust Order: Malaysia’s Internal Security Act. In addition, Crowley co-founding Director and then-Crowley Fellow Rob Quinn undertook an informal fact-finding trip to Burma in 1999. Crowley Fellow Nicole Fritz went on a similar, follow-up mission in 2002 under the auspices of the Open Society Institute. In each instance, the Crowley Program staff was able to meet with leaders of Aung San Suu Chee’s National League for Democracy Party.
Initiatives with Other Institutions
The Leitner Center and Crowley Program have had longstanding ties to various organizations promoting human rights in Asia, including: Human Rights in China; the New York City Bar; the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor; SUARAM in Malaysia; the Open Society Institute; the University of Hong Kong; and Sungkyngkwan University. Currently, the Asia Law and Justice Center houses, along with the Vance Center at the New York City Bar the Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers. This Committee, founded by Professor Jerry Cohen of NYU, Robert Bernstein, former CEO of Random House and founder of Human Rights Watch, and Professor Flaherty, seeks to defend Chinese lawyers who face persecution and work for legal reform in China to promote meaningful criminal defense representation. In the fall of 2007, the Leitner Center teamed with Fordham Law’s Stein Center to host a day-long symposium and strategy meeting for leading Chinese human rights advocates to assess how best to promote human rights in China after the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Leitner Center has regularly put on programs concerning human rights in East Asia, ranging from Brown Bag lunches to the American premiere of award-winning films. A selected list includes:
“China Blue,” with Human Rights in China, the premiere of a film about labor conditions in a blue jeans plant in Shenzhen, China.
Human Rights and Labor in China, a two-day conference in conjunction with Human Rights in China
“The Human Rights Crisis in North Korea,” a panel discussion including former Congressperson Stephen J. Solarz.
Maureen Aung-Thwin, Open Socitety Institute’s Burma Project
Xu Wenli, Chinese human rights advocate and exile
Suraiya It, Chair, International Forum for Aceh
Christoper Jun Chen, Human Rights in China
Ko-Tung Yung, Former General Counsel, World Bank