Stanley Lubman: After Obama Visit, Legal Experts Dialogue Could Help Expand Citizens’ Rights in China

On the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report blog, UC Berkeley Law Professor Stanley Lubman writes about opportunities to push in China in the wake of President Obama’s visit and the subsequent agreement to continue the U.S.-China Legal Experts Dialogue:

It is not too soon to consider possible agendas for the next Dialogue. In my view, the list should include creation of a program to expand U.S. graduate study opportunities for Chinese legal scholars and officials; increased legal aid to Chinese citizens through legal aid centers at universities and NGOs; and increased cooperation on environmental issues.

Despite the sharp differences between Chinese and American points of view on many human rights issues, my own experience (working with The Asia Foundation on law reform projects) as well as that of others suggests that there can be fruitful exchanges on other legal issues. For example, a program funded by the US Department of Labor and conducted by American NGOs working with Chinese counterparts contributed to the process of drafting a Labor Contract Law that was adopted in 2008. Similarly, after foreign NGOS stimulated programs on government transparency and administrative law and procedure, the State Council promulgated Open Government Regulations in 2008, and China’s first provincial-level Administrative Procedure Regulation was adopted, in Hunan Province. Progress of this kind can only be incremental under current circumstances, but as a recent report notes, “[M]any foreign and Chinese observers note that awareness of legal rights in many areas of PRC society is growing.” (Source: Thomas Lum, “U.S.-Funded Assistance Programs in China,” Congressional Research Service 7-5700, April 24,2009, pdf available here.)

In planning and preparing for the next Legal Experts Dialogue, The State Department should involve American NGOs, law professors and practicing lawyers with experience in working on legal development programs in China.

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