Yale University President Announces China Law Center

In Beijing yesterday to celebrate Yale University’s 300th anniversary, Yale President Richard Levin formally announced the establishment of The China Law Center at Yale. “The announcement of our China Law Center reflects the special importance that Yale attaches to China and the importance of law in China’s development and modernization. On the occasion of Yale’s 300th Anniversary and my first trip to China as Yale’s President, I am proud to announce this important new Center and thereby express Yale’s energetic commitment to closer ties with China,” said President Levin.

The China Law Center has been established at Yale’s Law School. The Center has two principal missions: to increase understanding of China’s legal system and to support China’s legal reform process. The Center sponsors research, hosts Chinese visiting scholars and other legal experts, and undertakes cooperative projects with legal experts in China on key legal reform issues. In focusing on China’s legal system in this in-depth and multifaceted way, the Yale Center is unique; there is no other center like it in the world.

The China Law Center is already engaged in projects with legal scholars from major Chinese law schools and think tanks, and with government entities such as the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC-SC) and the State Council’s Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA). In these projects, U.S. scholars and other legal experts work cooperatively with Chinese experts involved in the areas of judicial reform, administrative law, regulatory reform, and legal education. “These are legal fields of the greatest importance as China continues to modernize,” said Yale Professor Paul Gewirtz, the Center’s Director. “And they are areas where reforms can greatly benefit citizens and businesses in China.”

Examples of the Yale’s Center projects include the following:

* The Center’s cooperation with the NPC-SC Legislative Affairs Commission is focusing on reforms of criminal procedure and evidence law, with the goal of advancing the fairness and effectiveness of trial procedures in China. U.S. and Chinese experts are examining jointly such important issues as presumption of innocence and burdens of proof; a right to silence during police interrogations; the treatment of illegally seized evidence; and the appearance of witnesses at trial.

* A Center project with the State Council’s Office of Legislative Affairs will focus on regulatory reform, and in particular, the reform of the administrative licensing system in China. Licensing reform seeks to reduce the number of economic and social activities requiring government permission and to increase the regularity and transparency of licensing procedures, thereby giving greater scope to the market and individual initiative. In July, the Center’s expert working group, which includes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, will participate in a joint seminar with OLA on regulatory and licensing reform. This seminar builds on a workshop held last month at Yale with Minister Yang Jingyu of the OLA, and will be complemented by research visits to Yale by OLA lawyers.

* The Center is undertaking cooperative activities with the Institute of Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as it develops policy recommendations on a variety of judicial reform issues. This fall, the Center and the Institute of Law will co-sponsor a workshop on issues related to improving the structure of the judiciary, balancing judicial independence and accountability, and reforming trial procedures.

“There are many new and important opportunities for foreign experts to work cooperatively with legal experts in China,” said Professor Gewirtz. “This cooperation can both enhance foreign understanding of China’s legal system and provide valuable support for China’s legal reforms.” President Levin added: “The potential benefits of China’s legal reforms are enormous, both to China itself and the rest of the world. Through its new China Law Center, Yale seeks to make a valuable contribution to these efforts.”

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Media Contact

Helaine Klasky: helaine.klasky@yale.edu, 203-432-1345