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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal

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PBLJ focuses on a diverse range of legal and policy issues as they affect the rapidly developing economies of the Pacific Rim. Throughout its history, the journal has featured articles written by leading scholars and practitioners on topics including human rights law, constitutional law, comparative law, criminal law, international trade law, business and corporate law, and intellectual property law.

Volume 36, Issue 1, 2019

UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal


The Currency Exchanger: Taiwanese Public Interest Lawyers in the 21st Century

The rights discourse has become a common and powerful currency in the public sphere. Public interest lawyers, who reason in law and facilitate the movements of legal rights, are the currency exchanger that converts power and political momentum, symbolic and formal, between different public entities. This paper adopts a relational framework to understand the presence of public interest lawyers in Taiwan and the complexity of their involvement in promoting, defending, or mobilizing for public good. I systematically analyze the bidirectional relationships that lawyers develop with government (both the administration and the parliament), political party, civil society (including NGOs and the general public), and the court. By examining two types of operation, lawyers in organizations and lawyers in mobilizations, I use the development offour NGOs and four social movements in Taiwan—gender, environment, labor, and China watch—to argue that the expertise of exchange leads to the prevalent role that public interest lawyers are able to play in the twenty-first century.

Social Organization of Rights: From Rhetoric to Reality

Public interest litigation (PIL) is a form of socio-legal activism. PIL originated in the United States, and spread, through the aggressive promotion of U.S.-centric rule of law, to China, where it has had a significant impact on socio-legal activism since the 1990s. This Article explores both the process through which human rights discourse is translated into practice by activist lawyers and human rights defenders, as well as the circumstances that cause socio-legal mobilization to fail or succeed. This Article examines the collective and sustained endeavour by human rights lawyers and other activists to advocate for the rights of specific communities through a rights complex, composed of activist lawyers, NGO leaders, and citizen journalists, as well as supporters within state institutions, Chinese society, and the international community. This Article looks at the institutionalized manner through which legal cases facilitate socio-legal mobilization to serve the broader objectives of educating citizens, enhancing the capacity of civil society, and making the government more accountable and responsive. The principal argument is that once citizens are endowed with legal rights and institutions are put in place for their implementation, the remaining issue is raising rights-awareness among rights-bearing citizens and generate demand for rights in society and channel those rights to institutions. Lawyers and other rights defenders play an indispensable bridging function in translating rhetoric to practice.

"One-Stop" Dispute Resolution on the Belt and Road: Toward an International Commercial Court With Chinese Characteristics

On July 1, 2018, China’s Supreme People’s Court published the “Provisions on Several Issues regarding the Establishment of International Commercial Courts.” The Provisions followed on the heels of a January announcement from the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms alluding to plans to establish a dispute settlement mechanism dedicated to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The Provisions confirmed that what the press had swiftly branded the “Belt and Road Court” (BRC) will comprise three international commercial courts. Regardless of analysts’ discipline or affiliation, the response to the initial proposal, and now to the framework laid out in the Provisions, has been predictably binary, reflecting a longstanding division in interpretations of China’s commercial dispute resolution policies.

One branch, call it the sociological school, explains China’s policies with reference to the country’s history and culture. It contends that a direct line may be drawn from the Chinese people’s traditional aversion to litigation to their government’s preference for informal and private mechanisms for dispute resolution. With reference to the BRC, the causal narrative this school presents is one of continuity, contending that to understand the BRC, the basic explanatory trajectory must proceed from China outward to the international arena. An alternative branch, call it the political-economy school, argues that China’s policies toward international commercial dispute resolution respond to the same goals and imperatives as any other state. China’s policies are viewed as a self-interested response to factors such as commercial flows, security considerations, and development goals. Insofar as such matters are subject to constant flux, China’s dispute resolution policies are understood to be commensurately fluid. Here, the basic explanatory trajectory proceeds from the international arena inward into China.

As with all binaries, there is a middle way—an approach that interprets China’s commercial dispute resolution policies generally, and the newly established BRC in particular, as a product of continuity as well as change, influenced as much by internal dynamics as external imperatives. This Article adopts this middle way in order to identify and assess the principal tensions that have confronted, and will continue to challenge, the designers of what will amount to an international commercial court with Chinese characteristics.