China Law Center Deputy Director Testifies before Congressional-Executive Commission
Jonathan Hecht, the deputy director of Yale Law School's China Law Center and a senior research scholar at YLS, testified in front of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China on April 11, considering the topic: "Taming the Dragon: Can Legal Reform Foster Human Rights in China?"
The commission was established by Congress to monitor human rights and the rule of law in China after the granting of permanent normal trade relations, and is constituted of representatives from both houses of Congress as well as the Administration. It is chaired by Senator Max Baucus (D--Montana) and co-chaired by Representative Doug Bereuter (R--Nebraska).
In his opening statement, Hecht told the commission, "I believe that sustained targeted support for legal reform can play a useful, indeed, crucial role in promoting human rights in China." And while he acknowledged that many changes have taken place in China in the last twenty years, he pointed out the need for more work. "We cannot depend on economic reform and trade to lead automatically to progress in human rights. It is and will continue to be a struggle."
Hecht explained how, increasingly, legal reform in China is focusing on the practical application of laws through institutions and procedures. He provided one example of this process: "In 1996, China adopted reforms to make criminal trials more open and give defense lawyers more of a chance to present a case. Those reforms have encountered many problems in implementation, the root of which is the vast powers of the police in China to detain and investigate before trial. So now reformers in China are turning their focus to the protection of human rights in the pretrial stage."
Hecht urged the government commission to consider the issues of police powers in China and to support reformers working in this area.
To read Hecht's prepared testimony, follow the link at the bottom of this page.
The China Law Center is a distinctive institution devoted exclusively to increasing understanding of China's legal system and supporting China's legal reform process. To these ends, the Center is sponsoring research, promoting academic exchanges, and undertaking a variety of cooperative projects with legal experts in China on key legal reform issues. Current projects focus on judicial reform, administrative law, and legal education.