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Bernstein Symposium April 12-13—“Defending Rights Through Law in China”

The annual Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellowship Symposium will be held Thursday, April 12, through Friday, April 13, at Yale Law School. The symposium is titled “Defending Rights Through Law in China:  Progress and Challenges.” It is free and open to the public. 

The symposium will examine the nature of reform through law currently possible in China.  It will focus on the tension between progress and cooptation, bringing together members of the community of “rights defenders”—lawyers and social activists challenging particular legal violations explicitly to promote systemic political change—and the skeptics of a law-based strategy of reform for China. 

The program begins Thursday evening with the two current Bernstein Fellows discussing their work. It continues Friday morning with a conversation among NYU Law Professor Jerome Cohen, Yale History Professor Jonathan Spence and UC Berkeley Journalism School Dean Orville H. Schell, III. Panel discussions Friday afternoon will look at “Strategies for Using Law and Reforming Law to Protect Rights in China” and “Critical Perspectives on the Impact of Legal Advocacy and Reform Strategies.” The symposium concludes at 5:30 p.m. Friday with a reception and introduction of the 2007-2008 Bernstein Fellows--Nick Robinson ’06 and Katherine Southwick ’05. 

Robinson will spend his fellowship year in India working with the Human Rights Law Network to develop resources and implement a strategy for addressing the right to water. Through interviews and other research methods, he will write a report that will examine the most critical issues that threaten the right to water in India.  Southwick will spend her fellowship year investigating and publicizing cases of statelessness around the world. Working with Refugees International, she will research the causes and consequences of statelessness in several countries and work with local partners to develop, advocate for and implement legal remedies.

Among the panelists are Li Fan, Director of the World-China Institute in Beijing; Xu Zhiyong, Director of the Open Constitution Initiative and Lecturer at Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications; Zhou Dan, Executive Director of Yu Dan in Shanghai; Nicholas Bequelin, China Researcher at Human Rights Watch; and Titi Liu, Program Officer at the Ford Foundation.

The symposium is sponsored by the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights and The China Law Center at Yale Law School.

The Robert L. Bernstein Fellowships in International Human Rights were established in 1997 to honor Robert Bernstein, the founding chair of Human Rights Watch and former chair, president and CEO of Random House. The fellowships enable two Yale Law School graduates to devote a year to full-time human rights work. Former Bernstein Fellows have worked on projects promoting and protecting human rights in such diverse locations as Argentina, Benin, Eritrea, Israel, India, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Thailand and Tibet.

AGENDA:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

6:00 p.m.  
Faculty Lounge
Discussion with Current Bernstein Fellows
The two current Bernstein Fellows will talk about their work. Ethel Higonnet ’05 is working with Human Rights Watch in and around the Ivory Coast documenting sexual violence in the current civil war. Jeremy Robbins ’06 is working with the Center for Legal and Social Studies and the Association for Civil Rights in Argentina to develop and enlarge legal resources for prisoners seeking to challenge human rights violations in prisons.

Friday, April 13, 2007

11:00 a.m. 
Room 120
Jerome Cohen and Jonathan Spence in Conversation with Orville H. Schell, III

Jerome Cohen, Professor, New York University Law School, and Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Jonathan Spence, Sterling Professor of History, Yale University
Orville H. Schell, III, Dean, Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley

1:15 p.m. 
Room 127
Strategies for Using Law and Reforming Law to Protect Rights in China
This panel will examine the ways in which people are trying to use law in China to protect individual rights. When and where have these strategies succeeded? Why have some efforts been more successful than others? What obstacles constrain the potential for defending rights through legal processes and legal reform? How should success be measured?

Li Fan, Director, World-China Institute, Beijing, China
Xu Zhiyong, Director, Open Constitution Initiative, and Lecturer, Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications
Zhou Dan, Executive Director, Yu Dan, Shanghai, China
Moderator:  Paul Gewirtz, Potter Stewart Professor of Constitutional Law and Director, The China Law Center, Yale Law School

3:15 p.m. 
Room 127  
Critical Perspectives on the Impact of Legal Advocacy and Reform Strategies
This panel will critically assess the potential of legal action and reform to bring about the fundamental change necessary to make China a rights-respecting society. To what extent are efforts to use and reform the law prone to cooptation by those committed to the political status quo? How might the use and development of law in China be a source of stability or instability? In light of these assessments, how should human rights advocates outside China respond to these law-based efforts to protect rights?

Nicholas Bequelin, China Researcher, Human Rights Watch
Fu Hualing, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong
Titi Liu, Program Officer, Ford Foundation
Moderator:  Jeffrey Prescott, Bernstein Fellow and Associate Director and Senior Research Scholar, The China Law Center, Yale Law School

5:30 p.m. 
Alumni Reading Room
Reception and Introduction of 2007-2008 Robert L. Bernstein Fellows--Nick Robinson ’06 and Katherine Southwick ’05.