Reflection of Legal Education
in Contemporary China

by Sharon Hom

[Fall 2001]

CUNY Graduate Center

Reflecting on her over 14 years of U.S.-China legal  education exchange and legal reform work, Professor Hom, a  former Fulbright scholar in China (1986-88), delivered  informal remarks on legal education reforms, and roles of  Chinese, Chinese Americans, and Asian Americans in ongoing  civil and human rights struggles. 

To set the context for her  remarks, she cited recent events in the U.S. and in China,  including, the Memorial Day weekend opening of "Pearl  Harbor," with its dangerously racist and misleading  portrayal of "history," the outrageous treatment by  security officials at the Department of Energy, when U.S.  Congressman David Wu, arrived to deliver a keynote  speech at an Asian Heritage celebration, and the recent  detention by China of ethnic Chinese U.S. citizens and  permanent residents scholars and businessmen, with two  charged with spying. 

In the shadow of the recent survey  conducted by the Committee of 100, that reported 25% of  Americans have doubts about the loyalty of Asian Americans,  Prof. Hom pointed out the importance of ongoing civil rights  struggles for Asian Americans.  At the same time, the current detention of ethnic Chinese by  China underscores the status of being foreign/suspected  "here" in the U.S. and back "home" in China.  Professor Hom also cited the persecution of alleged ethnic  Chinese "Communists" by the U.S. government during the  McCarthy period, when they were accused of "trading with the  enemy" when they sent money home to China. A recent film, "  the Chinatown Files" (2001), by Amy Chen, has powerfully  documented this little known period of U.S. history. 

In  the audience, Prof. Betty Lee Sung echoed her agreement with  the importance of civil rights struggles by pointing out the success of the Wen Ho Lee case and the role of mobolization  and organization of legal and community organizations.

In her edited collection, Chinese Women Traversing Diaspora:  memoirs, essays, and poetry (Garland 1999) Professor Hom argued for rethinking diasporic responsibility. Beyond  models of forever looking "homeward" - sojourner models, or bridge between-countries models, she suggested a more fluid model of multiple loyalties and accountabilities of  communities that we choose and that chose us.  However, this also suggests the dangers and the need to be  vigilant not to be trapped by the geo-politics of the ups and downs of U.S-China bilateral politics in the U.S. 

Discussing her work in legal education reform in China,  Professor Hom first briefly described the three aspects of Chinese legal reform since reopening in 1978 (promulgation of formal laws, the training of lawyers, and the development  of institutions such as the courts). In her efforts to introduce critical and clinical pedagogy, she introduced  role plays, simulations, and collaborative work to her  classes of Chinese law teachers, judges, and lawyers. As  part of foundation funded initiatives, she was also active  in bringing Chinese law teachers and scholars to the U.S.  for advanced training, organized over 10 sessions of an  intensive summer training workshop in Beijing, Shanghai, and  Jilin, and organized clinical training workshops. 

In addition to her law work, Professor Hom also spoke  briefly about her work with women's groups iin China and the  need to be sensitive to the relationship between human  rights and women's rights discourse and strategies that  could open or reduce discursive or strategic space.  

An exciting talk it was. Members of the audience stayed to discuss with Prof. Hom long after the conclusion.

As part of her own trajectory of combining academic, scholarly and activist work, professor Hom will be working with Human  Rights in China, a group of Chinese students, scientists,  and democracy activists, formed after June 4, 1989. She distributed copies of HRIC's journal and mateials of current human rights campaign of the Tiananmen Mothers, demanding  accountability from the Chinese government for their missing  children. Professor Hom was also a judge for the NGO Tribunal on  Violence Against Women convened at the Fourth World  Conference on Women held in Beijing 1995. She  co-edited a Chinese-English Lexicon on Women and Law (UNESCO  1995) distributed at the Conference.






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