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One Country, Two Systems: an unfinished experiment?

ThomasHughes12 February 2016

In this lecture by the former Dean of Law of the University of Hong Kong, Professor Johannes Chan, we were taken on a whistle-stop tour of the history of the legal and political confrontations between Hong Kong and the mainland government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

By Pasu Au Yeung via Wikimedia Commons

Protesters during the Umbrella Movement. By Pasu Au Yeung via Wikimedia Commons

Most people’s recent images of Hong Kong are dominated by the “Umbrella Movement” of 2014. The mostly student protestors were pushing for the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) in mainland China to allow a free selection of candidates for the Hong Kong Chief Executive and Legislative council.

This was the culmination of increasing tensions between the two regions as they have spent the 20 years since Hong Kong was returned to China testing the boundaries of their relationship.

Since the protests, the NPCSC has been looking to exercise greater control over Hong Kong. Publishers and journalists have disappeared and academia has been interfered with. So what has gone wrong in this relationship?

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Chevron Case: Ecuador’s Defense

GuestBlogger25 November 2015

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Written by Ira Ryk-Lakhman, MPhil/PhD candidate (UCL Laws)

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Dr Martins Paparinskis (on left) with Dr Diego Garcia Carrion

On Friday, 13 November 2015, Dr Diego Garcia Carrion, the Attorney General for Ecuador came to UCL to present his book “Chevron Case: Defense of Ecuador”, and discuss the Ecuadorian position in one of the most important and controversial international dispute settlement cases at the moment – Chevron v. Ecuador. Importantly, the event was not intended to constitute a full and exhaustive legal or factual discussion of the case and the parties’ contentions, but merely a presentation of the main points of the Ecuadorian perspective.

The Ecuadorean Attorney General’s presentation was co-organised by UCL Laws and UCL Global Governance Institute and Investment Law and Policy. Dr Martins Paparinskis, convenor of International Law of Foreign Investments course at UCL Laws, chaired the event. The event was filmed by the Ecuadorian Embassy, and complimentary copies of the book were handed to the participants.

In brief, in September 2009 Chevron brought its claim against Ecuador to an investor-State arbitration tribunal under the US-Ecuador BIT. The claim primarily alleges denial of justice by Ecuador’s courts in a domestic dispute relating to environmental and social harms due to contamination resulting from oil production in Lago Agrio region (Chevron’s position on the dispute). The case is still pending, and raises hard questions about international investment arbitration, which are of considerable conceptual and practical importance. Can international investment arbitration successfully address the public elements of private disputes? What is the role of parties, non-parties, and participants in investment arbitration? Can investment arbitration resolve the interplay between different substantive and procedural regimes of domestic and international law? Is ad hoc arbitration an appropriate regime of dispute settlement for dealing with legal and factual issues of such complexity? How do States’ representatives think and act upon these issues?

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What corrupts independence and trust?

GuestBlogger21 March 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Professor Richard Moorhead (UCL Laws)

Money’s influence on knowledge and politics was at the heart of the Centre for Ethics & Law’s annual lecture, March 14.  “The Place of ‘Institutions’ in the Idea of ‘Corruption’” was given by Laurence (“Larry”) Lessig, Professor of Law and Leadership and Faculty Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University.

US Capitol, an institution that needs public trust

US Capitol, meeting place for the US Congress.

His intellectual aim was to explore notions of corruption broader than the popular conception of backhanders, and to illuminate how institutions are subject to a more subtle but potentially insidious corruption through ‘dependence corruption’: the deviation from the purpose of an institution.

Such corruption can either directly weaken the effectiveness of the institution or it can weaken the public trust in the institution.

‘Independent’ institutions cannot and should not avoid dependence altogether. Indeed, institutions have ‘a proper dependence’ (democracies should depend on the views of the people; courts on the neutral interpretation of the law).

Independence is compromised when that dependence deviates from its proper root.  Just as when a magnet is placed next to the needle of a compass, an institution is corrupted when it is steered away from its intended aim. Professor Lessig’s second point was that trust is a function of independence. (more…)

UCL Year 12 conference

newseditor29 June 2012

UCL porticoYear 12 students interested in studying the arts, humanities or the social sciences flocked to UCL for a human rights-themed conference on 19 June.

The event programme featured lectures and seminars on philosophy, law, archaeology and history, and stimulated the following selection of student responses.

Khadija Koroma
Should the UK give an official apology for its part in the slave trade? This is just one of the many questions that was discussed in the UCL year 12 conference. To most, their initial answer to the question was “yes”, but after having discussed such a controversial issue in the history seminar and lecture, many were left undecided.

This was due to the fact that today there are approximately 12–27 million slaves in the world – a figure that far outnumbers the 3.1 million Africans enslaved during the slave trade. Therefore, instead of apologising for something our generation did not play a part in, we should be trying to resolve the issue of slavery that is getting worse everyday.

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