Temple’s foreign programs are wide-ranging and popular, and you don’t even know about Chinese law reform.
Temple has been running a program for almost a decade in Beijing. The Temple-Beijing Rule of Law program, housed in Tsinghua University, teaches a 15-month course on American law.
“It is the first and only program to offer a foreign law degree in China,” said Mo Zhang, the director of the program.
The conversation about starting a program began in the late 1990s. However, the idea was really planted in 1979, when Temple gave then-Chinese president Deng Xiaoping an honorary law degree.
Temple received requests to start a program in China by several universities during the 1990s but had not moved on it. When the Chinese Ministry of Justice approached the school, however, they reconsidered.
The program opened in 1998 and began with considerable success.
When it became accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Chinese Ministry of Education, the program moved to Tsinghua.
“It is called China’s MIT,” Zhang said, describing Temple’s home in Beijing as the Chinese form of the leading U.S. technology school.
Each class is not made up of traditional
university students, but judges, prosecutors, lawyers and some law professors. About 60 percent of each class of about four dozen students is employed by the government.
For Chinese judiciaries, the importance of studying American law is clear.
“China was accused of having no rule of law,” Zhang said, “[It] wants to be a part of the world family, and the world wants it to be, as well.”
In order to become a part of that family, China is trying to improve its human and civil rights record, he said. One of those improvements has been judicial independence.
The judiciary is much more active in the process of the trial, though. They can ask questions of both the defense and the prosecution, and even verify evidence. Given these differences, that China is ruled under a one-party system, and that all the judges are part of that party, justice is not always as fair as it should be.
“It’s supposed to be neutral, but in fact it is more to the government’s side,” Zhang said. “We are very eager to promote judicial independence.”
The program may be facing an uphill battle.
“China has a tradition of never taking an outside system,” Zhang said. “They will take whatever they find necessary.”
The Chinese government has allowed Zhang and the program to operate with little oversight, even though it is teaching an outside system. This may seem like a conflict of values, but it is all part of the complex play between China’s isolationist tradition, communist government, and current desire to be a player in the world scene.
“The differences between Chinese and U.S. law are getting narrower and narrower,” Zhang said.
And the agent bringing them together is Temple.
Stephen Zook can be reached at email@example.com.