Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

In 2013 and 2014, the Foundation hosted a pair of Rule of Law meetings in Hong Kong. The 2013 meeting, Legal Institutions, Trade, and Investment in China, brought together legal scholars and practitioners from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the U.S. to reassess the progress and developments in the rule of law in their respective nations and regions during the past decade. The conference was the result of collaboration between the Mansfield Foundation, New York University’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute, the University of Hong Kong, and Sun Yat-sen University. It benefitted from the generous support of the Hinrich Foundation, the Lingnan Foundation, the Better Hong Kong Foundation and the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

Legal Institutions, Trade, and Investment in China focused specifically on rule of law and the reliability of legal institutions in China as they pertain to international trade and related economic matters such as land use. A central objective of the program was to provide leading legal scholars, policymakers and practitioners with an opportunity to interact with their international counterparts and representatives of the international trade and broader business communities to better understand international best practices pertaining to rule of law and economic and trade concerns. An equally important objective was for those scholars participating in the program to reach out to broader publics in their home countries, highlighting for them the necessity of strong rule of law for sustained international trade and investment, robust economic development and sustained improvement of living standards.

The program, though based in Hong Kong, included a workshop in the dynamic international trade and export-focused region of neighboring Guangzhou. The Guangzhou workshop afforded an opportunity for participants to engage with business, academic, and government communities on the relevance and importance of strong rule of law – with particular emphasis on land use and land rights – for robust economic development.

The experiences of the Guangzhou case study inspired a partnership between the Mansfield Foundation and Hong Kong University on a December 2014 Rule of Law Myanmar Workshop. The workshop, based at Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL), selected ten legal practitioners from Myanmar for a weeklong training seminar focusing on rule of law capacity building in fast-changing Myanmar. Like the previous Hong Kong meeting, the Hong Kong-Myanmar program emphasized equipping participants with the knowledge and tools to become positive agents of rule of law development in their home country. Participants in the workshop comprised young professionals from a variety of small and large businesses and non-governmental institutions, working on rebuilding the rule of law in Myanmar. The five-day intensive workshop consisted of seminars and lectures by legal academics, lawyers, and judges, together with site visits to prominent Hong Kong rule of law institutions, including the offices of the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Equal Opportunities Commission. The 2014 workshop was made possible by the generous support of the Hinrich Foundation and Hong Kong University, with support from Chevron and Freeport MacMoRan.