On December 10, 2020, Prof. Vincent Yang, senior associate of ICCLR, delivered a speech at the “Canada-China Legal Cooperation Webinar: Is there a Path Forward,” an event organized by the Peter A. Allard School of Law of UBC and the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives of University of Victoria together with two law firms, McMillan in Canada and Zhong Lun Law Firm in China.

The three-hour webinar was attended by over 130 legal professionals and other interested individuals in Canada and China. In his opening remarks, Mr. Stephen Wortley, Executive Partner of McMillan, pointed out: “Until the arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver and the detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China in December 2018, Canada and China were continuing to improve and expand their friendly cooperation in legal and judicial matters”.

Prof. Yang was invited to give the first presentation. He gave a review of ICCLR’s China Program during 1995-2012. Those CIDA-funded rule of law projects, he indicated, were ground breaking initiatives in Canada-China relations. He acknowledged the generous contribution from various Canadian legal and justice institutions and experts. Through effective cooperation with Chinese partner institutions, he recalled, those projects succeeded in making “historically significant changes” for the promotion of human rights and the rule of law in criminal justice in China, ranging from the formation of China’s legal aid system, the creation of community corrections, the systematic introduction of international human rights standards in criminal justice, and the implementation of UN conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption. (See the attached annex of Prof. Vincent Yang’s speech points)

Prof. Huang Feng from Beijing Normal University, formerly a Director General rank official in the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Justice of China, presented his observation of China’s judicial cooperation with a focus on the application of the principles of double criminality and political offence exception. He acknowledged the importance of cooperation in combating transnational crime and called for continued cooperation in MLAT related matters.

Ms. Andrea Redway, former Director of the Office of International Initiatives of Canadian Bar Association, provided an overview of CBA’s 20 years of work of cooperation with China, especially the CBA projects to assist the development of the defense bar and legal aid in China. Both CIDA-funded projects reached thousands of Chinese legal professionals.

Prof. Gu Yongzhong from China University of Political Science and Law, who is also Vice President of the Criminal Law Committee of All China Lawyers Association, gave high remarks to the ACLA-CBA cooperation and called for the continuation of this cooperation.

Justice Michel Bastarache, former Justice of Supreme Court of Canada, talked about the CIDA-funded Canada-China Judge Training Project, which was implemented by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada through its International Programs Division. He shared his observation and indicated “that the cooperation with the Chinese judiciary was very successful, and that it should not have been set aside,” even though the lack of core funding was a major problem.

Prof. Wang Xiumei from Beijing Normal University, who was an adjunct Judge at China’s Supreme People’s Court, complimented ICCLR for the long-lasting impact of its projects of cooperation with her institutions in Beijing.  She acknowledged Canada’s assistance in securing the return of at least 40 fugitives to China, including some of those on China’s “100 most wanted persons list”. She suggested China and Canada should work together in the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption. She proposed to set up a “liaison group” of legal experts to facilitate communication and help to resolve disputes between the two countries.

Prof. Jie Cheng of UBC talked about Canadian and Chinese perspectives on the cases of Meng and the two Michaels. She believed that “there is a gap of understand” between Canada and China. “But”, she said, “the gap is not that China does not understand Canada’s judicial independence or that Canada does not know Chinese companies are targeted for political reasons. The gap is between political trials and trustworthy legal procedures.”

Dr. Liu Xiaohu, former Presiding Judge of a criminal division of the Supreme People’s Court of China and now with Beijing Normal University, questioned the US style “long-arm jurisdiction” on cases of alleged common criminal offences. He suggested that countries should set extra limitations on extradition when they give each other most-favored-nation status. Universal jurisdiction should only apply to cases of international crime, he stated.

Mr. Zhang Xiaoming, Deputy Director General of the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Justice of China, was invited to give a talk.

At the invitation of the chair of the webinar, during the Q&A time, Prof. Yang read the following statement on behalf of the Canadian panelists in this webinar:

I’m glad to report that the Canadian panelists have developed the following four themes and we would like to share them with the participants of this webinar:

1. We ​support the fundamental principles of the rule of law, including judicial independence, the right to defense and fair trials. These are fundamental principles ​inherent in Canada’s justice system and therefore an integral part of our legal cooperation ​programs.
2. ​Legal disputes between ​Canada and China should be resolved according to the law of the country, international treaties, universal standards of human rights and other common values.
3. We value the friendly relationship between Canada and China in the past. We are committed to​ continuing our effort​s to promote mutual understanding and friendship with our fellow legal professionals in China.
4. We urge the governments of Canada and China to ​continue their dialogue to resolve the current crisis in Canada-China relation​s in accordance with the rule of law.

Annex. ICCLR’s CIDA-funded China Program: Cooperation to Promote the Rule of Law in Criminal Justice (Vincent C. Yang)

To contact Prof. Vincent Yang: [email protected]

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash.

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