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Chongqing-based University Law Program Connects ASEAN Countries to the World

By VIVIAN YANICHONGQING|Oct 23,2021

Chongqing- To many overseas legal professionals and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) elites, improving their understandings of China’s relationship with the ASEAN is essential to help their countries better engage with the world, enhance domestic policy reform and implementation, and solve international disputes comprehensively and effectively.

Chongqing-ASEAN relations

As an important strategic point of the Western Development strategy and at the intersection of the Belt and Road and the Yangtze River Economic Belt, Chongqing stands out for its advantageous strategic position, mature logistics development, and long-term corporation with ASEAN. 

According to Dong Jianguo, Director of the Chongqing Development and Reform Commission, through taking full advantage of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), where the agreement strongly promotes cross-border operations and facilitates customs procedures, Chongqing will continue deepening economic and trade cooperation with ASEAN in the future.

Understanding this, Rio Barten Timbul Hasahatan, a West Java Candidate Judge at Subang District Court in Indonesia, decided to be a part of the ASEAN Elite Ph.D. program at the China-ASEAN Legal Research Center in the Southwest University of Political Science and Law (SWUPL) this year.

The admission interviews for the program took place via remote video in September. In addition to Hasahatan, a total of 12 applicants, including state secretaries, chief justices, government officials, and university professors from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and other ASEAN countries, were recommended for interview by legal organizations.

ASEAN elite

Director and Secretary-General of the China-ASEAN Legal Research Center, Professor Zhang Xiaojun, leads a panel of experts for the 2021 ASEAN Elite Ph.D. Program. (Photo/ China-ASEAN Legal Research Center)

“This program is like a bridge between China and the ASEAN countries, and other countries along the Belt and Road for better understanding and cooperation in the legal profession,” said Chin Malin, Secretary of State and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice in Cambodia, who attended the ASEAN Elite Ph.D. program in 2018.

Chin Malin, Secretary of State and Spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice in Cambodia. (Photo/ China-ASEAN Legal Research Center)

“Currently, there are still very few Indonesian judges who master the field of international law, either private or public law,” said Hasahatan. “So I believe the knowledge that will be obtained at the SWUPL becomes very useful for the development of law and the world of justice in Indonesia.”

Group photo of the Opening Ceremony of International Students’ Master and Doctor Program of 2018 at Southwest University of Political Science and Law. (Photo/ China-ASEAN Legal Research Center)

China-ASEAN Legal Research Center

The China-ASEAN Legal Research Center in the SWUPL, the only doctoral training program across the country for the ASEAN senior officials, has impacted the ASEAN countries and the other Southeast Asian countries.

Since 2016, the Center has implemented the ASEAN Elite Ph.D. The program, training a total of 44 Ph.D. students (including Ph.D. candidates), who were recommended by the Ministry of Justice of Cambodia, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, and the Supreme Court of Indonesia, as well as other judiciary authorities.

Thai Princess Rajasarinisiribajra as honorary consultant

In addition, the Center has established cooperation with four legal organizations, namely the ASEAN Law Association, the Ministry of Justice of Laos, the Ministry of Justice of Cambodia and the Judicial Academy of Thailand, 13 ASEAN universities, including the Thammasat University and the Vietnam National University, and 11 law firms. The Center has employed more than 200 visiting researchers from the ASEAN countries and over 30 ASEAN law experts.

“Our center is also honored to have the Princess Rajasarinisiribajra of Thailand as our honorary consultant,” said Professor Zhang Xiaojun, Director and Secretary-General of the China-ASEAN Legal Research Center. “We also hired senior officials from different ASEAN countries as members of our center’s Advisory Committee of the ASEAN Countries and 228 guest researchers from the ASEAN countries.”

“Our goal is to promote the cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries in legal research and the cultivation of legal professionals, to create mechanism innovation, legal experience sharing, and mutual learning for China-ASEAN legal exchanges and cooperation,” said Professor Zhang.

Zhang also believes that this platform encourages further cooperation with the ASEAN alumni and other productive exchanges of their countries in the future.

The ASEAN alumni, who graduated from the program, have made substantial contributions in promoting cooperation between Chinese universities and the universities from their own countries and have strengthened the international exchange among universities in countries along the Belt and Road.

Learning from China Legal Experience

The Ministry of Justice of Cambodia has written to the China-ASEAN Legal Research Center several times, hoping to help Cambodia build an Institute for Legal and Judicial Development, a commercial court, and a commercial mediation center through learning legal experience from China.

“The ASEAN Elite Ph.D. program will help contribute to the legal and judicial reform program in Cambodia, where I, as the Chief of that reform secretariat, am tasked by the government to work on the establishment of a comprehensive legal aid policy in Cambodia,” said Chin.

Chin believes that under his capacity in charge of legal and judicial reform in Cambodia, he will lead the cooperation between Cambodia and China in legal professional development through policy reform, policy implementation, and establishing a comprehensive business environment in Cambodia.    

“These reforms are still on the way, and Chinese support would be a big help,” said Chin.

Amazed by China’s achievements in economy

Meanwhile, amazed by China’s achievements as the country becoming one of the best economies globally, Hasahatan recognizes China’s rapid development and legal reform over the years.

“China could be an important partner for Indonesia to grow,” said Hasahatan. With a target of leading a better judgment of a matter in the Indonesian legal industry, Hasahatan inclines a comprehensive understanding of Chinese law and legal practices among other ASEAN countries to enhance the interaction among nations and economic growth.

According to Professor Ding Ding, Vice President of China Society of International Economics and Trade Law, she thinks the ASEAN Elite Ph.D. program will help the admitted participants to understand the rule of law in China better, enhancing their impression and recognition of the multiple cooperation between China and the ASEAN and that of the peoples from both sides.

Through the program, Professor Ding expects to better understand different legal systems and cultures between China and the ASEAN countries, with possible innovation of forms to resolve problems arising out of or relating to civil, commercial, and investment activities in the future.

(Shi Jiaqi, as an intern, also contributed to this report.)

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