Local knowledge for students of Chinese law

A group of 20 Flinders University students enrolled in the Legal Studies topic Introduction to China’s Laws and Legal System will be studying on location – they will travel to Shanghai in January to undertake the course as a two-week intensive.

As well as attending a course of lectures at the East China University of Politics and Law, the students will visit a local firm of lawyers and a legal aid office, and attend a Chinese court in session.

The Head of Legal Studies at Flinders, Professor Francis Regan [pictured], who is leading the tour, said the visit combines the highest quality of academic experience with a rare chance to see Chinese law “in action”.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to be taught offshore by experts about a country’s legal system,” Professor Regan said.

The lectures, given in English by Chinese academics, will introduce the students to the Chinese constitution and the country’s codes of civil and criminal law as well as the workings of the legal profession and the judiciary.

Professor Regan has visited China on several occasions to further his research into overseas systems of legal aid and he has made numerous contacts in Shanghai and Beijing.

“This visit illustrates the value of the connection between research and teaching,” he said.

“The students won’t just be hearing about the law in the books – they’ll be seeing the law in action and will be able to apply what they’ve learned in the lectures.”

“The legal aid office in central Shanghai the students will visit is one where I already have good connections; it’s a vibrant and innovative office that deals in very interesting cases and problems of law.”

Professor Regan said Shanghai’s legal system is well funded in comparative terms, and has features not often seen elsewhere in the country, such youth courts. And for a Chinese city, there is a high ratio of lawyers to residents.

“My research has found that there are around 7,000 lawyers in a population of about 20 million, which may not sound like much, but is much better than most other parts of China,” he said.

Professor Regan said the intensive course avoids many of the obstacles posed by longer-term offshore study, which include disruption of routines and high living expenses, as well as practical problems such as finding accommodation and language difficulties. Flinders University bursaries will defray some of the costs of the trip.

“The students are being taken to China as a group and being looked after by experienced people. It’s a very practical model of offshore study,” Professor Regan said.

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