The Yale Law School’s China Law Center has often brought in prominent speakers to discuss legal reforms and other pressing issues in China. But Wednesday, the group brought in one of its most prominent speakers to date — Clark Randt, Jr. ’68, the American ambassador to China.
During his two-hour talk, Randt touched upon some of China’s most controversial and important issues, from its human rights policies to prospects for constitutional reform in China’s legal system. Law school professor Paul Gewirtz, who heads the China Law Center, said Randt’s “unyielding resolution” to American interests and sympathetic understanding of China’s problems make him an expert on several Chinese issues.
Randt began his talk by addressing the Chinese government’s policy of detaining migrant workers who travel to Beijing for better working conditions. The much-criticized policy allows the government to hold these workers in custody and eventually send them back to their hometowns. Randt said Chinese police even charge these workers a fee for the “privilege” of detention, without explaining to them the reason for the arrest.
But on June 18, the People’s National Congress abolished the law, which had been in existence since 1982. Randt said this was a victory for progressive Chinese scholars and exemplified political change in China.
Randt went on to speak about the Chinese constitution and how it fails to reflect the political reality of the country. He said while the constitution guarantees citizens the rights to free speech and expression, this is not really the case in China, whose politics are largely influenced by the Communist Party.
But Randt expressed some optimism, saying he thinks there exists the possibility of constitutional reform as a new generation of Chinese scholars and lawyers push for change in the legal system.
In addition, Randt talked about China’s entry into the World Trade Organization and deemed it an important development because the WTO’s rules and regulations would force China to change or abolish many of its own laws. The WTO, Randt said, provides a framework in which legal reform discussions can take place.
In response to a question on what China can do about North Korea, Randt said the Chinese have been very helpful in talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear program, which violated a nuclear nonproliferation arms treaty. He said although North Korea’s tactic has been to “divide, confuse and splinter” America and its allies, China must remain involved.
“[Being involved] is in China’s interest,” Randt said.
Another audience member asked about Article 23 in Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which is a controversial anti-subversion security bill that drew half a million Hong Kong protesters to the streets last month. Randt said this has made skeptics believe that China may try to sell the “One Country, Two Systems” policy in Hong Kong to Taiwan, which has been trying to establish sovereignty.
“The Chinese leadership talks about Hong Kong–but thinks about Taiwan,” Randt said.
But, Randt said, Taiwan and the United States are still watching skeptically.
Randt ended the talk by highlighting that the American government is working with China on issues of human rights and religious freedom.