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China has become the second-largest economy partly due to marketization and globalization. But contrary to what most had presumed and predicted, the market economy and engagement policy didn’t lead China to transform into an open society. Instead, the Chinese Communist Party has tightened its one-party rule and utilized its political-economic-technological power to establish an unprecedented high-tech totalitarian system, which has been a tremendous threat to global human rights and freedom. As the balance of power between democracies and non-democracies shifts, it will have profound consequences for the international legal order.

About the speakers:

Dr. Teng Biao is an academic lawyer who is currently Hauser Human Rights Scholar at Hunter College, and Pozen Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago. He has been a lecturer at the China University of Politics and Law (Beijing), a visiting scholar at Yale, Harvard, NYU, and the Institute for Advanced Study.

Teng’s research focuses on criminal justice, human rights, and political transition in China. Teng defended cases involving freedom of expression, religious freedom, the death penalty, Tibetans and Uyghurs. He co-founded two human rights NGOs in Beijing – the Open Constitution Initiative, and China Against the Death Penalty, in 2003 and 2010, respectively. He is one of the earliest promoters of the Rights Defense Movement in China and the manifesto Charter 08, for which Dr. Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Teng has received various international human rights awards including the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic (2007) and NED’s Democracy Award (2008). He is completing a book on the human rights movement and democratization in China.

Tom Ginsburg is the Leo Spitz Professor of International Law in the Law School and Professor in the Department of Political Science, and serves as co-chair of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights Faculty Board. Before entering law teaching, he served as a legal adviser at the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, The Hague, Netherlands, and he continues to work with numerous international development agencies and foreign governments on legal and constitutional reform. His latest book is Democracies and International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

About the Moderator:

Johanna Ransmeier is Associate Professor of History and the College. Her current research investigates legal literacy and the development of a Chinese legal imagination during times of revolutionary change. She studies the relationship between family life and the law in modern China. Her first book Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China (Harvard University Press, 2017) exposed the transactional foundations of traditional family structures and the role of human trafficking in late Qing and Republican China. She was a fellow with the National Committee on US China Relations Public Intellectuals Program and serves on the faculty board of the University of Chicago’s Pozen Family Center for Human Rights.

Sponsors: UChicago Center for East Asian Studies, UChicago Global Studies, Pozen Family Center for Human Rights