Introduction to HKU Law Series (VIII) Dr Jiahui Duan

In our conversation with Dr. Duan, she highlighted several factors that led her to join HKU Law. She was drawn to the university as a key bridge between Eastern and Western scholarly circles, allowing her to maintain a global perspective. As a researcher focusing on Chinese gender and employment issues, the university also offers her the right proximity to China. Notably, HKU Law’s transformation into a leading hub of social and legal research in Asia was a significant attraction. The presence of influential experts in the field of law and society allows Dr. Duan to learn from them and engage in meaningful discussions.

Dr. Duan obtained her LLB degree from Shandong University and pursued her Master’s and Doctoral degrees at UC Berkeley. She has been guided by an exceptional team of advisors, who are leading experts in anti-discrimination, feminist jurisprudence theory, and employment rights. Reflecting on her years at Berkeley, Dr. Duan believes it was not just about completing a thesis or earning a degree, but rather undergoing a profoundly enriching training experience.

Dr. Duan shared that her experience at HKU has been highly positive, appreciating the support from amicable colleagues, engaged students, and an impeccably efficient administration system. The campus, with its captivating blend of cultures, has provided her with everything she could have wished for. Initially filled with curiosity and some fear, she now finds herself gradually savoring the experience. Dr. Duan believes that, in the not too distant future, a sense of belonging might settle in, akin to finding a home.

Dr. Duan is impressed by the remarkable maturity of students at HKU Law. They stand out among their peers, possessing a combination of sharp intellect, agility, and dedication to self-improvement. Most of these students exhibit a strong sense of planning for the future. They know exactly what their next steps will be and are ready to execute their plans. This level of preparedness and ambition has left an indelible mark on Dr. Duan.

Dr. Duan believes that there is no magic formula for the LLM application. Her advice is not to procrastinate and to begin preparations well in advance. Regarding the graduate school experience, she describes it as “blink and you miss it.” If she had the chance to go back, she would develop a more comprehensive game plan early on to foster personal improvement in a more streamlined and effective manner.

Dr. Duan’s research focuses on legal consciousness theory, feminist jurisprudence, and the dynamics of power and resistance. Her primary interest lies in examining the intricate interplay between gender frameworks and organizational structures, particularly how they interact, diverge, and converge to shape law in reality. A central issue that has captured her attention is sexual harassment. Driven by a strong sense of empathy, Dr. Duan connects deeply with the struggles of women and worker communities. She hopes to make a small impact in sparking change. On an academic level, she finds the field offers a rich blend of legal and sociological theories that stimulate her intellect.

As a scholar, Dr. Duan experiences fulfillment at certain moments. One such moment is when she shares the findings from her work with previous participants or those she knows in real life who have experienced similar issues. Another source of excitement for Dr. Duan is when her work gains recognition from esteemed scholars she has long admired. Yet research also comes with great challenges, and for Dr. Duan, the biggest challenge is navigating fieldwork complexities and gathering data, which requires collaboration from various actors and institutions. Convincing them to support research without immediate returns can be difficult. One experience with an NGO made her consider how academic research can better integrate with practical institutions and benefit both.

Dr. Duan also envisages the future of her research field. She is generally optimistic given the shift in gender perspective and legal consciousness in China and East Asian societies. She sees progress being embraced and younger scholars actively participating in this wave. However, gender issues are often marginalized in law schools worldwide, which might lead to limited resource allocation and research space, potentially hindering the aspirations of younger scholars.

After publishing two articles in 2023, Dr. Duan anticipates sharing another paper later this year that explores the intricate dynamics of the Chinese workplace. In this paper, she examines the logic and motivations of victims within organizations, discussing their choices to trigger internal dispute resolution processes or abstain from doing so and the challenges they face while navigating these paths.

For an academic proposal, Dr. Duan notes the importance of many elements, including the subject, research methodologies, schedule, and theoretical framework. She prefers to start with a theoretical framework, as it shapes assumptions, helps determine methodologies, and influences future research directions. An in-depth literature review is also essential to show how the research fits into the current landscape, bridges gaps, and addresses unresolved issues.

Dr. Duan views independent research as a way to explore issues with freedom. She believes that successful collaborative research should be based on a foundation of independent research or demonstrated autonomy. Before engaging in collaboration, one should evaluate the interpersonal dynamics to ensure comfort and satisfaction, as well as the tangible benefits that collaboration can provide, such as knowledge, insights, and technical skill sets. Only if these criteria are met will the collaboration be beneficial and productive.

Regarding the publication process, Dr. Duan offers a few tips: improve your writing skills and manage your expectations. Publication is not the sole determinant of one’s academic standing. Elements such as luck, the popularity of the research field, the global context, and even editors’ personal preferences contribute. Embrace the journey of constant progress, fine-tuning, and exploration, and eventually, your work will find its rightful place.

Dr. Duan favors empirical research methods like fieldwork interviews and participant observation studies. These methods help uncover society’s intricacies and provide a deeper understanding of the real world, adding emotional resonance to written work that theoretical research cannot achieve alone.

In her free time, Dr. Duan turns to exercise as a means of stress relief and has adopted a more adventurous lifestyle. She enjoys squash and swimming for their calorie-burning, goal-oriented nature and the focus they provide on the present moment. These independent activities also offer flexibility and accessibility.

Dr. Duan appreciates Robert Frost’s poetry, which explores life’s unpredictability and self-awareness. She finds his themes of chaos, the unknown, and introspection fascinating, as well as the idea that embracing the unknown reinforces self-awareness amidst life’s uncertainties.

Concluding the interview, Dr. Duan shares her favorite movies. Her top choices are Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” for its compelling narrative and top-notch craftsmanship, David Fincher’s “Fight Club” for its thought-provoking insights on identity-seeking in modern society, and the German film “The Lives of Others,” which she recommends for a deeply moving and enriching experience.





談到法學碩士申請時,段博士表示其實並沒有什麼神奇的秘訣。她的建議是不要拖延,要提前做好充分的準備。研究生生涯 「轉瞬即逝」。如果能夠重來,她會儘早制定更為全面的規劃,以更簡潔、更高效的方式推動自身的成長與進步。










段博士對羅伯特·弗羅斯特(Robert Frost)的詩歌情有獨鍾。他的作品探討了生活的不確定性和自我意識。其中關於混沌、未知和內省的主題,以及在生活變數中擁抱未知能增強自我認知的觀點,都深深地吸引了段博士。

採訪即將結束時,段博士向我們推薦了她最喜歡的三部電影:克里斯托弗·諾蘭(Christopher Nolan)執導的《星際穿越》(Interstellar);大衛·芬奇(David Fincher)執導的《搏擊俱樂部》(Fight Club);以及德國電影《竊聽風暴》(The Lives of Others)。

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