Teaching at PKU Law School

Between 23 and 31 March 2016 Anselmo Reyes was a Visiting Professor at Peking University Law School (PULS).  The visit was part of a regular exchange between the HKU’s Law Faculty and PULS whereby every year a professor from one institution teaches at the other.  While at PULS Professor Reyes delivered a series of 6 lectures on “The Common Law of Contract, with Emphasis on Hong Kong Contract Law”.  Given the time constraint, the course of lectures could only provide an introduction to the law of contract. But Professor Reyes endeavoured to cover in 12 hours of lectures the essence of the common law of contract (normally covered in 40 hours in HKU’s LLB course), while making comparisons from time to time with the civil law of obligations (especially as practised in the Mainland).

About 20 students attended Professor Reyes’ lectures.  The students came from all walks of life.  Some were already practising lawyers.  Others were first or second year law students at PULS.  In addition, there were a few international students from PULS’ LLM course, including students from Russia, Kyrgystan, the Philippines and Hong Kong. One of the students had previously been Professor Reyes’ judicial marshall at the High Court of Hong Kong and it was a great pleasure meeting him again in Beijing.  A number of the PULS students will themselves be visiting Hong Kong in the coming months to take up internships in the High Court or law offices or to pursue a course of study (such as City University’s LLM in Arbitration) at education institutions here.

We asked Professor Reyes to respond to five specific questions:

  1. Why do you think a global legal education is important?

It would be strange if, at the very moment when our world is becoming global increasingly global in nature, education (especially tertiary education) should remain parochial or domestic in its purview.  in order to prepare students to deal with the global world of the future, a university must ensure that they are exposed to circumstances (ideas, cultures, viewpoints) beyond the confines of the country or state in which the university is situated.  that means encouraging students and scholars to go abroad and see the world, as well as welcoming students and scholars from abroad to visit and learn more about a given country or state.  Global legal education should not, however, be looked upon as mere tourism and sightseeing.  it is trying to learn the best from other countries and cultures and trying to share the best of our own country and culture abroad.  hopefully, this will improve the quality of life everywhere for everyone, both at home and abroad.

  1. How can visiting scholars from abroad play a role in building a global legal education for a university?

Visiting scholars can do at least 3 things.  First, they can share and articulate their particular perspective on an issue or matter, based on their experience in their home jurisdiction and abroad.  Second, they can deepen their understanding of the perspectives on a particular issue or matter of the country or state which they are visiting. Third, they can reflect on their home-grown perspectives and the perspectives to which they have become exposed abroad in order to achieve some synthesis on the issue or matter in question.  In what ways should there be change in respect of viewpoints on the relevant issue?  In what ways should things remain the same?  Finally, in what ways should scholars from different jurisdictions agree to differ? These are the sorts of questions visiting scholars should be asking themselves and each other. It is an ongoing dialogue aimed at improving the way in which we live in our interconnected global village.

  1. Have you or your faculty members come across any practical problems in building a global legal education at your home university? If so, how did you or they resolve the issue(s)?

There is a reluctance to venture beyond the tried and tested or the conventional. For example, I hope that more of our law students The University of Hong Kong will take the opportunity to come to the mainland to study the civil law as exchange students.  Unfortunately, our students tend to be narrowly pragmatic.  The vast majority opt to go as exchange students to more familiar common law jurisdictions.  The result is that there is less interaction than there should be between the civil law practised in mainland china and the common law practised in Hong Kong.  This is a pity since the two systems of law can learn much from each other. there is also much misunderstanding among law students in the two systems.  Exchange programmes such as the one under which I have come to teach for a short period at Peking university law school can (I hope) lead to each legal system learning more about each other.

  1. How would you address the challenges of establishing a partnership between a common law and civil law university (as compared to a partnership between both common law or civil law universities given the similarities of legal framework)?

I would suggest that there be more regular exchanges at all levels — programmes whereby students, professors, scholars, lawyers, government officers and judges from both systems visit a different legal system to attend courses, workshops, and other sharing opportunities.  We are all busy.  I would therefore suggest that these programmes be relatively short in duration — two or three weeks at a time.

  1. What ideas or innovations would you suggest in order to further and enrich the long term partnership formed between the law communities of HKU and PKU?

I would suggest a regular moot series between Peking university and The University of Hong Kong — the competition would involve a criminal and civil law question dealt with in civil and common law style.  Students from each university would argue the moot in both civil and common law style in order to get a better feel for both.


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