Rural Rights, Retreats, and Presentations

This blog has been somewhat delayed due to a very busy two weeks and a lack of internet access. In three weeks my internship ends, so right now most of my deadlines are approaching. Additionally, the center has invited various colleges and organizations from China and America to come give presentations. There's so much left to do, and I wish I had more time here, but I somehow doubt William and Mary will push back its start date just on my behalf. Despite my time crunch, I will endeavor to post weekly for my last three weeks. Below is a recap of the last two "postless" weeks. I am sorry for the delay.

First, the Rural Property Rights project has evolved into essentially a comparison and explanation of property systems in general. As we researched various countries, trying to find distinctions between transaction and expropriation law governing rural and urban areas, we discovered that in most countries there is no real distinction. The law functioned the same way, with maybe an additional agency overseeing agricultural restrictions. The team I am working with met with the vice director to explain our findings. However, because many other countries' property systems work rather differently from China, the vice director could not really conceptualize our results without understanding the entire property system that produced them. In China, the government owns the land so transactions and expropriations and title registry all function differently. Additionally, she wanted different models with which she could work to create a possible model to promote for China. Thus, we had to begin again from scratch. This time, we continued to work with the United States, we selected Germany as an example of the European Union, and we started researching Iran and India. Iran, because the government there also owns the land. India, because it is also heavily agricultural. In addition to explaining 8 different aspects of property law, we need to explain the government structure of each country. This time, I have been researching and composing part of the memo, answering the transaction and expropriation law process and details for all four countries. Today, I am almost done. I just need to review case law for what is "public purpose" and what is "just compensation" for the United States. This task might take two days, then I will help my teammates finish answering their questions. By the end of the week we hope to complete and synthesize our findings into one memo. But it is very likely that we will meet again with the vice director and be given new direction before this task is done.

In addition to working on this project, two weekends ago the entire Zhicheng Public Interest Center went to China's north east on a retreat. We had one brief meeting where everyone introduced themselves, and where the director discussed everyone's responsibility in helping to implement the center's new online help-line. After that, we explored. We were on the ocean, very beautiful and refreshingly cool compared to a recently hot and humid Beijing. In ocean towns, seafood is the only meat available. We also ate a lot of bread. The food was good but salty, and by the end of the weekend I was ready to return to Beijing. While there we took boat rides, visited an island with a small mountain upon which temples were built, explored an ancient city spanning back to the Ming Dynasty and now containing a roaming Minnie Mouse, and went to Kareoke. I enjoyed getting better acquainted with my coworkers. The region is beautiful, but less wealthy than Beijing. For instance, the hotel had no internet, electricity for only five hours a day, and hot water for only two hours a day. This was true of most of the city. I suspect that fishing was the main means of employment there. It was a 6 hour bus ride back on a Sunday. Additionally, the retreat was organized so that we could do and see as much as possible given the time available. So every day we went from 6am until 12am. By the time we returned to Beijing, everyone was exhausted.

Lastly, there have been a string of presentations at the center. We just had one today. Law Students from Whittier college (U.S.) came to the center and we gave a presentation on the center's work and answered their questions about our internship experiences. This meeting was very important to the center. One of Zhicheng Public Interest Group's strategies is to forge relationships with international colleges and organizations, to increase the center's international and thus domestic legitimacy. Additionally, last week I attended two other meetings. One meeting was presented by the center's lawyers to the rest of the staff. The presentation discussed disease related injuries steming from poor working conditions. The second meeting the interns presented information about American law, American public interest careers, and American law school to Chinese law students from a variety of law schools. I presented the American law school experience. Essentially, I discussed William and Mary Law School, and took questions from the students. When answering their questions--mainly about exams, finances, moot court, clinics, and professor-student relations--I would explain the answer for William and Mary and then ask the other interns to give their opinion based on their law school. It was an interesting discussion. After I finished my presentation, the chinese law students presented on law school in China. In a lot of ways, the Chinese and American law school experience are rather different--they learn a civil law system instead of common law. For instance, in China, if you fail an exam you can retake it. Professor's lecture and do not cold call or ask for class participation. Students have very few electives. Also, last year only 30% of students that took the Chinese bar passed. Additionally, their clinical programs are more of an advice service than legal representation, but law students manage the service essentially on their own without faculty assistance. But, law students do have similar student organizations, have mock trials (on a more informal scale), and experience some of the same concerns American law students feel--that there needs to be more opportunities for practical experience. At the end of the presentation, many of the students I spoke with were interested in studying for an LLM in America.

I have found my research of comparative law and my experience learning about the difference between the educational and legal experiences in China and America fascinating. I realize I still have three weeks, but this internship feels like it has passed too quickly. This is a little early, but I am truly grateful for the opportunity I was given to intern here.