Georgetown Law Asia and China Law Society Welcome Chinese Women’s Rights Advocate Li Ying

November 29, 2017

On November 17, Georgetown Law Asia and the Georgetown China Law Society hosted a talk by leading women’s rights lawyer and advocate Li Ying. Li directs the Beijing-based Yuanzhong Gender Development Center, one of China’s top women’s rights organizations.

“Our students were thrilled to have a chance to hear about Li Ying’s efforts to protect some of the most vulnerable women in Chinese society,” said James V. Feinerman, dean for Transnational Programs at Georgetown Law. “Li Ying is everything a great public interest lawyer should be: deeply versed in the law but also committed to finding new ways to make the legal system more responsive to her clients’ needs.”

Entitled “The Anti-Domestic Violence Law and Women’s Rights in China,” Li’s presentation explored China’s recently adopted Anti-Domestic Violence Law and described her own experience litigating on behalf of women in that country.

The Anti-Domestic Violence Law, which went into effect in 2016, provides the first-ever legal definition of domestic violence in Chinese law and makes clear that the state has a responsibility to take action to protect citizens from domestic violence. The law provides remedies for victims of both physical and emotional abuse, a surprise to some advocates who worried that lawmakers would cover only physical abuse, which is easier to document.

Yet Li’s analysis demonstrated that there are real shortcomings in the law. It allows women and men who believe their safety is at risk to take out protection orders against their alleged abusers, for example, yet in many cities across China, not a single protection order has been issued by local judges. According to Li, this disuse stems from a lack of understanding among some judges of the law as a whole — pointing to the need to better educate both judges and police officers on how the law can and should work in practice.

Thomas Kellogg, the executive director of Georgetown Law Asia, highlighted the importance of bringing practicing public interest lawyers like Li to Georgetown to talk about their litigation work on the front lines.

“As a leading center for the study of Asian Law in the United States, Georgetown Law Asia needs to give our students a chance to better understand how the law works in practice in countries like China,” Kellogg said. “Many of our students will be stepping into Chinese courtrooms soon after graduation. They want to sharpen their technical lawyering skills. Li Ying’s visit was a chance for them to learn from one of the best.”