On Thursday I arrived in China for a reunion with the students I taught last spring while a Fulbright scholar at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL). On Friday morning I met with Professor Wang Canfa, the CUPL professor who is director of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV). He had just received a copy of the Chinese edition of Esquire magazine that had named him one of the 30 hottest men in China. The magazine had an Annie Liebowitz-type photo of him standing next to the famous Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who directed the Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies. Ma Jun, the environmental law professor from Peking University also was one of the 30, which included Yao Ming and Jackie Chan.
After I met with the students on CUPL's International Environmental Moot Court team, Professor Wang and I went to lunch. We were joined by Professor Xu Kezhu and other members of the CLAPV staff. At lunch we discussed CLAPV's growing litigation docket and recent developments in Chinese environmental law. Professor Wang noted that there are now specialized environmental courts in at least four provinces in China. One judge from such a court has expressly recognized the right of registered NGOs to bring public interest litigation. CLAPV is involved in a wide variety of cases, many of which center on failures to comply wth environmental assessment requirements. On Monday Professor Xu will be appearing in court in Shanghai to represent CLAPV in its challenge to the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau’s (EPB’s) refusal to release certain environmental assessment documents in response to a request from CLAPV under China’s new open information law. Ironically, in May I spoke at a conference co-sponsored by the Shanghai EPB and NRDC to encourage broad use of the new law. The judge hearing CLAPV's challenge seems interested in persuading the litigants to settle, though CLAPV staff believe that the case can be a vehicle for establishing an important precedent for public access to information.
After lunch we returned to CUPL where we held an awards ceremony to honor the students who had made films in my environmental law class last spring. The awards were the result of voting by an independent panel of seven judges, including Professors Taunya Banks and Kathy Vaughns from Maryland, former Fulbrighter Alan Lepp, Maryland alums Karla Schaffer, David Mandell, and Lewis Taylor, and former student filmmaker Bob Clemons. "Golden Tree” awards were presented in eight categories. “White Pollution,” a film that examines the new law banning free distribution of plastic bags at Chinese grocery stores, won awards for Most Educational, Best Interviews, and Best Picture. “Disposable Chopsticks,” a film about the environmental consequences of using disposable chopsticks, won the award for Best Acting. “Red Beijing,” a film that examined the daily consequences of air and noise pollution in Beijing, won awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound. ”Banana’s Fault,” which focused on the consequences of improper waste disposal, won the award for Best Use of Humor. A Special Judge’s Award was given to “Loving Animals Is Loving Ourselves” for Creativity for filming from the animal’s perspective.
Following the awards ceremony, we conducted a moot court practice session for the CUPL students who have entered the Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition. CUPL is becoming the first Chinese law school ever to compete in this event. I served as a judge along with my Maryland colleague Shruti Rana, who is in Beijing to lecture as part of our exchange program with the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE), and Maryland 3L Nathan Hopkins, who is participating in the Maryland/CUFE exchange program. Considering that it was their first argument, the CUPL students did an absolutely fabulous job. They were unflappable and yet appropriately deferential to the judges who peppered them with lots of challenging questions. I am really proud of the team that CUPL has put together for this competition.
Friday night I attended a performance by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra at the National Center for the Performing Arts, the spectacular new structure near Tiananmen Square known affectionately as “the egg” because of its shape. It was the first time I had been inside this breathtaking building. I was a guest of CUPL Professor Xu Kezhu, who is leaving CLAPV this month to join her husband in Caracas, Venezuela where he is a diplomat with the Chinese Embassy.
On Saturday I flew to Shanghai where I visited my friends Dan Guttman and Zhenzhi Zhong. We had lunch and dinner together with Dan’s friend Jonathan Moreno, a bioethics professor at Penn who also works for the Center for American Progress. On Sunday I toured the Bund and then joined Dan and ZZ to explore the Taikang Lu art district before having dinner together at a Yunnan folk restaurant. On Monday I fly to Hong Kong.