Earlier this month, Professor Ronald Allen was awarded the 2014 China Friendship Award. Ron recently returned from the award ceremony in Beijing, where he and his fellow award recipients were well and justly celebrated—they met with the Prime Minister and Vice-Prime Minister, and they were invited by the President to attend a state dinner celebrating the 65th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Ron was also the guest of honor at a publication party for his book, Professor Allen on Evidence.
While he was in Beijing he also met with members of the Supreme People’s Court to discuss the ongoing efforts to develop a modern universal evidence code for the People’s Republic of China.
Ron is the Chair of the Foreign Board of Advisors of the Evidence Law and Forensic Sciences Institute at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. He is also the sole non-Chinese advisor to the National Research Project on the Law of Evidence, an initiative conducted at the behest of the Supreme People’s Court as part of the effort to reform that country’s evidentiary rules. Ron has been working with the Chinese on this for nearly fifteen years. In January, he will return to China for a working session with the committee—on which, interestingly, a number of Ron’s former students also serve—to comment on the current draft of the reform document.
In November, Ron will host an important conference here at Northwestern Law, “The Foundations of the Law of Evidence and their Implications for Developing Countries,” at which legal scholars and prominent law reformers from around the world—notably from China and Tanzania—will discuss the process by which developing countries adapt, adopt, and evolve their legal systems. Based solely on the list of participating scholars, I am confident that the discussions will have real and meaningful effects worldwide.
Thanks to Ron for his many contributions to Northwestern Law, and to the larger world.
Our esteemed colleague, Professor Ronald Allen, is a 2014 recipient of the China Friendship Award, the highest award the People’s Republic of China gives to honor non-Chinese nationals for “outstanding contribution[s] to China’s economic and social progress.” The award will be granted September 29 and 30, 2014, at a ceremony in Beijing.
Established in 1991 to recognize the importance of international exchange and cooperation, it is a fitting honor for Ron, who has been actively participating in China’s efforts to reform their evidentiary laws for the last fifteen years or so.
The Fall 2014 issue of the Northwestern Law Reporter—at the printer today, copies available late next week—includes a lengthy article about Ron’s work reforming evidence laws around the world. Here is an excerpt:
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, many of the country’s lawyers and intellectuals were killed, and the legal system was gutted. After Communist Party leader Mao Zedong died in 1976, successor Deng Xiopeng struggled in his push for economic growth, in part, Allen said, because “The economy can’t function without a legal system. At that point, you’re just bartering.”
So in the 1980s, Chinese scholars began traveling overseas to learn law and economics, an effort that ultimately led to Chicago when members of the reformist vanguard determined that evidentiary reform was a smart starting point and that Allen could help them learn the field.
The underlying legal principles [of China’s evidence code] are Germanic in origin and they were adopted by the leaders of Republic of China after the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1912. The legal system was declawed but not replaced after the mid-century Communist revolution, so the same foundation remains in place. That system doesn’t feature American-style adversarial proceedings and thus doesn’t decentralize the evidentiary process. “My students are grafting an Anglo-American conception of the law of evidence onto a Germanic system, and the Germans would say you can’t do it,” Allen said. “The Chinese are saying, ‘Yes, we can.’ And so it’s kind of a fun and interesting exercise.”
Some of Allen’s students drafted a code of evidence that has been adopted by several Chinese judicial districts. Meanwhile, several other districts have adopted alternative evidentiary codes, and last year the nation’s highest court started a research program to investigate more formal legal reform. Allen is an advisor to the 30-person committee, which includes many of his former students.
This year’s Friendship Award complements an earlier honor: in 2007, Ron was designated a Yangtze River Scholar by China’s Ministry of Education. This was in recognition of his work with the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, to “reform the legal system of the People’s Republic of China.”
Please join me in congratulating Ron on this richly deserved honor!