UC Hastings Visiting Scholar Professor Chen Taihe Fights for Human Rights and the Jury System

UC Hastings Visiting Scholar Professor Chen Taihe was a law professor at the Guilin University of Electronic Technology and a practicing attorney in China. After learning of the freedoms that the jury system helps to protect in systems outside of China, Professor Chen traveled the world to study juries, which culminated in a book promoting the Anglo-American judicial system entitled “The Most Common Right.” He shifted his teaching from courses in Chinese criminal law and constitutional to focus mainly on the American and common law legal system.

However, his efforts to educate led to his arrest and detention around July 9, 2015, as part of a mass roundup of nearly 300 lawyers and staff by the Chinese government that came to be known as the “709 Crackdown.” He was incarcerated for 42 days and later placed under surveillance and house arrest.

With the help of the nonprofit Dui Hua Foundation and former Honolulu 2nd Circuit Chief Trial Judge Shackley Raffetto, he became the first Chinese national in nearly four years to be released into exile in the U.S. on March 1, 2016. Now, safely reunited with his wife and children in San Francisco, Professor Chen will be sharing his unique experience at the East Asia Speaker Series hosted by the UC Hastings East Asian Legal Studies Program on October 5, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 304 of the 198 McAllister Street Building.

As an attorney in China, Professor Chen became an advocate for human rights after he realized that the Chinese people were not fully guaranteed justice by the Chinese courts, which does not allow a trial by jury. “The biggest difference the Chinese and the American systems is that if you file a suit against your neighbor in China, you have to develop a relationship with the judge or the judge’s supervisor in order to win the case or to get a satisfactory result.”

He began an extensive study of the American judicial system and, as a law professor at Guilin University of Electronic Technology, shifted his curriculum to focus mainly on teaching the Anglo-American legal system. “I introduced the American legal system to Chinese students. I think the American jury system is the best legal system in the world and the history of human beings. I devoted myself to introduce this system to a Chinese audience and asked the Chinese government to incorporate this system. Unfortunately, I was detained because of this.”

On July 12, 2015, Professor Chen was arrested by the Chinese Public Security Bureau for allegedly engaging in subversion. “I didn’t think that the government was going to detain me. I didn’t do anything negative to the government of China. I felt the current legal system was lacking, so I introduced the American jury system. I believed that if an individual’s case was to be heard by a jury, it would be a great thing for Chinese society. I thought I was helping China.”

He was incarcerated for 42 days, sometimes sharing facilities with death row inmates, and was released into house arrest under constant surveillance by the Chinese government. Finally, with the help of his former research colleague Judge Shackley Raffetto, and the San Francisco based Dui Hua Foundation, Professor Chen was released into exile in the United States and reunited with his family on March 1, 2016.

Once in the U.S., John Kamm, founder of the Dui Hua Foundation (which literally means “dialogue” in Chinese), introduced Professor Chen to UC Hastings Law Professor Keith Hand, and he was invited to become a Visiting Scholar at UC Hastings. Professor Keith Hand describes Professor Chen as “an accomplished scholar who has written extensively on the American jury system and has been an advocate for the adoption of a jury system in China. We are pleased to host him as a visiting scholar so he can continue his research, and we look forward to learning from his experience and perspective.”

As a Visiting Scholar at UC Hastings, Professor Chen is starting a brand new life and focusing his research on the American jury system and its use in high technology cases throughout the United States. “U.S. technology is the most developed and the best in the world and if there is a high technology patent dispute, they use a jury to make a decision. I want to investigate why high technology companies prefer to use and demand a jury trial.”

Professor Chen also hopes to promote the jury system in general. “People in America are sometimes reluctant to embrace the jury system because they feel it is burdensome. I would like my experience in China to encourage Americans to be more mindful of the privilege of having the jury system as one of their essential rights.”

Professor Chen will headline the latest edition of the East Asia Speaker Series on October 5, 2016 in a lecture entitled “The Recent Crackdown on Rights Lawyers in China: Background and Current Outlook.” Students and faculty alike will have the opportunity to listen in on Professor Chen’s remarkable story and his vivid personal experience regarding the “709 Crackdown” and other human rights issues in China.

“Hopefully, if students hear about my story they will continue my push for the American legal system in China. I encourage UC Hastings students to work hard. They can perform change if they want to.”