Projects, Phil C.W. Chan

Forgiveness as a principle of international law

This book project explores the potential of forgiveness as a guiding principle of international law. It adopts a multidisciplinary approach to examine the roles of apology, forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation in international law and in international relations, and relevant issues through case studies vis-à-vis post-war Europe, post-war Sino-Japanese relations, post-apartheid South Africa, the Northern Ireland peace process, and the treatment of indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand and Canada and at the international level. Such an inquiry has profound import for the understanding of international peace and security and of national cohesion, as well as for the development of international law, especially when there is a dearth of legal research on the subject. As the European integration project endures its obstacles, an appraisal of the project from legal, political and historical standpoints is timely for one to appreciate the values of forgiveness in interstate and intrastate affairs. The European experience furthermore may shed light on how unresolved historical conflicts, of which post-war Sino-Japanese relations represent a quintessential example, could be better contextualised and understood. Meanwhile, the South African and Northern Irish experience bring to the fore the importance of and difficulties in attaining national reconciliation among racial and religious groups, while the different treatment of indigenous peoples in three developed States and at the international level highlights forgotten peoples’ struggles with their aspirations and concerns.


EU–China human rights dialogues through trade relations

This journal article project examines the rationales and approaches underlying the negotiations between the European Union and China for a free trade agreement, and their implications for dialogues with China on matters of human rights. It explores the unique important roles of bilateral dialogues, as opposed to recourse to multilateral mechanisms such as the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations Human Rights Council, in identifying, understanding and resolving different positions held by the European Union en bloc, individual European Union Member States, and China. Such an inquiry has profound import for the European Union and its Member States as they continue to navigate its multifaceted relations with China through closer co-operation. As China’s rise to superpower capability has aroused much apprehension in the international community that it will in time set about revising existing legal and political rules of international order, it is important to see how the European Union may serve as a useful, enlightened and guiding role in understanding (1) China’s positions on trade and human rights and on their interrelationship; (2) how the European Union may and should approach its trade negotiations and dialogues on human rights; and (3) how the European Union may contribute to the potential of China adopting internationally accepted human rights and labour standards. At a fundamental level, the project examines how a European Union–China free trade agreement may contribute to or undermine the development and observance of international human rights law in China and generally, and the roles bilateral dialogues play in engaging China with international law and the international community that may augment the utility and normative values of multilateral mechanisms.


EU engagement with Asia-Pacific on human rights and democratisation

 This journal article project explores the European Union’s engagement with regional institutions in the Asia-Pacific region on the protection and development of human rights, including the institutionalisation of international human rights norms and enculturation of these norms as national values in States in the region through national human rights institutions and discourses. Focus is had on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organisation of ten States in Southeast Asia that has been developing its international legal personality, apparatuses and policies as a major regional forum on economic and, increasingly, political co-operation, and on how the European model might be capable of adoption in a region of far more diverse political, economic, social, cultural, religious and historical backgrounds than those that led to and culminated in the formation of the European Union. Once the development of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy in the contexts of the European Union and of ASEAN are properly contextualised and understood, this project examines how the two organisations have co-operated at a broader, multilateral, level as epitomised by the United Nations in the political reform of Burma/Myanmar. This study concludes with an analysis of how such engagement may continue to develop strategically in alignment with the particular characteristics of the Asia-Pacific region, its States, and their peoples.


China’s approaches to international adjudication: implications and potential for international legal order

With its rise to superpower capability, the ways in which China exercises its State sovereignty, both within its territory and on the international plane, have attracted significant concern as to how it may seek to revise or exploit existing legal and political rules of international order in order to reflect and augment its power and status. Much Western research on the relationship between China and international law posits that international law does not have the capacity to constrain or influence China’s state behaviours, or that China does not regard international law as relevant or does not comply with it. China’s impact on the development of international legal order is typically assumed to be negative; for many, China is changing international law in pernicious ways, including by impeding the development of international law and the workings of international organisations. China’s multifaceted approaches to international adjudication over its territorial and maritime disputes with neighbouring States and over trade and investment disputes – and centrally China’s attitude to the International Court of Justice – illuminate the extent to which it embraces or resists international law, including international adjudication, in delineating a State’s territory and in resolving conflicts among States, and the efficacy of international law and international dispute settlement mechanisms. This book project explores China’s approaches to international adjudication vis-à-vis the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the World Trade Organisation dispute settlement mechanism, arbitration on the basis of bilateral investment treaties, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court. At a fundamental level, the project examines the extent to which China has contributed to, or stymied, international legal order and their symbiotic relationship, as well as the legitimacy and efficacy of international judicial institutions.