Lww Students Fight For Human Rights In Hong KongContact: Thomspon, Ryan
New York — A 13-member delegation from Fordham’s School of Law travelled to Hong Kong in June to assess the status of human rights issues there since 1997 when Great Britain turned the country over to the People's Republic of China.
"It was an unparalleled opportunity,'' said law student Roger Hurley. "We had fantastic access, and we spoke with all the important players in the field."
The delegation — which travelled under the auspices of the Law School's Crowley Program in International Human Rights — included eight law students, law professors Tracy Higgins and Martin Flaherty, Crowley Fellow Robert Quinn, and two representatives from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Also on the trip was U.S. District Judge Leonard Sand, who had visited Hong Kong with the bar association in 1995 to examine the colony's legal system before it was handed back to China.
The mission was the culmination of a year of study in human rights by second-year law students. In the fall 1998 semester, the team learned about international human rights. Then, they individually studied problems faced by a Chinese city that retained the post-colonial legal system of Hong Kong. Hurley focused on democratic rights under the new political system. Law student Nadine Moustafa looked into gender discrimination and the rights of migrant workers. Another student, Elizabeth Crotty, studied labor issues in Hong Kong, where there is no right to collective bargaining.
Armed with the knowledge their studies provided, the students met with labor leaders, migrant workers, politicians, lawyers and judges in Hong Kong to learn more about the way citizens are treated. Upon their return, the team began work on a report on Hong Kong human rights that will be completed this fall.
"Our trip wasn't about human rights abuses like torture or kidnapping," Crotty said. "It was about setting up a democratic system and making sure things are in place."
The Crowley Program in International Human Rights teaches students human rights lawyering and was founded in 1997 to honor the late Law School Professor Joseph R. Crowley. Its first participants studied Turkish law, history and culture, then traveled to Turkey, where they put their studies into practice as court observers and human rights fact finders.
This fall, Luke McGrath, a 1996 Law School graduate, will become the program's resident fellow, as he is taking a one-year sabbatical from the Manhattan District Attorney's office, where he prosecuted domestic violence crimes. Under his direction, the Crowley program this year will focus on human rights issues in Mexico, a nation that has undergone tremendous political and economic change in the past decade. For McGrath, it will be a year to look beyond individual crimes, focus on systemic problems and prepare for next June's mission to Mexico, he said.
"No matter how hard you work as a prosecutor, you are still part of a problem, not a solution to a problem,'' he said. "I want to show law students that lawyers can be advocates for a system that solves some of these failings."
Fordham University School of Law was founded in 1905, and has over 13,000 alumni practicing in all 50 states and throughout the world. Under Dean John D. Feerick’s leadership since 1982, Fordham Law School has secured a place as a national leader in public interest law, legal ethics and human rights law.
Founded in 1841, Fordham is New York City's Jesuit University. It has residential campuses in the north Bronx and Manhattan, and academic centers in Tarrytown and Armonk, NY.