Universiteit Leiden

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Amnesty International gives masterclass to Leiden students

The annual Amnesty International Masterclass on China took place recently in Leiden. The masterclass, which looked at China’s impact on human rights, was given online to students of Law and Chinese.

Whereas last year’s masterclass was taught to a full room of students who were studying Chinese, this year’s was virtual. That offered some new opportunities! The group could be expanded to include students from Leiden Law School who have followed courses on human rights. Professor and Vice-Dean of Leiden Law School Ton Liefaard opened the masterclass and welcomed the students. Professor Rick Lawson was the second host from Leiden Law School.

Dr Stijn Deklerk, Amnesty’s permanent spokesperson on China and human rights, gave an interesting masterclass on the global impact of China’s perspective on human rights. He introduced important issues from Chinese history, discussing the opening of China at the end of the 1970s and how China’s perspective on human rights has developed. China’s economic power has increased its influence worldwide. It conducts a bilateral South-South lobby to secure support for its standpoints in the UN and other multilateral institutions.

The masterclass also addressed the recent history of Hong Kong and the national security law. This law was enacted in June 2020 and applies to everyone, not only people with Chinese or Hong Kong nationality. It is used to stop the activities of politically motivated activists in mainland China. The maximum penalty is life in prison. There are many developments going on in Hong Kong: the political system is changing. Beijing is set on changing the legal system in Hong Kong. Teachers are required to show themselves to be patriotic, says Amnesty. 

Many different questions were asked in the Q&A session. The discussion was moderated by the chair of China Studies, Anne Sytske Keijser, the third host of the masterclass.

Given the great interest among students, Leiden University and Amnesty International are looking forward to a new masterclass on China in 2022.

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