Twenty Chinese judges from Guangzhou, China visited UMass/Boston in mid-September. David Matz conducted a workshop for them on the American uses of mediation by and in the courts. Guangzhou is adjacent to Hong Kong and is thus more influenced by, and open to, western ways.
In response to Matz’ opening question, “What do you hope to learn from this visit?” the head of the delegation said they wished to learn about “the rule of law and how mediation relates to that.” This seemingly ordinary comment was striking in its contrast with an article on the front page of the New York Times from August 19 of this year. That article reported on a memo, Document 9, that was circulating in China and that “bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Xi Jinping, China’s new top leader.” It comes out strongly against constitutional democracy and the rule of law. More, according to the Times, Guangzhou was the site earlier this year of a battle over an editorial, celebrating constitutionalism, which a government official re-wrote. The contrast between the opening comment and Document 9 was not discussed during the workshop.
The major focus of subsequent and continuous questioning was on the selection of mediators, the training of mediators, the licensing of mediators, where mediation fits within the judicial process, when an agreement can become an order of the court, the relationship of mediation to arbitration, and the difference between judges as mediators (the Chinese practice) and non-judges as mediators.
Also present at the workshop were two Chinese law school students and one phd student who are this year studying at the UMB Conflict Resolution Masters Degree program. They are all from Xiangtan Law School in Hunan Province. At the close of the workshop they described to the judges their course of study at UMB and how they plan to fit their studies here into their careers when they return home.