The prestigious Li Buyun Law Prize, which is annually conferred by the legal community in China on a person who has made an eminent contribution to Chinese legal studies and legal education, has been awarded this year to Prof. Tom Zwart, the Director of the Cross-cultural Human Rights Centre at VU.
The prize has been endowed by the SIFL Institute, a private, non-profit institution devoted to the development of the rule of law in China through liberal reforms. The winner is selected by a panel of senior legal scholars and practitioners. Prof. Li Buyun, after whom the prize has been named, is a highly distinguished legal scholar who played a pioneering role at the end of the Cultural Revolution by calling for legal reform, in particular the introduction of human rights and the rule of law.
Zwart has been involved in research and teaching law, in particular human rights law, in China for almost two decades. He has taught numerous human rights classes to Chinese students. He campaigns for an active role to be played by China within the existing international human rights system to secure its future. Zwart has encouraged Chinese NGO’s to start organising side events at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva when Chinese reports would be on the agenda, and he has taken part in many of them. Together with Chinese colleagues he has promoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in China by highlighting the important, but hitherto unknown, role played in its drafting process by Zhang Peng Chun, the Chinese delegate.
Zwart is also involved in attempts to remove the stigma of those living with HIV and the intellectually disabled. He has set up a project to enable Chinese Muslims to fully exercise their freedom or religion and to play an active part in Chinese society. He has started a campaign to combat terrorism with the help of Islam and the Muslim community rather than through ‘de-radicalisation’. As part of the attempts made to strengthen the rule of law in China, he is assisting in indentifying ways to prevent wrongful convictions.
Previous laureates of the Li Buyung Law Prize are Prof. Randle Edwards of Columbia Law School, Prof. Gudmundur Alfredsson, former director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at Lund University, Prof. William Alford of Harvard Law School, Prof. Sarah Biddulp of Melbourne Law School and Prof. Albert Chen of Hong Kong University Law School.
The award will be presented during an online ceremony on 19 September. Zwart has donated the prize money to the Linfen Red Ribbon School in Shanxi Province, China, which offers an education and a home to children and teenagers with HIV.