A law paper at Otago is being taught in-person under Level 2 due to discussion of “a number of sensitive issues” related to China.
LAWS485, Chinese Law, is taught by Dr Anna High in the Faculty of Law. Humanities Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Ballantyne, confirmed that “the pedagogical approach that frames LAWS 485 is designed to support open conversations for staff and all students in the course”.
“This paper is currently not being streamed online because there are a number of sensitive issues that are covered in this paper and Dr High considers these are most effectively explored through in-person discussion in the classroom,” he said.
According to an email viewed by Critic, Chinese Law is one of only four law papers with in-person lectures under Alert Level 2. The other three papers are Civil Procedure, Mediation, and Advocacy, which are based on practical skills.
“Some of the topics have been deemed sensitive by Chinese authorities (such as the Hong Kong protests),” said Jared*, a student taking Chinese Law. But he noted that “some of the topics are going to be controversial in their nature regardless of whether they relate to China (such as abortion related to the one-child policy)” and if students knew they were being recorded “they are probably going to self-censor and moderate what they say”.
“By not recording it, everyone can breathe a little easier knowing that they are not going to get in trouble about what they say or face obstacles further on in their academic life i.e. if they wanted a research visa to China,” Jared said.
“I mean it makes sense considering the relationship New Zealand has with China,” said Rangi*, another student in the paper. “But it’s a bit suss that a university in New Zealand is worried about it.”
“I'm sure the Uni has exchange partners in China and perhaps they might take these into account in assessing the longevity of the relationship,” Jared said when asked whether this was a cautious approach to take.
The University of Otago denied that they have a specific policy on material related to China. “Such material is handled the same way as any other material: academics need to assess the most effective pedagogical methods for sharing it with students and exploring the issues it raises,” said Professor Ballantyne.
*Names have been changed.