On April 30, 2014 Lance Liebman, former dean of Columbia University Law School, and Christian Starck, former president of the University of Gottingen, visited the Tang Prize Foundation to share their views on the future of the awards.
Professor Starck observed that human political systems have undergone multiple transformations as Communist, totalitarian and monarchic states evolve into systems of constitutional government: “Democracy, freedom, equality, voting rights, colonies moving toward independence – in terms of the significance and value of life, the influence of the rule of law is everywhere.”
Professor Liebman stated that legal systems have far-reaching implications for every aspect of human life – social, economic and political. “If a government wants to encourage investment or entrepreneurship, a fair economic system is needed. When disputes arise judgments should be fair and reasonable, not shielding or favoring those with special connections. Thus, the rule of law is intimately related to economics.” He went on to say that he hopes the Rule of Law Prize will awaken public concern for the fairness of legal systems, which in turn will be conducive to economic development.
Dr. Chern Jenn-chuan, Tang Prize Foundation CEO, enthusiastically concurred with Professor Liebman’s views. “Our founder, Dr. Samuel Yin, is a man of vision. Twenty years ago Dr. Yin entirely funded the establishment of Beijing University’s Guanghua School of Management, and in 2007 Zhejiang University’s Guanghua Law School was founded solely on his contributions. At the time legal issues were a sensitive topic in Mainland China; however, Dr. Yin advised government officials that a legal system would play a crucial role in allowing China to establish long-term business relations with the rest of the world. Dr. Yin’s suggestions met with approval and the Guanghua Law School became a reality. This was an important antecedent to the Rule of Law Prize.”
Professor Starck has deep ties with leading Taiwanese legal scholars, including Hsu Tzong-li, former president of the R.O.C. Judicial Yuan, and Lee Chien-Liang, research fellow at the Academia Sinica Institutum Jurisprudentiae, both of whom studied with Professor Starck. The professor recalled that the Republic of China was still under martial law when he first visited the nation in 1976, but since that time Taiwanese democracy has made great strides. “My former students in Taiwan are currently very influential in legal circles here. I hope that my students from Korea, China and other areas will one day exert similar influence in their own countries.
Following up on Professor Starck’s comments, Professor Liebman stressed the importance of the Rule of Law Prize. Law plays a crucial role in establishing fair and impartial democratic governments, he said. However, there is no perfect system and marked differences exist among the legal systems of various nations – for example, Eastern Europe under Communist domination, and Asian countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia all have different legal systems. The Prize won’t change people’s lives,
Professor Liebman said, “But it will awaken public concern for the importance of the rule of law. When people understand the workings of the legal system, society as a whole will advance.”
Professor Starck said that the Nobel Prize was established as a response to challenges facing humanity in the nineteenth century. Now, however, there is wide awareness of biology, genetic engineering and other highly technical fields that impact people’s lives. “The Tang Prize is crucial in meeting the challenges facing today’s world, and will become even more important in the future.”
Professor Liebman added that the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was not one of the five original Nobel awards and was not instituted until 1968, but its importance is now widely recognized in scholarly circles. Since the establishment of the prize, the number of university economics departments and research institutes has risen dramatically, economic topics are now commonly discussed and reported on in the media, and prizewinners are quoted extensively. Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry have recognized contributions to major scientific advances, in fields such as space exploration and the development of nanotechnology. Similarly, “The Rule of Law Prize will promote diversity in legal studies, and people the world over will begin to consider ways of transforming and strengthening the rule of law. Global legal systems will be upgraded and human life will be improved,” Professor Liebman said.
The Tang Prize is an international award, Professor Liebman noted, not an honor intended solely for members of Taiwan’s legal professions. The Tang Prize aims to “seek out and evaluate individuals and institutions the world over, looking for those who have spread the concept of the rule of law to particular regions or nations, thereby influencing the world for the better.”
CEO Chern noted that Professors Starck and Liebman had pinpointed the core values of the Rule of Law Prize, and that he hopes the award’s first recipient will live up to the professors’ expectations, leading humanity toward the attainment of more perfect civil societies.