Hong Kong IHL moot contest: winner sees chance to make a global contribution
Law students from Hong Kong University took top prize at the 2012 session of the Asia-Pacific regional moot court competition. One of the team, second-year student Joshua Chan, believes the study of IHL raises awareness of world issues and the problems of war victims. He hopes to become a barrister specializing in public law.
How did you become interested in IHL?
To be honest I didn’t know much about IHL before entering this competition. However, when I attended my alma mater (Li Po Chun UWC) I had the opportunity to study with students from many different countries. Some of them came from places ravaged by international conflicts, foreign occupation or internal wars. So when I found out how IHL was relevant to what my friends had been through, my interest in the subject really skyrocketed. Socrates said,"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel". And I think the great thing about the IHL moot is that by immersing us in the facts of the case and the history of international conflicts, it helps us develop that personal connection to IHL and empathy for the victims of conflicts that gives us the motivation to keep learning.
For a student looking to find his way and his career, IHL is a very interesting subject and learning about it is quite inspirational. It reminds you that the subject you are studying does have a role to play in shaping the world and the future. And I’m glad that many young people like myself are becoming more aware about the international criminal court and the many injustices that have been committed in the past and they are learning more about how they can play a part in remedying and preventing these injustices. Personally, I think activities like the IHL moot are really valuable because they accelerate these processes.
What was your motivation to participate in the IHL moot competition?
I’ve always been interested in mooting, and I’m thankful that the school thought I was competent enough to represent them in an international competition. I thought the Red Cross IHL moot seemed really interesting because I was curious about how law operates in war and how war criminals are prosecuted and so I signed up after reading some of the old problem questions.
Do you think IHL is relevant in Hong Kong?
Yes definitely. We know that, under the Basic Law, Hong Kong is not responsible for its own foreign affairs. But I think as law students, some of us might forget that the special thing about international law is the role each international entity can play in the formation of its norms. So personally, I see a lot of value in educating students in Hong Kong about international law and international humanitarian law, so that they, as future members of the Hong Kong community, can say they played their role in the development of international law and the protection of universal human rights in the world. This is especially important when there are so many opportunities for the Hong Kong and Mainland legal systems to interact and influence each other under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement. As we were continually reminded during our study of IHL – no man is an island. To me, that’s what being a university student is all about – learning how to play a role and contribute to the developing global community; in my humble opinion, this is a great way to do that.
How did you feel during the competition when presenting your case? Are you satisfied with your performance and the result?
I felt humbled by the high standard of the competition and the forceful and probing questions asked by the judges. I was given the opportunity to learn a lot about advocacy in general and the law, through my mistakes; there’s definitely so much I could improve upon and do better, but it was a great experience for sure.
How was the experience of interacting with students from other countries?
It was great. To me the fun thing about moots is the adversarial setting and the no-nonsense approach that really challenges both teams to do their best. We were up against the Australian, Chinese University and New Zealand teams which are all really good. I have so much respect for their skills and their knowledge of the law and how friendly they were in general.
Did the competition meet your expectations?
I thought the competition was really a fun, engaging and informative experience. The only thing I could suggest is for the ICRC to introduce more countries and regions into the competition in the future so more people can have the opportunity to experience this!
Do you think these experiences with the national and regional competitions might help you with your goals and plans for the future?
Yes definitely. It’s great practice in doing my own research, speaking with confidence, arguing logically, working with other people, and developing legal arguments. I’m sure all of these skills will be important in the future.