Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Clemency in Foreign Lands

Last week, I got to talk about a familiar topic-- clemency-- in unfamiliar places. I gave a two-hour lecture on the topic at the University of Guangzhou, and also gave a lengthy radio interview to a station in South Korea. The two were unconnected-- the radio station didn't know I was in Asia when they contacted me, so it was just a remarkable coincidence.

You can hear the radio interview here.  Apparently, South Korea is considering introducing the mechanism of clemency into their criminal law system.  How cool is that?

The lecture in China was so fascinating to give.  Before I started, the translator came to me and pointed to a word. "What does this mean?" she asked.  She was pointing to the word "clemency."  I struggled to explain it-- the word and idea are totally alien to the Chinese system.

Starting from scratch to explain it helped me see the idea anew.  It is, in a way, rooted in the American trust in the individual conscience, which is something the Chinese see as remarkable (and perhaps foolish).  Over and over, I had to go back to that basic Constitutional ideal of the individual as a locus of power and holder of rights.  It was a good thing to have to explain; in a way I was teaching myself, too.

The best days go like that.

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