The Environmental Law Clinic of Wuhan University (ELCWU) has had a very successful first year of operation. We thank all the supporters of the Clinic, namely the leaders of Wuhan University and the Law School, members of the Research Institute of Environmental Law, the members of our International Advisory Board, government officials, directors and lawyers from the law firms and our partner non-government organizations. In particular, we are thankful for the generous financial and moral support of UN Environment and Dewell and Partners Law Firm. Finally, we thank the Director and Deputy Director of the Clinic and our first two environmental law clinicians, and of course our first intake of environmental law clinic students for their enthusiasm and hard work.
This is the first report Advisory Board. It first sets out the steps taken to establish Environmental Law Clinic of Wuhan University (ELCWU) within the Research Institute Environmental Law (RIEL). It then summarizes the Clinic’s activities and projects.
I. Establishment of the Clinic
The Environmental Law Clinic was established under the auspices of RIEL and with the approval of Wuhan University in 2018. The program operates with the support of Wuhan University, Wuhan University Law School, relevant government departments, judicial departments at all levels, law firms, and environmental NGOs, as well as the environmental law clinics of other universities in China and around the world. The Clinic attracted significant start-up funding from UN Environment and from a private law firm in Wuhan. Since the establishment of the Clinic in Wuhan University, many initiatives have taken place. These include:
1. Establishing the organizational framework and an office of ELCWU which serves as a window for potential environmental public interest cases;
2. The appointment of the Advisory Board; Conduct of an International Workshop on Clinical Environmental Law Education;
3. Conduct of a Workshop on Environmental Rule of Law Promotion Action and establishing the Central China Environmental NGO Network and the Central China Regional Centre for the Promotion of the Environmental Rule of Law;
4. Development of an academic curriculum for clinical legal education, for the Environmental Law Clinic course. The course consists of two parts: classroom work and practical “hands-on” experience. Clinic teachers preside over the classroom. Environmental law clinicians are responsible for practical training, for example working with clinic students on prospective cases and policy initiatives, participating in fieldwork trips, and conducting casework seminars;
5. ELCWU delegation visit to the US law school clinics; and
The visit of overseas professors to assist in training staff and giving lectures for clinic students.
II. Summary of activities of the Clinic from March 2018 to February 2019
1. The Small-Scale Funding Agreement between the UN Environment and the Research Institute of Environmental law was signed by both parties in mid-February 2018.
2. The Clinic was established in early March 2018 by decision of the Director of RIEL, with the concurrence of the Vice President of Wuhan University and the Dean of the Law School.
3. Associate Professor Li Guangbing was appointed as Director of the Clinic. Associate Professor Wu Zhiliang was appointed as Deputy Director of the Clinic. Both professors are permanent staff of RIEL.
4. The Administrator of the Clinic is Dr Hu Bin, who is Deputy Director of RIEL and a member of its permanent staff.
5. The Administrative Assistant of the Clinic for the first session was Ms Lan Ying.
6. A total of 20 students were interviewed to take part in the Clinic programme. Fourteen students（5 undergraduate and 9 graduate） were selected in March 2018 as the first student intake.
7. Computers, a printer, office furniture, and other equipment were purchased for the Clinic over the course of the year.
8. The ELCWU office within the Legal Aid Center of Wuhan University began operation on April 9. Offices within the Law School are also used for Clinic work.
9. Professor Jack Tuholske of Vermont Law School, an experienced environmental litigator, visited on 19 April 2018. In addition to meeting with Clinic staff and students, he gave a lecture on the Assessment by Courts of Scientific Evidence in Environmental Cases.
10. An Environmental Law Telephone Advice Service was commenced.
11. A total of 14 undergraduate and postgraduate students worked in the clinic office on a regular basis during semester (except for summer holidays).
12. A clinic brochure was prepared by clinic students for distribution to the public.
13. The clinic-associated staff Professor Qin Tianbao, Associate Professor Li Guangbing, Associate Professor Wu Zhiliang and Dr. Hu Bin attended a workshop on environmental public interest litigation at Kunsan-Duke University on 21 April 2018.
14. The first meeting of the International Advisory Board of the clinic was held on the morning of Friday, 18 May 2018.
15. The first-ever Chinese Environmental Law Education Clinic Conference took place on the afternoon of Friday, 18 May 2018 and on the morning of Saturday May 19.
16. During the Conference, a donation agreement was signed between RIEL and Dewell and Partners Law Firm in Hubei province for a total of RMB300,000 (approximately US$45,000), to be paid in three installments from May 2018 to February 2019. The donation is to support the ongoing activities of the clinic at the discretion of the Institute and the Clinic Directors.
17. Mr Matthew Baird, Barrister, of Sydney, and an Associate Researcher with Vermont Law School, who is an expert in the environmental law of several Asian countries visited, gave talks and assisted with the development of the Clinic, from 18 to 24 May.
18. On the Saturday afternoon of May 19 and Sunday 20 May, a meeting was held to establish the Central China Environmental Non-Government Organization Network. This meeting was attended by 17 NGOs primarily from the central China region. This NGO network is intended to interact with our Clinic in order to generate and assist in environmental law cases, projects and policy work.
19. In mid-May 2018, two lawyer clinicians, Ms Wang Xinxin and Ms Yu Wei Xiaozi were contracted by RIEL to work with the Clinic Director and Deputy Director and the clinic students. The clinicians are supported by funds made available by Vermont Law School, RIEL and from the law firm donation mentioned above.
20. A meeting was held with Mr Wang Xinhua, Director of the Legal Department of the Hubei Province Environment Protection Bureau (EPB) on May 22, 2018 to discuss a range of initiatives, including involvement of clinic students in World Environment Day activities, student internships, training of EPB officers, etc.
21. The Hubei Province Environment Protection Bureau celebrated World Environment Day on June 5 and invited all clinic students to participate. The students distributed Environmental Law Clinic brochures and talked with many people attending the event about public interest environmental law.
22. All clinic students participated in the Government Environmental Information Disclosure case in Gushi County, Henan Province from 20 July to 20 September 2018. Students drafted applications for disclosing relevant government’s investigation information on the pollution in Gushi County. The government has replied accordingly with all documents on the case.
23. Lawyer clinician Ms Yu Wei Xiaozi participated in the annual Chinese clinical education conference in Changchun, for all types of university legal education clinics in August 2018.
24. The project on Reporting of Public Interest Litigation Cases, in collaboration with Friends of Nature, Beijing, concluded in October 2018. The students collected legal documents by the courts and NGOs on public interest litigation cases, analyzed these cases and drafted the initial report.
25. Four Clinic-associated staffs visited five Environmental Law Clinics in the United States from 23 September to 2 October 2018.
26. The Environmental Law Clinic course began in September 2018 (first semester). Associate Professor Wu Zhiliang gave lectures on introduction on environmental torts and special lectures on environmental public interest litigation. Students studied and discussed a wide range of foreign cases.
27. A comprehensive Moot Court on the ‘Abandoned wind and solar power’ case was conducted within the course.
28. In November 2018, after the “Abandoned Wind Case” moot court, the clinic lawyers Wang Xinxin and Weiwei Xiaozi and clinic students went to Beijing to participate in the “Climate Change and Low Carbon Development Seminar” organized by Friends of Nature. It is hoped that students will have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the actual agent of the “Abandoned wind and solar power” case, and understand a series of policy mechanisms behind the case.
29. From September to December 2018, clinic students set up a discussion group on ‘green finance’ cases under the guidance of clinic lawyers. They shared real case information and case progress with clinic students. Among them, four students participated in the case and drafted the detailed research report.
30. Clinic lawyer Yu Wei Xiaozi and three students participated in the fieldwork trip in Xiangyang county in Hubei Province and Nanyang county in Henan Province on 26, 27 and 28 November. They participated in video drone shooting to assist in collecting evidence in three environmental public interest litigation cases, including the green finance case. A lecture on environmental law in practice was given by an environmental lawyer from Hubei Longzhong Law Firm during this trip.
31. Clinic Lawyer Wang Xinxin，Yu Wei Xiaozi, and one student participated in the Green Finance Sub-forum of the Ecological Co-government Conference held in Fuzhou, Fujian Province and attended the case seminar in Fuzhou city on 1 and 2 December.
32. Professor Kevin B. Jones of Vermont Law School’s Energy Law Programme and Director of its Energy Clinic visited Wuhan University on 10 and 11 December 2018. He gave two lectures: one was on Introduction to Environmental and Energy Law and the other is US Policy for Powering the Green Economy. He then shared their extensive clinic education experience with our Clinic staff and students, provoking discussions on: how the clinic building relationship with clients: what are the requirements for students to join the Clinic; how to conduct a comprehensive and objective assessment for students at the end of the project etc.
33. A ‘Lead in Paint Model Law’ project commenced in the Clinic in November 2018. This is part of a broader global initiative discussed with the University of Maryland Clinic Director and a representative of the United States Environment Protection Agency during the US clinic visit mentioned above.
34. Two students were arranged to audit the court hearing for the second-instance of Changzhou ‘Poisoned land’ case on 19 December 2018 in the Higher People’s Court of Jiangsu Province.