The Promise of Constitutionalism: Supporting Democracy and Human Rights in Emerging Democracies in Asia

February 15, 2017
03:00 pm - 04:30 pm


Scholars in both the West and Asia have lamented liberalism’s global retreat in the face of populist views that see liberal constitutionalism, with its built-in constraints, as “undemocratic.” Many Asian constitutions do feature strong liberal elements, but governments supporting illiberal values often fail to deliver on democratic promises. Developments in the Philippines, Thailand, and Myanmar illustrate these failings, as do Hong Kong and Tibet in the context of autonomy. These constitutional crises have affected democratic progress and have led to deep discontent, sometimes manifesting itself in the form of mass protests and widespread social opposition movements. The nature of these crises has implications for both local organizations and international democracy assistance initiatives. In his presentation, Professor Michael C. Davis argued that an explicit effort to promote core constitutional values is vital to sustaining democracy and human rights in the Asia region. His presentation highlighted the long list of human rights violations evident across the region and offered recommendations for promoting liberal democracy and constitutional governance. The presentation was followed by comments by Jack A. Goldstone and Donald L. Horowitz.


Professor Michael C. Davis , Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

with comments by

Jack A. Goldstone, George Mason University

Don Horowitz, Duke University

moderated by

Sally Blair, International Forum for Democratic Studies

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
3:00 p.m.
4:30 p.m.


Michael C. Davis, a professor in the Law Faculty at the University of Hong Kong until late 2016, remains a senior fellow in the university’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law. He was previously a professor and director of the Graduate Program in Law and Public Affairs at Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has held the Distinguished Visiting Professorship at India’s Jindal Global University, the J. Landis Martin Visiting Chair in Human Rights at Northwestern University, and the Robert and Marion Short Visiting Chair at Notre Dame University, as well as the Schell Senior Fellowship at Yale Law School. His books include Constitutional Confrontation in Hong Kong (1990), Human Rights and Chinese Values (1995), and International Intervention in the Post-Cold War World (2004). His articles have appeared in leading scholarly journals in law and politics. As a public intellectual he has contributed commentary to such newspapers as the New York Times and the South China Morning Post, for which he won the 2015 Human Rights Press Award for commentary awarded by Amnesty International and the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club. During his fellowship, Professor Davis is working on a book relating resistance movements to constitutionalism for emerging democracies in Asia. 

Jack A. Goldstone is a Virginia E. and John T. Hazel, Jr. Professor of Public Policy and Eminent Scholar in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Donald L. Horowitz is the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science Emeritus at Duke University.

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