Cultural heritage is a binding force within all societies, while also being one of the elements that most clearly distinguish communities from each other at international, national, and local levels. The protection of cultural heritage endorses the survival of cultural identities, backgrounds, practices, and traditions in Asia, promotes cultural diversity, and functions to improve the quality of life. In addition, it is also essential for the protection of human rights and intergenerational justice. Present decisions regarding the conservation or abolishment of cultural heritage and diversity will be made on behalf of future generations without their consultation and must therefore be made with utmost care and consideration. However, cultural heritage is significantly under threat in wide parts of Asia, as the continent not only features many significant cultures, but it is also the most rapidly developing region, placing countless heritage sites, intangible assets, and landscapes at risk of vanishing when for example political interests collide, funds and expertise are lacking, or developers’ interests are given priority over local stakeholders. While there has been a strong push towards the strengthening of cultural heritage protection law, policy, and related authorities throughout Asia in recent decades, most of the relevant regulations do not provide for an adequate level of public participation and recognition of rights in related decision-making. The authority to identify, manage, protect, or even discard heritage continues to belong primarily to the states. However, as heritage can be a very individual concept, conserving heritage through broad participation of relevant stakeholders and ensuring their ability to challenge relevant decisions by the authorities in court are important aspects of that process. The same applies to matters of enforcement and compliance. The seminar will highlight several international treaties and national laws and discuss relevant case studies from several Asian countries, including China, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Japan.
About the Speaker:
Dr Stefan Gruber is a Hakubi Researcher of Kyoto University and an Adjunct Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Sciences of Waseda University in Tokyo. Previously, he was an associate professor at Kyoto University and taught at the Faculty of Law of the University of Sydney. He further held visiting positions inter alia at Goethe University Frankfurt, the University of Hong Kong, the University of Ottawa, and Renmin Law School of China in Beijing. Recent overseas teaching engagements include courses by Duke University, Seoul National University, and Wuhan University. Stefan is further active as a consultant, legal practitioner, and member of the World Commission on Environmental Law. He was educated at the Universities of Sydney, Frankfurt, Mainz, and at Harvard Law School, and holds degrees in law, philosophy, and political science.
Stefan’s regional focus is on East and Southeast Asia and particularly China. His current research concentrates on the protection of cultural heritage, sustainable development and environmental protection, international law and politics, and compliance, ethics, and human rights. Another major focus is on the illicit trafficking of cultural property, forgery, and other forms of art crime, their prevention and prosecution, and the restitution of illegally exported objects.
The Law Society of Hong Kong has awarded this seminar 1 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) point.