Assistant Professor





(852)  3943 1541

(852) 2994 2505

Room 536
Faculty of Law
5/F, Lee Shau Kee Building
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Sha Tin, NT, Hong Kong SAR

Professor Roberts is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Among other themes, Professor Roberts’ research focuses on the historical evolution of public order legality in nineteenth and twentieth century Britain, the British Empire and the British settler colonial world; on the imperial, transnational and international evolution of ideas of human and workers’ rights in the early to mid-twentieth century; on the historical production, limitation and potential rejuvenation of the concept of forced labor; and on comparative institutional and procedural issues at human rights bodies. He is currently working on two books. The first is tentatively titled “From Emergency to Development: Colonial Governance and Anti-Colonial Resistance in the Interwar British Empire.” The second is tentatively titled “Interwar Regimes and the Origins of Human Rights.” Professor Roberts is the Chair of the Transnational Legal History Group within the Law Faculty’s Centre for Comparative and Transnational Law.

In addition to his academic work, Professor Roberts has worked as an expert legal consultant addressing issues such as constitutional and legal reform, the rule of law and human rights with intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and mandate holders such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Fédération International pour les Droits Humains, Avocats Sans Frontières, the International Service for Human Rights, the International Refugee Assistance Project, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Transparency Maldives and others.


  • Legal History
  • Human Rights
  • British Empire
  • International Institutions
  • International Procedural Law
  • Public International Law
  • Labor Law
  • Evidence Law






  • Discretion and the Rule of Law: The Dissemination, Endurance and Significance of Vagrancy and Vagrancy-Type Laws in England, the British Empire, and the British Colonial World, Law and Humanities Seminar Series, Peking University School of Transnational Law, Shenzhen, China March 2024
  • Commentator, Book Talk: Boats in a Storm by Kalyani Ramnath, Asian Legal History Seminar Series, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong SAR, March 2024
  • Re-Covering Forced Labor, Talk at the Department of History, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India, March 2024
  • Colonialism and Human Rights (Authors Meet Readers Panel), American Society for Legal History Conference, Philadelphia, U.S.A., October 2023
  • The Historical Development of the Concept of Forced Labor and the Open Boundaries of Its Definition Today, Law and Society Association Conference, San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 2023
  • Thinking Through Evidentiary and Related Issues in the Consideration of Patterns or Practices of Violations, Evidentiary regimes of UN Treaty Bodies: Perspectives from research and practice, DISSECT, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium, May 2023
  • Slavery and Forced Labor in the Interwar Period, 2nd Asian Legal History Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, July 2022
  • Discretion and the Rule of Law: The Dissemination, Endurance and Significance of Vagrancy Laws in Britain and the Former British Empire, 1800-2020, Law and Society Association Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, July 2022
  • The Exportation, Reception and Evolution of Vagrancy Laws in Hong Kong (with Hazel W.H. Leung), 3rd Legal Histories of Empire Conference, Maynooth University, Ireland, June – July 2022
  • Panelist, Thinking about ‘the burden of proof’, DISSECT’s Talking Evidence Series, Ghent University, Belgium, May 2022
  • The Vagrancy Law Model: Combatting Social Contagion Through Law and Ideology in the Anglo-World, c. 1824-1939, Governing Through Contagion Conference, National University of Singapore Faculty of Law, Singapore, April 2022
  • Discretion and the rule of law: the dissemination, endurance and significance of vagrancy laws in England and the former British Empire, Common Law Research Seminar, Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory, Frankfurt, Germany, December 2021
  • Flexibility, Discretion and the Rule of Law: Vagrancy Laws in the British Empire, 1824- 1858, 1st Asian Legal History Conference, Hue, Vietnam, July 2021
  • The Age of Emergency, 39th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society, Auckland, New Zealand, December 2020
  • Experiments with Repression in Late Eighteenth Century Britain, 13th Max Weber June Conference: ‘Drivers and Consequences of Transformation’, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, June 2019
  • From Discretion to Law: Rights-Based Concerns and the Evolution of International Sanctions, Talk at the Faculty of Law, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey, May 2019
  • The Evolution of Repressive Legality in the Nineteenth Century British Empire, ‘State Building in Non-Democratic Societies’ Conference, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, May 2019
  • The Evolution of Repressive Legality in the Nineteenth Century British Empire, Talk at the Faculty of Law, American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt, April 2019
  • Alternative Rights Visions, Max Weber Colloquium, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, September 2018
  • The Systemic Approach to Human Rights, International Society of Public Law Conference, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong SAR, June 2018
  • The Systemic Approach to Human Rights, Institute for Global Law and Policy Conference, Harvard Law School, Boston, U.S.A., June 2018
  • National Human Rights Institutions as Democratic Supplement, International IDEA Conference on Constitutional Responses to the Crisis of Representation and Oligarchic Democracy, The Hague, Netherlands, May 2017
  • Procedural Human Rights Violations and Complementarity: The Exhaustion of Remedies Rule and the African Commission, Association of Human Rights Institutions Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, September 2014
  • Human Rights as Positive, Horizontal and Democratic: A Habermasian Approach to Human Rights Law, International Society of Public Law Conference, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, June 2014


  • JSD, NYU School of Law
  • Admitted to the New York State Bar
  • JD, NYU School of Law
  • MA, School of Oriental and African Studies
  • BA, Brown University