Impressions from First Week Interning with IBJ in China
During my first week interning for IBJ at its Beijing office, I had the opportunity to participate in several Advisement of Rights events.
IBJ staff, interns, and local partners travelled to various schools in Beijing, where we distributed books and made presentations to students about China’s legal system and the legal rights and responsibilities of juveniles. The events were held right before June 1, Children’s Day in China, and were meant to increase the students’ awareness of their legal rights so that they may be better equipped to protect themselves against potential infringements of their rights.
I was surprised by the differences in the students’ levels of awareness about the law at the different schools. The students at one well-equipped elementary school already knew a lot about the law, while students at another elementary school for migrant workers’ children knew little. At the first school, the event was held in a spacious auditorium and the students participated enthusiastically in the interactive portions of the presentations. At the second school, there was no auditorium and the session was held outdoors in the midst of oppressive heat and a sudden sandstorm; the students were understandably restless and inattentive.
As I watched and interacted with the students at the school for migrant children in particular, I felt the importance of continuing and expanding IBJ’s work. Promoting awareness with our partners about legal rights, particularly among the most vulnerable, may help to break the cycle of marginalization – the majority of those accused of crimes are poor, little educated, and largely ignorant of their rights and their lack of knowledge about their rights contributes to their further victimization.
Back at the office where I worked on reports about the Advisement of Rights events, I was impressed by the workplace culture and by my colleagues. The work environment at IBJ is open, relaxed, and conducive to dialogue and innovative thinking. My international and Chinese colleagues consistently work across cultural and language barriers to try to come up with the most effective ways to help strengthen China’s criminal justice system. In listening to and participating in these conversations, I am continually inspired by the diversity of experiences and the depth of dedication of the people I’ve met at IBJ.
Although I am starting to become aware of the particular constraints inherent in working in an international NGO dedicated to improving legal rights in China, I am very happy to have this opportunity to contribute to what I believe is a uniquely innovative organization that is helping to make meaningful changes to improve China’s rule of law.