Eric Lai

SOAS, London

Yan-ho LAI (Eric) is a doctoral candidate in the School of Law at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. His research studies the significance of cause lawyering and civil society on the rule of law in Hong Kong under China’s authoritarianism. Lai obtained a bachelor’s degree in government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a master’s degree in political sociology in London School of Economics and Political Science under the full sponsorship of Chevening Postgraduate Scholarship.

Lai is also a veteran human rights activist in Hong Kong. In year 2011/12, he became the Convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the major social movement coalition in Hong Kong that organizes the annual 1st July rally and the anti-extradition protests since March 2019. He is now the Vice Convenor of the CHRF, the Executive Committee Member of Hong Kong Civil Hub and a member of Election Observation Project in Hong Kong. His advocacy concerns freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, academic freedom, religious freedom and electoral integrity in Hong Kong.

His doctoral dissertation addresses the question: what is the nature of the rule of law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Hong Kong) after its handover to People’s Republic of China (China) in1997? As a specific illustration of the fate of the rule of law in post-1997 Hong Kong,  the thesis addresses the question: what is the nature of the relationship between professional legal culture and the rule of law in Hong Kong under the sovereignty of China? In answering these questions the dissertation adopts a socio-legal perspective, to study beliefs and practices of domestic lawyers in individual, collective, organized and mobilizational aspects, in order to understand and theorize cause lawyering as a micro-foundation of the rule of law under hybrid and authoritarian regimes.

His dissertation aims at contributing to three strands of scholarship. First, it contributes to socio-legal scholarship by theorizing the relationship between professional legal culture and the rule of law from a bottom-up approach. Second, it contributes to the scholarship of law and politics by studying the interactions and contentions between legal profession and hybrid and authoritarian regime, and thus to explain whether lawyers can resist authoritarian practice in legal system. Third, it also enriches post-colonial studies in East Asia by offering empirical analysis of legal development in a former colony under a new sovereign, and also explores China’s political and economic impacts beyond its jurisdiction.

Apart from his doctoral research, he also studies the role of cause lawyers, civil society and Christianity in contentious politics under hybrid regime by investigating the dynamics of mobilization, strategies and tactics of protestors in the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition protest.