The “Sino-German Workshop on Constitutional Interpretation” organized by the Sino-German Legal Cooperation Programme took place on 04 December 2021 from 9am to 6.30pm in the German Centre in Beijing. Twenty-two Chinese participants attended the event, among them five representatives of the Legal Affairs Commission (LAC) of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and seventeen professors from Chinese universities, some of whom took part online. On the German side, two professors on constitutional interpretation under German law took part online.
The event was divided into two sections: A Chinese section in the morning, during which Chinese experts gave presentations on constitutional interpretation in China, and a German section in the afternoon, in which both German experts gave an introduction to constitutional interpretation in Germany.
The main topics of the twelve short presentations in the morning were the relation between constitutional review and constitutional interpretation, the methods and agents of constitutional interpretation in China, and the practice of constitutional interpretation. Among the issues discussed was the significance of comparative law in this area. In the afternoon, Prof. Lübbe-Wolff, a retired judge at the German Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG), gave a presentation on the constitutional interpretative methods of that court. She explained the method of constitutional specification through legal doctrine applied by the Federal Constitutional Court, addressed fundamental issues bearing on the interpretation of laws and, using a number of examples, illustrated the way in which the interpretation of law takes place in Germany. She concluded her presentation with some insights into the working methods of the Federal Constitutional Court. Prof. Volkmann gave the second presentation of the afternoon. Following a brief introduction covering comparative law, Prof. Volkmann turned to the main topic of his talk, the fundamental rights under the German Basic Law. He elucidated the design of the fundamental rights as a dynamic overall concept that is subject to constant change. While this overall concept, he explained, proceeds from a common and immutable basis – namely, human rights – it has constantly been expanded over time, both with regard to how the function of fundamental rights has been extended, and with regard to the expansion of the catalogue of fundamental rights. To conclude, citing recent ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court, he illustrated the procedure followed in the context of expanding the catalogue of fundamental rights, and in the context of the proportionality test.
The presentations by the German experts were followed by suggestions for discussion and questions from the Chinese participants, which in the case of Prof. Lübbe-Wolff’s presentation focussed on methods of interpretations, and in the case of Prof. Volkmann’s presentation bore on the monitoring and weighing of fundamental rights. The workshop ended with concluding words of thanks from both the Chinese side and from the Legal Cooperation Programme.