Jingjing Zhang Joins Environmental Program, Wins Case in Ecuador
Jingjing Zhang, a lawyer once called “the Erin Brockovich of China,” has joined the Maryland environmental faculty as a lecturer in law to direct the Environmental Law Program’s Transnational Environmental Accountability (TEA) Project. The TEA Project seeks to hold multinational companies accountable for the environmental impact of their activities in developing countries.
On July 23 Professor Zhang appeared in court in Cuenca, Ecuador to support Kañari-Kichwa indigenous communities seeking to stop a Chinese company from mining in the Cajas Nature Reserve. In a historic decision a judge in Cuenca had ordered the company to halt all mining activities because it failed to consult with indigenous communities and obtain their consent for the mining. Appearing before a court reviewing the decision, Professor Zhang argued that Chinese law requires companies to abide by both international treaties signed by China and domestic law in the countries in which they operate. Testifying through an interpreter, Professor Zhang noted that China has ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that Chinese environmental law requires the kind of prior consultation that the company failed to engage in. Professor Zhang also submitted an amicus brief written in three languages – Chinese, English and Spanish. On August 2, the court accepted Professor Zhang's argument and upheld the revocation of the mining permit. Further information about her court appearance and the case is available at https://intercontinentalcry.org/can-the-law-prevail-over-chinese-investments-in-ecuador/
Students from Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic and Global Environmental Law Seminar are working with Professor Zhang on projects to research legal remedies for environmental damage by multinational companies in the extractive industries in South America and Africa. Some of the students will be traveling with Professor Zhang to these continents in preparation for a conference the TEA Project will conduct in China next summer.