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CESL Alumni Interview: Han Xiaolei

Han Xiaolei, CESL graduate of 2013, is now working in the Department of Treaty and Law, at the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

1.Could you please give a brief introduction about your work?

I am now working in the Department of Treaty and Law in the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. My work mostly pertains to international law including negotiation processes and giving specialist advisory opinions. In the beginning when I was working in the Environmental Office of the Department of Treaty and Law, my work was mostly concerned with multilateral treaties regarding environmental issues and I participated in the negotiation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Currently I am working in Hong Kong, so my work involves dealing with legal affairs such as bilateral or multilateral treaties relating to the Hong Kong government and drafting papers required in treaty negotiations.

I enjoy my work because it not only allows me to participate in drafting legal rules at an international level but also because at a national level I can make contributions to my country by means of offering advisory opinions in negotiations.

Photos of those prominent in the development of international law hang in the conference room, of whom all were members of the Treaty Committee, the committee in place before the establishment of the Department of Treaty and Law. Working here has made me aware of how dedicated and hard-working many people had to be in order to protect our national interests.

I have traveled a lot as a result of my work and seen both developed and developing countries. I also have met government leaders, politicians and other society elites, and participated in important foreign affairs activities, all of which have helped me to broaden my horizons. Working in the Office often means being dispatched to other places. I find it interesting to work in different regions and countries even though as a result of this I have to be far away from my family and friends.

2.What kinds of skills, do you think, should be improved in CESL, apart from English? Could you share your experience in CESL with us?

Being proficient in both English and international law is the most important. English is basically a world language, quite comparable with the concept of international law. So it is crucial to have a good mastery of both in order to communicate, to express opinions, and to write.

CESL is better than simply studying abroad because it provides students with a legal education, including the study of international law, from both China and from other countries

When I was in CESL, I preferred the American and EU legal systems over the Chinese one. I believed the former to be more advanced. However, in a European Human Rights exam, I analysed the problems and applied European human rights concepts to developing countries and I got a very low grade. That made me realise I could not blindly believe American and European legal systems were more advanced. We should be objective and neutral when comparing Chinese law with American and European law. In this way can we understand the true meaning of the law.

In the field of international law, developing countries have always been fighting so hard to speak and gain more rights. However, how can they do that by just learning the law? Wen Jiabao, our former Prime Minister, expressed his hope that we in CESL can become legal students competent in both Chinese and Western law. It is not easy to do that but it is right not to blindly regard everything America and Europe do as the best.

3.Is there any good habit that you developed in CESL and still keep in work?

Yes. We were required to read a lot of original documents in CESL. And I find that important because it is better to trace the source to the original document when working.

I was in English major in undergraduate years and I like listening to and speaking English, as well as watching English TV series.

4.In your opinion, apart from salary, what other factors should be taken into consideration about being a public servant? And why did you choose to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

Before graduation, I did internships in court, foreign law firms and Chinese law firms. You cannot earn much money as a public servant but it will get you by. Working in law firm offers higher salaries. Most jobs are not easy and the first few years of working are the hardest. Of course there are some easy jobs with high salaries but that’s not common.

I think civil servants, especially the ones working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have a better sense of what constitutes achievement and of what is worth value. I like it, especially when seated with the desk plaque of your country in front of you, expressing myself and having everyone present listening quietly. You can feel your country supporting you. That feeling is amazing.

In the legal profession there are many different careers, such as lawyers, brokers and so on. Personally I prefer the jobs of civil servants as they are more cooperative and stable.

I think everyone in the Ministry has the dream to become a qualified diplomatic officer and I feel lucky to have passed the examinations.


(When putting the name tag of the country in the vertical way, it means you are ready to speak.)

5.Could you share some experience about preparing for the Civil Servants Examination including the interview?

In order to prepare for the examination, you need to work through the examination papers from previous years. Most importantly, focus on the essay question. Of course you should consider the cost versus benefit of your preparation techniques. For example, focus more time on the questions that are more likely to earn you higher grades, like the essay question. The interview focuses on the candidate’s knowledge of the system and value of the civil service. Please think about this before the interview. In my case, I spoke about it to people who had already passed. After all the interview is part of the examination too, so it’s important to prepare for it as early as possible and getting to know information about the department that you want to enter is important.

6.Do you have any other suggestions for us regarding aspects such as learning, living, doing internship or working?

I suggest to do an internship in as many different places as possible, getting to know what it’s like in every vocation. That helps you choose your career. An internship is an asset any resumé and it can improve your professionalism.

And when looking for a job I suggest you; evaluate your career values objectively, fight for every opportunity for interviews, not be afraid of failure, be brave to apply for jobs with better employee-treatment, although it might sound daunting. But please don’t become too disheartened if refused. It’s normal to be rejected.

Lastly, and most importantly, please don’t forget to enjoy your life! Even though it’s a busy and stressful time because of examinations and job hunting, it’s also the best time because you go through it with your friends, you can travel and could be in a relationship with a nice person. So enjoy it!

Translation: Tao Zhilin (Double Master of 2017)