General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW6068
Course name: Human Rights: History, Theory and Politics
Programme offered under: LLM Programme
Semester: First
Prerequisites / Co-requisites: No
Credit point value: 9 credit
Remarks: Only for LLM(HR) students

1.2 Course description

The field of human rights remains dynamic, with emerging social movements and competing conceptions of justice reshaping what is plausibly understood what people can plausibly demand as a human rights. This course considers persistent and emerging debates in the field, building on traditional human rights frameworks to consider the utility and promise of human rights as a vehicle for transformation in the present day.

The course first begins with lasting questions of what it means for something to be understood as a human right, looking at philosophical, political, and cultural debates about the nature of human rights in legal and social systems. Second, it turns to questions surrounding the institutionalization of rights, their limitations, and the efficacy of mechanisms and strategies used to ensure that rights have meaning for the people who hold them. Third, the course looks at contemporary frontiers of human rights, and questions about identity and discrimination, inequality, the role of rights in large-scale public health and environmental crises, and dignity and degradation. The course concludes with an examination of human rights in the current moment, and their promises and pitfalls in contemporary times.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Ryan Thoreson thoreson@hku.hk TBA By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Articulate different theoretical and historical foundations for human rights.

CLO 2 Assess the promise and limitations of different strategies for enforcing or guaranteeing human rights.

CLO 3 Situate human rights movements within a wider framework of international, regional, and national governance.

CLO 4 Apply human rights frameworks to emerging social and political crises.

CLO 5 Identify ways to determine the success or failure of human rights as a tool for achieving change.

2.2 LLM and JD Programme Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Please refer to the following link:

LLM – https://course.law.hku.hk/llm-plo/

2.3 Programme Learning Outcomes to be achieved in this course



3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method* Course learning outcomes
Participation N/A 10% 1, 2 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Response papers TBA 40% 1, 2, 5 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Research paper 15 Dec 2021 50% 1, 3 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
*Feedback method (to be determined by course teacher)
1 A general course report to be disseminated through Moodle
2 Individual feedback to be disseminated by email / through Moodle
3 Individual review meeting upon appointment
4 Group review meeting
5 In-class verbal feedback

3.2 Assessment Detail

The final paper will be a research paper of approximately 15-20 pages, responding to prompts provided by the instructor or a topic of the student’s choosing approved by the instructor.

Each student will write three response papers over the course of the semester, which should critically engage with the readings and concepts for the relevant week. The papers will be shared with the class in advance of our class session, and students are expected to read them to provide a partial basis for class discussion.

3.3 Grading Criteria

Please refer to the following link: https://www.law.hku.hk/_files/law_programme_grade_descriptors.pdf

Learning Activities

4.1 Learning Activity Plan

Seminar: 3 hours  / week for 11 teaching weeks
Private study time: 9.5 hours / week for 11 teaching weeks

Remarks: the normative student study load per credit unit is 25 ± 5 hours (ie. 150 ± 30 hours for a 6-credit course), which includes all learning activities and experiences within and outside of classroom, and any assessment task and examinations and associated preparations.

4.2 Details of Learning Activities

The seminars for the course will involve some lecturing on key concepts and ideas to situate the weekly readings, but will primarily be discussion based.

Learning Resources

5.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: Jack Donnelly and Daniel J. Whelan, International Human Rights (2020, 6th ed.)
Recommended reading list: TBA

5.2 Links

Please refer to the following link: http://www.law.hku.hk/course/learning-resources/