Victor H. Li ’64
September 18, 2013
Victor H. Li ’64 was a professor and scholar who worked to devise a framework for normalized diplomatic relations with China. He passed away on September 18, 2013, at the age of 72.
Born in Hong Kong in 1941, Li immigrated to America at the age of 6 and grew up in New York City and White Plains, N.Y. A math and physics major at Columbia College, he earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1964. He later earned LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees from Harvard Law School.
Li began his career teaching Chinese and international law at the University of Michigan Law School in 1967. Two years later, he joined the Columbia Law School faculty, where he remained until 1972. At Stanford Law School, he was the Shelton Professor of International Legal Studies for nearly a decade and director of Stanford’s Center for East Asian Studies from 1974 through 1976. He served as an acting professor of law at the school until 1991.
Outside of the classroom, Li served as a consultant to the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee and testified before Congress on the legal implications of de-recognizing Taiwan. In 1972, he was a host-interpreter for the Chinese table tennis team during its “Ping-Pong diplomacy” exchange visit to the U.S. The event signaled a historic thaw in relations with China.
From 1981 until 1989, Li was president of the Honolulu-based East-West Center, an organization established by Congress with a mandate to expand diplomatic ties and to promote understanding between the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region. During his tenure there, Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang accepted a personal invitation from Li and made Hawaii the first stop on his 1984 official visit to the U.S.
Li subsequently served as co-chair of the Asia Pacific Consulting Group of Honolulu firm Watanabe Ing & Kawashima.
Li is survived by his wife, Arlene Lum.