Charng-Ven Chen was born in China but fled with his family to Taiwan at a young age. His father was an officer in the army of the nationalist Republic of China government. After the Republic's retreat to Taiwan, his father was ordered back to fighting in China, where he was killed. CV Chen admires his mother for her strength and compassion to raise his and his siblings on her own.
He enrolled in law at the National University of Taiwan, where he received a BA. He was admitted to the University of British Columbia on a scholarship in 1968, and graduated with an LL. M. in 1969. His research work for his Master's degree developed further, and CV Chen continued his studies at Harvard, obtaining an S.JD. before returning to Taiwan in 1972. Upon his return to Taiwan, Dr. Chen became a lecturer in law, and began his practice. He believed that students benefited from having instruction from someone with practical knowledge.
Dr. CV Chen credits his time at the University of British Columbia and Professor Charles Bourne for igniting his interest in public international law. He discovered the interesting interactions between law in the global sphere, and the role of micro-states in the international environment. He also remembers Professor Joseph Smith teaching Jurisprudence.
In Taiwan, CV Chen practiced with the firm of Lee and Li, which is the largest law firm in Taiwan. He remembers his studies in international law serving him well in one case. A client from Taiwan was engaged in a joint venture in Mainland China when a dispute arose. The dispute was to be settled by arbitration in Hong Kong. The firm needed to advise the client with consideration for the different jurisdictions of Republic of China, Hong Kong, and People's Republic of China. CV Chen remembers working to find the common ground while noticing the differences that were raised by this legal issue.
In addition to his work as a lawyer, Dr. Chen has worked hard to build relationships across borders. He was a founder of the Straits Exchange Foundation, which sought to start a dialogue between Taiwan and Mainland China with a focus on business rather than governmental relations. He volunteered with the Red Cross in Taiwan, which enabled exchanges of Taiwanese families to China by tracing their families still living on the Mainland. Dr. Chen became secretary general for the Red Cross in Taiwan, a role in which he oversaw the organizations disaster relief for the natural disasters in Haiti and the South Sea.
CV Chen's work with the Red Cross also had deep personal motivations. His son was born with a disability, an issue not well understood and even less well supported in Taiwan. The love and compassion for his son inspired Chen to direct the Red Cross to develop more resources and support for those with a disability. The organization progressed how it helps those with mental disabilities, providing funding to help families and for increased testing to help detect disabilities early.
Dr. Chen is especially proud of his ability to help found the Taipei European School. Initially, several schools served international families living in Taiwan, including a British school, a German school, and a French school. The schools rented and when the lease of one was about to expire, it seemed the school would have to close. Many of the children attending the school were children of Dr. Chen's foreign clients, who did business in Taiwan and wanted the supports to keep their families with them. Dr. Chen placed a few calls. Thanks to his organizational skill, the schools found a place where they could come together as the Taipei European School, and not have to worry about expiring leases.
Reflecting on his career, Charng-Ven Chen has some advice for those beginning their legal careers. He reminds students that developing yourself takes time, and not to worry but to persist, and you will earn your life. He recommends that those in a legal career seek to know the world, and to be conscious of what one can accomplish in it. Most of all, there is a quote from Elliot Richardson which CV Chen considers appropriate for law, and commends that law, if it is pursued conscientiously, can be the most challenging and the noblest profession.
To learn more, listen to Dr. Charng-Ven Chen's interview with the Peter A Allard School of Law History Project in July 2017.