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Ya Lan Chang's picture


Education CV


Ph.D. in Law, University of Cambridge (2015 - present)

  • Research focuses on communitarianism and constitutional rights in Singapore
  • Editor-in-Chief of the Cambridge International Law Journal (2017-2018)
  • Managing Editor of the Cambridge International Law Journal (2016-2017)
  • Editor of the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law (2015-2016)
  • Main Convenor of the Cambridge Doctoral Workshop in Legal Theory 2017
  • Co-convenor of the Cambridge Doctoral Workshop in Legal Theory 2016
  • International Welfare Officer, Magdalene College MCR Committee (2016-2017)

LL.M. in Human Rights Law, London School of Economics and Political Science (2012 - 2013)

  • Graduated with Distinction in the top 10% of the class
  • Winner of the Law Department Prize for Best Performance in Human Rights
  • Placed 1st in International Human Rights

LL.B., National University of Singapore (2005 - 2009)

  • Graduated with Second Class Honours (Upper)
  • Placed on Dean's List in Final Year
  • Co-wrote script for Law IV charity musical


Professional Qualifications

  • Solicitor, Senior Courts of England and Wales (2015)
  • Advocate & Solicitor, Supreme Court of Singapore (2010)

Professional Experience

  • Research Associate, Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore (March 2015 - September 2015)
  • Intern, Office of the Prosecutor (Appeals Division), International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (April 2014 - August 2014)
  • Associate, Capital Markets Department (Enforcement Division), Monetary Authority of Singapore (October 2011 - August 2012)
  • Associate, Litigation Department, Allen & Gledhill LLP (June 2010 - August 2011)
  • Practice Trainee, Commercial Litigation Department, Rajah & Tann LLP (December 2009 - May 2010)


  • Web Writer, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2): Interviewed foreign workers about their experiences living and working in Singapore and wrote stories based on these interviews for the local charity's website
  • Researcher and Writer, MARUAH: Drafted the local human rights NGO's report for Singapore's 2016 Universal Periodic Review

Fields of research

Human rights theory, human rights law, constitutional law, political philosophy, human rights in Asia, jurisprudence, international human rights, public international law


As One United People: An Inclusive Communitarian Approach to Constitutional Rights in Singapore


Despite having a written Constitution, Article 4 of which states that it is the ‘supreme law’ of the nation and which confers strike down powers on the courts, there has never been a single successful constitutional rights challenge to legislation and executive orders in Singapore’s 54 years of independence. I hypothesise, with a doctrinal analysis, that this is caused by Singapore’s communitarian approach to rights. It prioritises the collective interest over individual rights, resulting in the disjunction between the rights’ elevated status and their practical non-application. To correct this disjunction, I demonstrate that communitarianism does not necessarily prioritise the collective over the individual, and develop an alternative communitarian approach: the Inclusive Communitarian Approach, consisting of two elements. First, a pluralistic constitutive conception of community as the communal attachments that partly constitute our identity. Second, the national community’s duty to include all who fulfil the national identity membership criterion. The Inclusive Communitarian Approach reconceptualises rights as protecting our interest in our constitutive communities—to have access to and participate in them, and to live meaningfully as their members—because they are a fundamental source of meaning for our self-understanding. The importance of this interest gives rise to the national community’s duty to include, which is discharged by recognising members’ equality of membership. This means that, unless a constitutive community violates the duty to include, the national community cannot restrict a constitutive community in a manner that disrespects its value to its members. I then apply the Inclusive Communitarian Approach to Singapore and show, first, that it is wholly relevant to Singapore; and second, that it would vindicate the constitutional rights claims, discussed in the thesis, that have failed under Singapore’s ‘collective over individual’ communitarian approach.


Dr Kirsty Hughes and Dr Haris Psarras

Representative Publications


  • 'The Communitarian Case for Decriminalising Male Homosexuality for Singapore's Common Good', (2019) 20 Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law 90
  • ‘The Threnody of International Criminal Justice: Gabriel M Lentner, The UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court: The Referral Mechanism in Theory and Practice (Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham 2018)’, (2018) 8(1) Cambridge International Law Journal 147
  • Country report on Singapore, Update on the Rule of Law for Human Rights in ASEAN: The Path to Integration - Human Rights Resource Centre
  • Country report on Singapore, Human Rights Outlook in Southeast Asia 2014-2015

Conferences and Presentations

  • 'Existentialism and Humanism' by Jean-Paul Sartre - Cambridge Forum for Legal and Political Philosophy, University of Cambridge, 16 November 2018 (chair)
  • 'Identity and Communitarian Constitutional Rights in Singapore' - 5th International Society of Public Law Conference, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 25-27 June 2018
  • 'The Ethics of Nationality' from David Miller's On Nationality - Cambridge Forum for Legal and Political Philosophy, University of Cambridge, 21 March 2018 (chair)
  • 'The Right to Contextualised Self-Authorship: Constitutive Communities as a Theoretical Justification for a Communitarian Approach to Constitutional Rights’ - 7th Annual Doctoral Scholarship Conference, Yale University, United States, 10-11 November 2017
  • 'Should the Collective Always Prevail over the Individual? Challenging Singapore's Communitarianism' - 4th Legal Scholarship Workshop, Hong Kong University, Hong Kong, 1-2 June 2017
  • '"Before I Built a Wall I'd Ask to Know What I Was Walling In or Walling Out': Decriminalising Male Homosexuality for the Common Good of a Communitarian Society' - 9th Annual Human Rights in Asia Conference, University of Essex, United Kingdom, 25 March 2017
  • 'Exploring the Foundations of a Communitarian Justification for Constitutional Rights in Singapore' - Cambridge Legal Theory Discussion Group, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, 27 February 2017
  • '“The courts cannot become mini-legislatures”: The Curious Case of Lim Meng Suang v Attorney-General and the Role of the Judiciary in the Protection of Constitutional Rights' - 6th Asian Constitutional Law Forum, National University of Singapore, Singapore, 10 - 11 December 2015


Start Date

Oct 2015

End date

Sep 2019