Current DPhil in Medical Law: Q and A with Urania Chiu

Urania ChiuCurrent DPhil in Medical Law: Urania Chiu

What is the title of your research and what is your research about?

My DPhil thesis is (tentatively) titled ‘A socio-legal examination of constructions of “mental illness” and related concepts in law, policy, and the media in turbulent Hong Kong’. Using a socio-legal approach and adopting a postmodernist and social constructionist lens, my thesis aims to examine mental illness and other psy-related concepts in law and their intersections with policy and media discourses in Hong Kong against the background of socio-political turmoil since the 2019 anti-Extradition Bill protests.

Who are your supervisors? 

My supervisors are Professor Charles Foster (Faculty of Law) and Dr Mikey Dunn (Ethox Centre).

When will your research be submitted?  

It will hopefully be submitted in the next 2 years!

How did you think of your research topic? And what is the importance of this project?

I started out my DPhil with a broad interest in mental health law and human rights but not a very specific research question. After reading up more on the field and many discussions about potential research topics with my supervisors in my first year, I found myself fascinated by the intersection between law, psychiatry, and state power. Having always had a keen personal and academic interest in the development of the social movement in Hong Kong, I began noticing a trend of politicisation of concepts of mental illness and disability in the protests (and related court judgments) and that there was a lack of critical examination of such language in the literature. Given the history of misuse of psychiatric discourses and practice to suppress political dissent by authoritarian states, I decided that this was the gap in research I would like to address in my DPhil project.

How has your past research continued to feature in your current research interests or projects?

Prior to beginning my DPhil, I had conducted research on various aspects of mental health and capacity law in Hong Kong, particular in terms of their compliance with international human rights standards. Knowledge gained from these projects, including valuable insights from my previous interviews with psychiatrists on the disparities between mental health law and practice in Hong Kong, continue to inform my current research and reinforce my belief that it is inadequate to study these laws and policies in isolation, given the close relationship between psychiatric discourses, law, and society.

How can people find out more about your work?  

You can find me on Twitter @uraniachiu. A list of my publications is available on the Law Faculty website (