March 11, 2006
Library of Congress seeks Chinese law specialist
Here's a great opportunity for the right person: the Library of Congress is seeking a foreign law specialist for China. Text of the announcement here: Download LOC_job.html
March 9, 2006
Murder by mantou
The Chinese law world is currently in the midst of a great debate over a brief video making its way around the Web called "一个馒头引发的血案" (A Case of Murder Caused by a Mantou - a mantou being a steamed bun popular in northern China). You can see the video here.
The video was put together by Hu Ge (胡戈), a disgruntled moviegoer, after seeing Chen Kaige's big-budget "无极" ("Promise") and finding it boring. He bought the DVD on his way home and put the video together in 10 days. The video takes scenes from the movie, adds on music from other sources and a narrative, and comes up with a ridiculous story about how a mantou led to a murder.
Chen Kaige was not amused and has apparently sued. The case has led to quite a bit of commentary in the legal world (see, for example, Beijing University's legal Web site www.chinalawinfo.com) on whether copyright law does or should protect Chen in this kind of case. There's a pretty good summary of the background story as well as various opinions in the most recent issue (March 9, 2006) of the Beijing Review here: Chinese | English
Human rights reports
The U.S. Department of State just released its 2005 Country Report on Human Rights Practices for China. As usual, the Chinese government responded by issuing its own report on the human rights record of the United States. I am glad to have the Chinese government join me in condemning many things that I have over the years contributed money, signed petitions, and cast my vote in order to defeat. But its report is more a schoolyard nyah-nyah than a real response to criticism of its own record. A real response would be (a) to admit with regret that the allegations are true, (b) to proclaim with pride that the allegations are true (Texas has never tried to conceal its execution rate), or (c) to deny the allegations. This attempt to change the subject does none of these.
March 7, 2006
Hong Kong's Business & Human Rights Resource Centre seeks East Asia researcher and coordinator (part-time)
The closing date for applications is March 28, 2006, and applicants must already have the right to work in Hong Kong. Full details here.
Bilingual (English-Chinese) teaching materials on US copyright law available
George Conk, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School, and Prof. Wang Qian of the East China University of Politics and Law recently co-taught a mini-course on US intellectual property law to graduate students at the East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai. Having developed a set of bilingual course materials, they have generously made them available on the Social Science Research Network here: http://ssrn.com/abstract=888190.
March 6, 2006
ABA Section of International Law Spring Meeting, New York City
The spring meeting of the ABA's Section of International Law will be held in New York City from April 5th to April 8th. Several of the agenda programs are related to China. For a complete list, click here.
March 5, 2006
China's draft Property Law: reaction and counter-reaction
The adoption of China's Property Law (物权法) has proven exceptionally difficult because of the minefield of ideological problems involved. It is not on the legislative agenda of this month's NPC Standing Committee session because of an open letter written last August by Prof. Gong Xiantian (巩献田) of the Beijing Univ. Faculty of Law. (According to his Beijing Univ. Web site, Prof. Gong has a Ph.D. from the Univ. of Sarajevo and specializes in jurisprudence, Marxist legal theory, general theory of law, politics, and ethics.)
Professor Gong published his letter - "A Draft 'Property Law' that Violates the Constitution and Departs from the Basic Principles of Socialism" - last August, but a full account of what went on has only recently become available in an article published in Southern Weekend (南方周末).
Needless to say, those who had worked for years on the draft were furious that their efforts had been derailed at the last minute. The Civil Law Research Board of the China Law Association held a meeting on the Property Law late last month at Renmin Univ. in Beijing, which seems by and large to have been devoted to denouncing Prof. Gong's views. (See the end of this post for a link to a news report as well as a translation.)
Although Prof. Gong has been criticized for singlehandedly throwing a spanner into the works, open letters from professors these days are so common you wonder they have any time left for teaching and research; this letter would have gone nowhere were there not powerful political figures who could use it. According to the Southern Weekend report, half a month after he published his letter, Prof. Gong was invited to have a personal meeting with Hu Kangsheng (胡康生) and Wang Shengming (王胜明), chairman and vice chairman respectively of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee. This was apparently the first time an academic had ever been invited alone to give his views to Commission members.
For a report in Chinese on the meeting where Prof. Gong's views were criticized by a roster of big names in the property law field, click here. The following translation is courtesy of David Kelly of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore.
Jiang Ping: Formulating the Real Property Law must not go backwards
China Industrial and Commercial Times, Feb. 27, 2006
"If a Real Property Law cannot manifest the spirit of science, and anyone's opinion can be written into it, what kind of Real Property Law is it? A Real Property Law that goes backwards—I don't approve!" Thus declared Emeritus Professor Jiang Ping of the Chinese University of Politics and Law when appraising the Real Property Law.
The process of enacting the Real Property Law, which was set for consideration at the NPC and CPPCC meetings this year, had to come to a halt because a professor at a famous university published an open letter claiming that the draft of the Law violated the constitution. The Civil Law Research Board of the China Law Association therefore held a seminar on "The Real Property Law and the theory of building a harmonious society" at Chinese Renmin University on 25 February. The majority of scholars attending argued that the Real Property Law legislative process should not be disturbed, and it should as soon as possible considered and promulgated.
Jiang Ping's speech was right on the money. Not only did he directly name the professor who published the open letter, he also evinced concerns about some issues in the present legislative procedure. He believes that the drafting of the Real Property Law was pulled in opposite directions by two forces, leading to revisions of the relevant articles. He pointed out that some revisions were progressive, some were going backwards. He strongly recommended that a Real Property Law be formulated that embodies the spirit of the constitution, of the reform and open policy and of science. If what finally appeared was a hodgepodge, a backward-facing Real Property Law, he would oppose it. Such a law might as well not be formulated.
Professor Wang Weiguo, Vice-chairman of the Civil Law Research Board of the China Law Society, stated that a view of the professor who published the open letter violated legal logic. The question the open letter proposed is: Are a beggar's stick and a millionaire's mansion to be protected equally? Wang Weiguo replied that the overwhelming majority of people have at least some property; even if someone begs, there are still principles. Begging someone for food indeed shows respect for the property rights of another: when a "gentleman acts charitably," the one who is begged from exercises his right of disposal, handing a part of his property over. This is in fact an order without which even beggars could not exist. As for the millionaire, if his property was illegally gained, he is not protected by the Real Property Law. But telling if his property was legally obtained or not is not a question to be solved by civil law or the Real Property Law. Not all issues are to be dumped on it.
Renmin University's Professor Yang Lixin summarized six points of consensus: (1) the Real Property Law is an important law that safeguards the basic socialist economic system, in politics, playing a vital role in economic life; (2) the Real Property Law is an important law that confirms and consolidates fruits of the victory of the reform and open policy, and impels its thorough development; (3) the Real Property Law is a fundamental law that coordinates property relations in socialist society: it safeguards people's basic rights, and is an important safeguard of building a socialist harmonious society (4) the Real Property Law is an important law that encourages the broad masses to create wealth, and strengthens China's comprehensive national strength; (5) the Real Property Law is an important constituent of China's civil code, with decisive significance regarding the improvement of the legal framework of the socialist market economy; (6) the Real Property Law draft is the crystallization of a comprehensive exchange of opinion between jurists and the nation as a whole, condensing results of the research of several generations of Chinese jurists.