September 1, 2006
More on defamation suits against the media
A follow-up to my previous post on the latest defamation suit brought by a business in response for unfavorable reporting: I suggested in that post that the Shenzhen court hearing this case had acted improperly by hastily freezing the assets of the defendant journalists without any notice. Now I find that the Shenzhen court may have violated a Supreme People's Court directive in accepting the case at all. In the Reply on Several Questions Regarding the Adjudication of Defamation Cases (最高人民法院关于审理名誉权案件若干问题的解答), issued Aug. 7, 1993, the Supreme People's Court explicitly stated (Para. 6):
Where a lawsuit is brought against an author and a news publication unit, the author and the news publication unit shall both be listed as defendants, but where the author is administratively under the news publication unit and the work was created in the course of the author's performance of his duties, only the [news publication] unit shall be listed as defendants. (对作者和新闻出版单位都提起诉讼的，将作者和新闻出版单位均列为被告，但作者与新闻出版单位为隶属关系，作品系作者履行职务所形成的，只列单位为被告.) [Note: In the original Chinese, the term "author" can be read as singular or plural.]
Seems pretty open and shut. Have I missed something? Comments welcome.
Incidentally, the Financial Times reports that "Taiwanese electronics giant Hon Hai [which is actually the plaintiff's parent] has moved to head off criticism from the Chinese media by cutting the libel damages it is seeking from two journalists from Rmb30m ($3.8m) to just Rmb1 and promising to unfreeze their assets."
August 31, 2006
More on stripping at funerals
On Aug. 28th I posted here about the banning of the practice of hiring strippers for funerals. Although today's posting is not really about Chinese law, readers of the original post might be interested to know that this practice is far from aberrational, and has been a well-known (although by no means universal) custom in Taiwan for years. For an erudite on-line discussion compiled from the archives of the H-ASIA listserv and other sources, click here. I have never heard of it in mainland China, however; perhaps this custom is a recent Taiwanese import.
August 30, 2006
Yet another defamation lawsuit against the media by offended businesses
Businesses in China have discovered that defamation litigation can be an effective way to retaliate against critical media coverage and (they hope) deter future bad press. (For an informed discussion that is the product of extensive research, see pp. 68-72 of Benjamin Liebman, Innovation Through Intimidation: An Empirical Account of Defamation Litigation in China, Harv. Int'l Law Journal, vol. 47, no. 1 (2006): 33-109.) The latest example is Hongfujin Precision Industry, the Shenzhen subsidiary of Taiwan-based Foxconn, which has sued two Chinese journalists (not their newspaper) for unfavorable reporting about labor rights violations. (See also the China Labour Bulletin story here.) The scandal in this case is not that Hongfujin has sued - for all I know, it may have a case - but that the Shenzhen Intermediate Court, apparently without notice to the defendants, has frozen all their assets, including residences, automobiles, and bank accounts. (I suspect they still have use of the residence and probably of the autos.)
The Shenzhen courts have already established for themselves a reputation for being sympathetic to local businesses in this kind of case - in the Shenzhen Fountain case, the plaintiff, Shenzhen Fountain Corporation, successfully sued Caijing magazine after the latter published a report questioning its accounting practices. (For details, see pp. 20-22 of Zhiwu Chen, Press Freedom and Economic Development (2005).) Shenzhen Fountain, by the way, was at the time and perhaps still is owned by Deng Xiaoping's niece; she and the company are discussed in this press report.
Because the plaintiff firm makes iPods for the US and other markets, Apple Corp. is in an awkward position and is "working behind the scenes to help resolve the issue", according to its spokeswoman as quoted in the South China Morning Post. The latest news on this is an unconfirmed report that the plaintiff, which had already promised to donate any proceeds to charity, has just modified its compensation request to a symbolic one yuan.
August 28, 2006
Stripping at funerals now illegal
Just in case you were wondering, the police in China consider it unlawful to hire strippers to attract crowds to a loved one's funeral, thereby giving him or her more face after death. This has apparently been the local practice in Donghai (东海), a county in Jiangsu province. For details, see the following:
- Reuters report, Aug. 23
- Jiangnan Times (江南时报) report, Aug. 23 (in Chinese)
- Jinghua Times (京华时报) report, Aug. 22 (in Chinese, with pictures from a Focus (焦点访谈) report)
August 27, 2006
Revised Bankruptcy Law and Partnership Law adopted
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has just adopted two important (at least potentially so) pieces of legislation. Both are revisions of previously existing statutes.
- The Enterprise Bankruptcy Law (企业破产法), adopted Aug. 27, 2006, effective June 1, 2007 (Chinese text here)
- The Partnership Enterprise Law (合伙企业法), adopted Aug. 27, 2006, effective June 1, 2007 (Chinese text here)
I have not yet had time to read these and analyze the contents. While the delayed implementation date for something as sensitive as the Bankruptcy Law is understandable, it's hard to see why the implementation date of the Partnership Law is also so far off.