November 4, 2006
Asia Society Center on US-China Relations seeks associate director
This is not exactly Chinese law-related, but it's not too far off, so here it is:
The Asia Society's Center on US-China Relations is looking for an associate director. The job announcement and a detailed description can be found here. Please note that they are looking for the following:
Ph.D. with 6-8 years experience in US-Asia affairs preferred with emphasis on China. A proven record of idea entrepreneurship, program management, and analytical excellence. Excellent writing and research skills. Proficiency in Microsoft Office software. Competency in Mandarin required.
November 2, 2006
US/China Legal Exchange, Dec. 2006
I have received the following e-mail (slightly edited) on another listserv:
The US/China Legal Exchange for 2006 is coming up at the beginning of December with sessions in Seattle on December 1, Cleveland on December 5, and Washington, DC on December 8. The Legal Exchange is an annual program between the Department of Commerce and China's Ministry of Commerce that provides the US business and legal community with the opportunity to learn about important changes to China's commercial law directly from Chinese government officials. Every other year, US experts travel to China to discuss legal developments with an audience in China; this year we will host Chinese legal experts discussing China's draft Anti-Monopoly Law and the recent amendments to the Partnership Law. The Chinese delegation will follow the precedent set in previous legal exchanges of having high level officials lead the Chinese delegation. This year's delegation will include Vice Minister Ma Xiuhong (Ministry of Commerce) and Vice Minister Zhang Qiong (State Council, Legislative Affairs Office). The laws to be discussed will have a tremendous impact on companies doing business in China or looking to enter the Chinese market, and the opportunity to hear about these laws directly from Chinese policymakers should be of great interest to anyone working with companies to take advantage of China's rapidly growing economy.
The Commerce Department is directly in charge of logistics for the Washington, DC session and can direct inquiries about the other sessions by those interested in participating. Commerce anticipates being able to accommodate approximately 75 attendees in Washington and while they have not finalized the planning or begun accepting registrations for the program yet, they have asked interested parties to post notices about the program. If you have questions about the program, please directly contact Joel B. Blank in the Office of the Chief Counsel for International Commerce at the U.S. Department of Commerce: firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 1, 2006
Court Organization Law amended to provide for universal Supreme People's Court review of death sentences
On Oct. 31, 2006, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress adopted a resolution amending Art. 13 of the Court Organization Law (中华人民共和国人民法院组织法）to read in its entirety as follows:
死刑除依法由最高人民法院判决的以外，应当报请最高人民法院核准。(Death sentences, except where imposed by the Supreme People's Court according to law, should be reported to the Supreme People's Court for review and approval.)
(Note that "should" in this context doesn't really connote that there's any choice in the matter, but Chinese drafters sometimes say "must" (需 or 必须) and if they choose not to do it here, the translation should make that visible.)
This amendment represents a policy change that has been in the works a long time. Under the 1979 Court Organization Law (COL), the Supreme People's Court (SPC) had sole reviewing authority over death sentences - an authority that existed in addition to the regular one appeal that all defendants get as of right. In 1983, as part of the anticrime campaign of that era, Art. 13 of the COL was amended to give the SPC the authority to delegate death penalty review, in certain cases involving violent crime, down to provincial-level courts. Duly authorized, the SPC promptly issued a notice delegating that review power.
In recent years, however, discontent with the system of provincial-court review had grown because of a series of egregious miscarriages of justice, and the SPC put reclaiming this power of review on the agenda of its official Second Five-Year Plan for Court Reform dated Oct. 26, 2005.
An interesting question about this policy change: since provincial courts got their review power from the Supreme People's Court, the Supreme People's Court could have taken it back at any time simply by issuing another notice. Since as far as we know the SPC supports recentralization of review power, the fact that it was effected through NPC Standing Committee legislation may mean that those in favor of it wanted something a little more robust than a mere SPC notice.
Here are some news reports (in English):
- China Daily
- New York Times (free registration required)
- Xinhua report on background to the amendment (in Chinese) (added Nov. 5, 2006)
Here's a 2004 Amnesty International report (AI site|this site) on the death sentence in China. And lest anyone think that China has a monopoly on harrowing abuses in capital cases, check out the Texas capital punishment system in action here.
October 31, 2006
Appeals court overturns guilty verdict for Chen Guangcheng
I posted earlier on the four-year prison sentence handed down to Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) - a peasants' rights activist who blew the whistle on official abuses under China's one-child policy - for allegedly "damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic" while under police guard. In a report datelined Oct. 31, 2006, Radio Free Asia says that the Linyi Intermediate-Level People's Court in Shandong province has overturned the guilty verdict and ordered a retrial in the Yinan Basic-Level Court.
Chen's lawyer is quoted as saying, "From the point of view of the defense, this is the best possible result." I'm not sure why that's so. Wouldn't an outright acquittal have been better? Comments welcome.
Enforcement of judgments still a big problem
In a recent speech, Supreme People's Court president Xiao Yang (肖扬) reported that despite a year of concentrated effort, the problem of unexecuted judgments remained basically unresolved, with over 800,000 unexecuted judgments still out there. This seems like a big number, but it's always hard to know quite what to make of these statistics. First, they include, for example, judgments not executed because the defendant is broke - disappointing for the plaintiff, to be sure, but not an indication of anything wrong with the court system (unless the defendant has illicitly transferred funds to a connected party that the court is unable or unwilling to find or enforce against). Second, China is a big country with a lot of people; even minor phenomena can look huge when you have a multiplier like that. Finally, we don't have a good way of knowing what a good rate of execution would be, and therefore what the right number is. We don't even have good information on execution rates in other countries (I tried to find this out several years ago in connection with an article I was writing on enforcement of judgments in China - short version available here).
The news report on Xiao Yang's speech is available, with relevant links, here.
October 30, 2006
Internships at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China
I have received the following announcement (slightly edited):
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) is currently soliciting resumes for spring internships (paid) in Washington, D.C., to work on Chinese human rights and rule of law issues. Interns must be U.S. citizens.
Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to the CECC to Judy Wright, Director of Administration via e-mail to Judy.Wright@mail.house.gov or via fax to (202) 226-3804, attention: Judy Wright.