Saturday, June 30, 2007
The Yale-China Association is seeking a program officer for its law programs. The program officer will be based at the YCA's headquarters in New Haven or at its China office in Hong Kong. The ideal candidate will have a JD from a US law school and excellent oral and written English and Chinese. Full details here; see also the YCA's web site.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I read with interest this report carried by Chinalawinfo.com about a draft of amendments to the Law on Lawyers (律师法). The draft is undergoing its first reading by the 28th Session of the 10th NPC Standing Committee. One provision states: "Lawyers shall not be made legally liable for opinions uttered in court as an agent or in defense" (律师在法庭上发表的代理、辩护意见不受法律追究). Intimidation and persecution of lawyers by police and prosecutors have become the subject of a great deal of publicity in recent years, and this is designed to provide some comfort to lawyers who may find themselves prosecuted for saying various things that make the police or the procuracy unhappy. But will it help? I'm skeptical for two reasons.
First, the exemption is immediately followed by a huge loophole: "Except for utterances that threaten national security, maliciously slander others, or seriously disrupt courtroom order" (但是，发表危害国家安全、恶意诽谤他人、严重扰乱法庭秩序的言论除外). Does anyone seriously imagine the police or procuracy will have any difficulty, if so inclined, in finding (for example) that casting doubt on the truthfulness of an opposing witness constitutes malicious slander?
Second, it does not appear that prosecutors rely heavily on speech-related offenses to persecute lawyers in the first place, so even without the exception, the rule would solve a problem that doesn't really exist. In a recent study of criminal prosecutions of lawyers, Fu Hualing of the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Law collected 70 cases from 1984 to 2006 in which lawyers were tried for criminal offenses. Look at this table from Dr. Fu's paper summarizing his findings:
Virtually none of these offenses could be committed by courtroom speech; in fact, the only plausible candidates (which were rarely prosecuted anyway) are "disturbing public order," "leaking state secrets," and "criminal libel": precisely the offenses to which the proposed immunity does not apply. The big stick (falsification of evidence) and the two medium-sized sticks (covering up crimes and taking bribes) are unaffected by the proposed immunity.
Conclusion? Lawyers should hold their applause.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Here's an interesting report from Chinalawinfo.com. Supreme People's Court president Xiao Yang recently gave a speech in which he stated that while nobody should be given lighter sentences than warranted because of special privileges, neither should courts impose heavier sentences than warranted because of media pressure, and it was incorrect to think that "the heavier the better" (跃重越好). Here's an opinion piece on this issue from the China Law Net (中国法制网).
For an excellent study of the relationship between courts and the media, see Benjamin Liebman's Watchdog or Demagogue? The Media in the Chinese Legal System, 105 Colum. L. Rev. 1 (2005).
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
On July 3rd, PBS will be airing a documentary on the Chinese legal system entitled "The People's Court: China's Legal Revolution" as part of its Wide Angle series. I haven't seen it, but it sounds very interesting. I'm reproducing the press release below; for more information, check out the Wide Angle web site.
Incidentally, I can think offhand of only two other documentaries that have material relevant to the Chinese legal system: China: Beyond the Clouds and China From the Inside. If readers know of more, please tell me about them in the comments. (Note that, as always, as an anti-spam measure your comment won't appear until I've viewed it and clicked "publish".)
Monday, June 18, 2007
CLD Consultants (Beijing) is a firm founded by Phyllis Chang, an American lawyer with whom I have worked together on a number of projects. They are looking for a program officer; please see this announcement for full details. I highly recommend this opportunity to anyone who is interested and qualified. Here is a brief summary, taken from the announcement:
- 中律原咨询(北京)有限公司, (English name: CLD Consultants (Beijing)), is a small Chinese firm that was founded specifically to support social development projects and international cooperation programs in China.
- The Company is seeking applications from Chinese nationals for one of its Program Officer (项目官员) positions. This position is based in Beijing. The Program Officer, working with the Company’s senior staff and other Program Officers, will be responsible for developing and managing projects, primarily in the areas of legal system development, access to justice and governance.
- Among the qualifications are:
- Fluency in spoken and written Chinese
- Master’s degree or higher from a Chinese university in law, political science, international relations, public administration or a similar field
- Have worked abroad (in law firm, NGO, international organization, university/research institute or foreign company) and/or have studied abroad
- Excellent spoken English and very good written English (able to write correspondence in clear, accurate English)
- Strong interest in working in the non-profit sector and in international cooperation programs
- This position is open to Beijing and non-Beijing residents (Beijing hukou is not necessary). Female and male applicants will be considered equally.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Recently there has been quite a bit of news about the discovery of enslaved workers at a brick kiln in Shanxi run by the son of the local Party secretary. The China Daily even reprinted a Reuters report (with one excision to downplay the role of the local Party secretary, and no credit given).
Here is an astonishing report of police indifference and collusion in the matter, which appears to be just the tip of an iceberg of widespread kidnapping and enslavement of children. The collusion of local police is not surprising, but even the most cynical will be shocked by the passivity of non-local police.
In response to all this, the government has taken swift measures: not to punish the perpetrators and their enablers, but to make sure that news about it is strictly censored and not allowed to embarrass the authorities.
Thanks to China Digital Times for the tip.
I'm looking for information about Hsiang Che-chun (pinyin Xiang Zhejun 向哲浚), who was the Chinese prosecutor in the Tokyo Trials. If you know anything about him, or know of people or resources that might be helpful, please send me an e-mail (dclarke at law dot gwu dot edu) to let me know. Thanks.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Here's an interesting piece of news: the Intermediate Court of Zhongshan City (中山市) in Guangdong Province recently decided a contract dispute according to Hong Kong law. The report states that this seems to be the first case Chinese courts have decided under Hong Kong law (I don't know how people can really know these things); there is no claim that it's the first case to apply non-PRC law. If anyone knows of such cases and can add a link, please do so in the comments. (Please note that comments, once submitted, don't show up until I approve them; this is an anti-spam measure. You won't see your comment right away, but that doesn't mean you haven't submitted it properly.)
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Human Rights in China has issued a lengthy (almost 300 pages) report on state secrets in China. See the following sources for more information:
Friday, June 8, 2007
So successful has the government been at eradicating any memory of June 4th that someone was able to slip a small ad into the Chengdu Evening News (成都晚报) saying, "A salute to the strong mothers of the victims of June 4th" (向坚强的64遇难者母亲致敬!). (It's quite inconspicuous; click on the thumbnail for a full-size photo and look for it on the right hand side, about two thirds of the way down.) Apparently the person who took the ad didn't know the significance of "64"; the person who placed it apparently said it was connected with some mine disaster.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Residents of Xiamen last month demonstrated against the construction of a chemical plant; on May 30th, the "temporary suspension" of the project was announced. For a news story with links to two Youtube videos of the demonstrations, click here.
Monday, June 4, 2007