Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

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Friday, November 30, 2007

EPA - China Environmental Law Initiative Web site

Here's the first paragraph of the EPA's press release:

In an effort to strengthen the legal framework for environmental protection in China, EPA today launched the EPA - China Environmental Law Initiative Web site. The Web site, announced by EPA General Counsel Roger R. Martella, will provide a forum for sharing information and fostering an ongoing dialogue with China on environmental law.

Full text here.

The Web site itself is here; portions have been translated into Chinese and are available here.

November 30, 2007 in News - Chinese Law, News - Miscellaneous, Research Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A conversation between the ruler and the ruled

Here's an interesting account by Ma Shaofang, one of the student organizers of the 1989 Tiananmen hunger strike and now a businessman in Shenzhen, of a recent conversation over a mandatory "tea" with some agents of the Ministry of State Security. Thanks to China Digital Times for the translation.

November 30, 2007 in Commentary, Other | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Will death penalty review overwhelm the Supreme People's Court?

The Dui Hua Foundation has published a translation of a very interesting article with the above title.

Here's their introduction:

The following opinion piece, which appeared on November 21, 2007 in The Beijing News (新京报, Chinese original in PDF) and was then translated by Dui Hua, raises concerns about the future of China’s Supreme People’s Court. Faced with an "extremely large number" of death sentences to review, the SPC has been forced to take on hundreds of new criminal court judges, many of whom have lower qualifications than judges in the past. The author suggests this influx of less-qualified judges who focus on reviewing individual capital cases presents an obstacle to the SPC’s progress toward a more ideal goal, one in which high-court decisions contribute to the nation’s social and economic development. At stake, he warns, is the court's ultimate ability to ensure judicial authority.

It’s unclear how much consideration the author (who is very likely writing under a pseudonym) has given to the most obvious solution: a substantial reduction in the application of the death penalty in China. If, as he argues, the burdens of death-penalty review are hindering the efficiency of China’s legal institutions, this could be yet another argument in favor of further reducing the use of capital punishment.

November 26, 2007 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The gerrymandered National People's Congress

A little-remarked passage (part VI, numbered para. 1) in Hu Jintao's work report to the 17th Party Congress [Chinese | English] last month calls for the gradual bringing into line of the different ratios of representation of rural and urban residents in China. I checked with a colleague who's very well informed about China, and it turns out that even well-informed people don't generally know that Art. 16 of the Election Law provides that urban residents shall get four times as many NPC seats per person as rural residents:

省、自治区、直辖市应选全国人民代表大会代表的名额,由全国人民代表大会常务委员会按照农村每一代表所代表的人口数四倍于城市每一代表所代表的人口数的原则分配。

This electoral discrimination against rural residents has a long history and arises, unsurprisingly enough, from the view that this was after all supposed to be a revolution led by the proletariat, and we can't have them swamped by all those peasants.

The concept of differing representational weight appeared in the first Election Law of 1953, when urbanites were given eight times the representational weight of rural residents. This was reduced to four times in the 1995 revision of the Election Law. In 1953, the ratio of urban to rural residents was 13:87; in 1979, 18:82; in 1995, 30:70; and in 2005, 42:58. This reflects both genuine urbanization and possibly changes in the definition of who counts as what.

Some interesting results follow from putting these numbers together. If we think of the countryside as a unit and the cities as a unit, the NPC representation of the countryside has in fact gone down over time even while the ratio has been adjusted to be less discriminatory. Doing the math, it turns out that in 1953, the cities had 1.2 NPC deputies per rural deputy; in 1979, 1.8. In 1995, when the ratio was changed, this went down slightly to 1.7, but by 2005 it had climbed up to 2.9 urban deputies per rural deputy. In other words, NPC deputies are about 75% urban. Interesting!

My source for these numbers is this interesting article. Of course, if any reader knows these numbers to be wrong - I have not independently verified them - please let me know.

November 17, 2007 in News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Disappointed "Lust, Caution" moviegoer sues theater and SARFT

071106204a_3_2 Dong Yanbin (董彦斌), a doctoral student at the Faculty of Law of China University of Politics and Law, brought suit on Nov. 13th against Huaxing International Cinemas and the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television. His complaint against the cinema where he saw "Lust, Caution" (色|戒) is that in showing a bowdlerized version (seven minutes of sex scenes were cut), it infringed on his rights as a consumer to information and fair trade. His complaint against the latter is that it has not established a movie rating system and thereby has hurt the public interest.

Dong argues that the right to make judgments about the film belongs to consumers, not to the cinema showing it. He is requesting an apology, 500 yuan in emotional damages, and the availability of the uncut to adult audiences, including himself.

The manager of the cinema has responded, understandably enough, that it's out of the cinema's hands. Every cinema in the country is showing the same cut version, and the decision on that came from SARFT. He also states that it's not SARFT that makes the cuts in these cases, but the director himself, failing which the film will simply not get permission to be shown.

The court's response? They won't hear the case until Dong provides an uncut version as evidence. Clever.

Here's the full story from the Chinese press and another one from the International Herald Tribune. And below is a trailer for the curious. By the way, if you're curious about the lovely music, it's Ella giammai m'amo from Verdi's Don Carlo.

November 16, 2007 in News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Shi Tao et al. suit against Yahoo settles

Here's the CNN report. The amount was undisclosed.

November 13, 2007 in News - Chinese Law, News - Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yang and Callahan testimony in Congressional hearing

Last week I posted here about the hearings before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding Yahoo's role in the prosecution of Shi Tao. Here are some more useful links:

Callahan's testimony reveals that he learned in October 2006 that his earlier testimony to Congress - to the effect that Yahoo had not known the nature of the investigation of Shi Tao - was inaccurate. He apologizes for not informing the Committee of this.

A puzzle remains in that Callahan, speaking for Yahoo (the US parent), continues to insist that the request for information was received by Yahoo China, and that the information in question was provided by them. Thus, the issue as framed by Yahoo is whether a Chinese company can be expected to resist Chinese government orders. The documents uncovered in litigation and posted on the Duihua Foundation's web site, however, seem to show that the request was to Yahoo Hong Kong (specifically, its representative office in Beijing), and that it was Yahoo Hong Kong that provided the information. (For more on this, with relevant links, see my previous post here.) The House Foreign Affairs Committee has focused solely on whether Yahoo knew of the nature of the investigation of Shi Tao, and seems to have overlooked this other problem.

November 11, 2007 in News - Chinese Law, News - Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Strategic toleration of public protest in China

Here's an interesting game-theoretical analysis of public protest in China. The author, Peter Lorentzen, argues that such protests do not necessarily indicate regime weakness; instead, they are tolerated (in some cases) because they can increase the government's effectiveness. Here's the abstract:

The occurrence of protests in authoritarian countries is often seen as a harbinger of regime collapse. Yet China since the 1990s has seen a significant rise in popular protest while maintaining economic growth and its reform trajectory. Furthermore, the Chinese government has shown its ability to effectively suppress dissent when it chooses to. This paper argues that deliberate toleration of narrow economic protests serves the Chinese government's purposes in two ways. First, it allows the government to identify and defuse discontented groups. Second, it provides a useful signal of local government corruption that can be used to supplement and direct limited administrative monitoring resources. This mechanism has become particularly useful to the government of contemporary China as the processes of decentralization and market reform have made identification and investigation of local corruption more difficult.

November 11, 2007 in Publications | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 9, 2007

This blog's reading level

Here's an interesting site that purports to tell you what level of education is required to read particular blogs. Try inputting this blog's URL (http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/china_law_prof_blog) and give yourself a pat on the back, Einstein.

Actually, I'm not proud of it; it's not my desire to be obscure. I think there's a lot to be said for the view of the quotation offered by Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy (rated Junior High School reading level): "Think with the learned, and speak with the vulgar."

November 9, 2007 in Other | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Yahoo executives grilled by House Foreign Affairs Committee

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings today on Yahoo's role in the prosecution of Shi Tao, a topic on which I've blogged before (most recently, here). Testifying before the Committee were Jerry Yang and general counsel Michael Callahan. Specifically relevant to this hearing, Chairman Tom Lantos has accused Yahoo of providing false information to Congress in earlier testimony by Michael Callahan (see Lantos' statement here). According to a Yahoo-sympathetic report of the proceedings by CNET's correspondent, Yahoo admits that the information Callahan provided - that Yahoo did not know of the nature of the investigation - was inaccurate: as Lantos' statement points out, "[T]he document provided to Yahoo! China on April 22, 2004 by the Beijing State Security Bureau stated, 'Your office is in possession of the following items relating to a case of suspected illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities…'" Lantos is not prepared to say that Callahan in fact knew this and was actually committing perjury, but expresses astonishment that a translation of this key document was never provided to Callahan as he prepared for his earlier testimony. Lantos also states:

Six months after his testimony, Mr. Callahan became aware that some officials of Yahoo! did know the nature of the investigation against Shi Tao at the time it complied with the Chinese request for information. Despite Mr. Callahan’s explicit recognition that his previous testimony was inconsistent with the facts, neither Mr. Callahan nor anybody at Yahoo contacted the Committee, orally or in writing, to advise us that Yahoo had provided false information to the Committee.

I don't yet have a transcript of the hearing, so I don't what Yang and Callahan had to say in response to this; much of the time seems to have been spent in statements by Committee members.

If I may be forgiven for quoting myself, I think an important issue is being overlooked:

Once again, it seems, the complex structure of Yahoo's East Asian operations is confusing people and diverting attention from an important issue. Forget about the debatable issue of how much information the search warrant really provided. What the CFA's press release does not notice, and what the Yahoo spokesman does not deny, is that the documents (again, if genuine) appear to refute conclusively Yahoo's explicit contention, made elsewhere in general counsel Callahan's testimony, that the Yahoo entity named Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong), Ltd. (Yahoo HK) had nothing to do with any of this, and that the information demand was made to (and the information supplied by) Yahoo's Chinese-incorporated entity. The documents show that the demands were addressed in one case to Yahoo HK's Beijing representative office, and in another case simply to Yahoo HK generally. They also show that in at least one case, information was supplied by Yahoo HK (or at least the document has a Yahoo HK stamp on it).

This is more than just a technical issue. If Yahoo HK released the information, it may have violated Hong Kong privacy laws. And as I argued in my post yesterday, Yahoo HK is really in no different position vis-a-vis the PRC authorities than the US parent, where many people (including me) have e-mail accounts.

There are important issues involved here; among other things, in some cases simply doing business in China involves some distasteful choices. Are we really prepared to say that US companies should simply stop doing any business in China? That seems a bit extreme; I think reasonable people of good conscience could reach a different conclusion, and it's never been my intention in my posts on this topic to engage in intemperate Yahoo-bashing. At the same time, it's impossible even to discuss these issues intelligently if the factual background of who knew what when is not well understood.

November 6, 2007 in News - Chinese Law, News - Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Public Interest Law Initiative seeks country director for China

For details, see the job announcement.

The deadline is Dec. 17, 2007. Qualifications are as follows:

  • A law degree
  • At least 5 years relevant work experience
  • Significant project management experience
  • Demonstrated expertise and interest in legal reform and public interest law in China
  • Superlative communication skills, including fluency in English and Mandarin, both written and spoken
  • Willingness to travel regularly within China, as well as make regular visits to other PILI offices

November 5, 2007 in Internships/Employment Opportunities | Permalink | TrackBack (0)