Saturday, January 6, 2007
Friday, January 5, 2007
If rudeness is outlawed, then will only outlaws be rude? This question is stimulated by a recent story in the Los Angeles Times reporting that according to a new Beijing municipal regulation, "[s]tarting next month, Beijing shopkeepers who vent their anger, act impatiently, glance at customers disdainfully or act absent-mindedly are in violation of the law." The article goes on: "The government report makes no mention of penalties, leading to speculation about how the regulations will be enforced. What will a consumer need to prove that he or she was wronged? Will a cellphone video clip become the supporting evidence of choice?"
Actually, I think the LAT is being a little unfair in poking fun at this document; entitled 北京市商业零售企业员工行为礼仪规范（试行） (Beijing Municipality Standards for Polite Behavior by Commercial Retail Sales Enterprise Personnel (for Trial Implementation), issued Nov. 10, 2006), it is (as one commentary points out) not intended to be a set of rules enforceable by punishments. It is not clear that the issuing body, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Commerce, would have the authority to prescribe punishments even if it wanted to. Nevertheless, it belongs squarely within a tradition of Chinese governments trying to get their citizens to shape up that dates back at least to Chiang Kai-shek's New Life movement in the 1930s, and that continues today with the Eight Glories Eight Shames (八荣八耻) campaign and attempts to get tourists to behave better.
Public reaction has been rather skeptical; one commentator opines that polite behavior by service personnel is the result of competition in the marketplace, not government decree, pointing out that you get much better service in the more highly marketized south. But certainly a casual attitude toward customer service cannot be blamed solely on socialism; Lao She satirized it in 1934 in his short piece "Withdrawing Money" (取钱) (worth looking at if you read Chinese).
If this were a Time magazine article, it would end by saying something like, "One thing seems certain: whatever the government decrees, Beijing's taxi drivers are likely to continue to go their own way." But it isn't.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
Normally I don't plug individual books or articles (then I might have to start justifying why I don't plug others, and that's not a road I want to go down), but I make an exception for material that is really outstanding or hard to find or some combination of both. In this case both criteria are satisfied (it's not on Amazon.com).
The book in question is Robin Munro, China's Psychiatric Inquisition: Dissent, Psychiatry and the Law in Post-1949 China (London: Wildy, Simmonds and Hill, 2006), a thorough study of the political abuse of psychiatry in China based on Munro's Ph.D. thesis (Department of Law, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London). (I should perhaps disclose a personal connection: I have been a friend of the author for many years.)
This is an unimpeachably (and in my opinion irrefutably) researched book, based largely on openly published Chinese sources. As a result, skeptics don't need to take the author's word for it; they can verify his sources for themselves. Although Munro's previous works on this subject have, not surprisingly, subjected him to criticism, none of the criticism I have seen - even where it rises above ad hominem name-calling - actually addresses the sources he cites in such detail and what they tell us. In particular, many of his critics have focused on Falungong-related issues, which are just a minor part of the overall story. Political abuse of psychiatry existed well before the anti-Falungong campaign and continues quite apart from it.
For a debate on earlier work in this area by Munro (which will bear out my characterization of the criticism), see the following (a symposium issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, and a response by Munro in a subsequent issue):
- RJ Munro, Political psychiatry in post-Mao China and its origins in the cultural revolution, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 97 - 106
- AA Stone, Psychiatrists on the side of the angels: the Falun Gong and Soviet Jewry, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 107 - 111
- FW Hickling, The political misuse of psychiatry: an African-Caribbean perspective, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 112 - 119
- S Lee and A Kleinman, Psychiatry in its political and professional contexts: a response to Robin Munro, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 120 - 125
- SY Lu and VB Galli, Psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong practitioners in China, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 126 - 130
- R van Voren, Comparing Soviet and Chinese political psychiatry, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 131 - 135
- RJ Bonnie, Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and in China: complexities and controversies, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 136 - 144
- J Birley, Political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union and China: a rough guide for bystanders, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Mar 2002; 30: 145 - 147
Munro's response to his critics:
- R Munro, On the psychiatric abuse of Falun Gong and other dissenters in China: a reply to Stone, Hickling, Kleinman, and Lee, J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, Jun 2002; 30: 266 - 274
Finally, here is the blurb on the publisher's Web site provided by Prof. Andrew Nathan:
This is a pathbreaking work in China studies, a chilling account of psychiatric abuse of political dissidents dating back to the early days of the Chinese regime and extending to the present. Munro's remarkable research brings to light the sufferings of thousands of previously unsuspected victims, some detailed in heart-breaking case studies.
Far from being an obscure corner of the Chinese system, the gulag of psychiatric abuse proves to be diagnostic of fundamental flaws in Chinese-style rule of law and state-dominated medicine. Munro's earlier research sparked an international campaign to seek improvements. This new, full account of his findings will stand as a classic of human rights research while it deepens our understanding of the Chinese legal and political system.
Monday, January 1, 2007
As of today (Jan. 1, 2007), all death sentences must be reviewed by the Supreme People's Court; review may no longer be delegated to Higher-Level People's Courts. The legislative basis for this was already laid last October, when the Organic Law on People's Courts was revised to eliminate (as of Jan. 1, 2007) the SPC's power to delegate review [news story | legislation]. Now the Supreme People's Court has issued its own regulation formally revoking its previous delegations.
Here's the text in Chinese:
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Here is a letter from the editor:
We are resuming publication of China Law and Governance Review.
As a keen observer of China, we think that you will find the China Law and Governance Review different from other publications. The Review is not a news-clipping service or a bulletin of recent developments. We aim to examine and highlight some of the most interesting stories and compelling commentaries in the Chinese press, particularly in the areas of legal system development and governance. These accounts and commentaries reflect the complex, dynamic and seemingly contradictory realities of a country that is neither the authoritarian state nor the new frontier of capitalism that many abroad perceive it to be. We hope to stimulate discussion among our readership by offering value-added analysis, summaries, excerpts and background information to these news accounts and commentaries.
To view the current and past issues of the China Law and Governance Review, please go to www.chinareview.info.
To give you an idea of what the Review covers, here is the Table of Contents for the current issue:
Secured Transactions Law Reform in China
Key stakeholders in China work with the World Bank and People’s Bank of China to undertake legal and institutional changes to improve access to credit for Chinese businesses.
Returning Death Penalty Review to the Supreme People’s Court: How will the Court Staff the New Death Penalty Review Divisions?
The Supreme People’s Court is reinstating its full authority to review death penalty sentences. Three new criminal divisions will require a large number of new judges.
Voices Against Discrimination
An update of recent cases and developments in Hepatitis B Virus status, gender, residency and place of origin-based discrimination.
Heard on the Web
Beijing Police Abandons Quota
The quota system for traffic fines and criminal arrests in Beijing has officially ended. Most bloggers applaud the move and offer some interesting twists of their own.
The Review is a publication of China Law and Development Consultants, a Hong Kong firm specializing in non-profit development work in China.
We welcome your feedback. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
Best wishes for the New Year!
Ms. Su Lin Han, Editor
Ms. Phyllis L. Chang, President, China Law and Development Consultant
Ms. Stephanie Fischer, Contributing Editor