June 21, 2007
Xiao Yang calls for courts to resist media pressure for heavy sentences
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).
Yale Law School's China Law Center snags $10M Hewlett Foundation grant
June 20, 2007
PBS documentary (and other documentaries) on China's legal system
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".)
FROM NEIGHBORHOOD DISPUTES TO LIFE-AND-DEATH CASES, WIDE ANGLE
FOLLOWS JUDGES, LAWYERS AND ordinary citizens SEEKING JUSTICE AS CHINA
BUILDS A LEGAL FRAMEWORK FROM SCRATCH FOR ITS NEW MARKET ECONOMY, IN
THE PEOPLE'S COURT
WIDE ANGLE Launches Its Sixth Season Tuesday, July 3 at 9 p.m.
When a state judge brings her mobile court to a hillside village
to resolve its first lawsuit, the entire community shows up for the
public spectacle. When a crusading lawyer risks government retribution
to defend farmers rioting against a massive dam project, a teenager is
tried and executed in secret.
It may be the court of "the people," but it's a long,
long way from Judge Wapner's California courtroom.
As WIDE ANGLE returns for its sixth season of in-depth
documentaries about issues that are shaping the world today, The
People's Court takes viewers inside the courtrooms and law schools of
China to provide an unprecedented and unexpected portrait of its rapidly
growing legal system. The People's Court premieres Tuesday, July 3 at 9
p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).
Poised to surpass the United States as the largest economy in
the world, yet facing mounting domestic and international pressure for a
fair and transparent framework of laws, China is racing to reshape the
rules of society. With Chinese from all walks of life taking to the
streets in record numbers (official figures count an average of 200
incidents of unrest a day) to protest land seizures, corruption,
pollution, or unpaid wages, China is under duress to provide a release
valve for mounting social discontents. "Rule of law," originally a
Western concept, was recently adopted in China's Constitution for the
first time ever, and legal reform is high on the state agenda, despite
the Communist Party's continuing monopoly on power. Above all, a market
economy requires a reliable framework of property rights, without which
international investors cannot do business with China.
In the past quarter century, the country has opened nearly 400
law schools, trained hundreds of thousands of judges and lawyers, and
launched education campaigns to encourage people to bring their
grievances to court rather than taking to the streets. Few nations have
ever attempted to create a new legal system so quickly.
Yet the transformation is incomplete and the judiciary far from
independent. Senior judges are appointed by, take orders from, and
receive their paychecks from the Communist Party. Hundreds of Chinese
lawyers have been jailed in recent years for challenging state
leadership or taking on overly sensitive cases. More than 99 percent of
criminal cases end in convictions. And China executes more prisoners
every year than the rest of the world combined. The People's Court
reports the shocking story of the recent secret trial and execution of
one of the 100,000 peasants who protested the loss of their land to a
huge hydroelectric dam project on the Dadu River.
WIDE ANGLE was given exclusive access to film in Chinese courts
- a first for a Western documentary. Profiling itinerant judges, law
students, a human rights lawyer, and ordinary citizens, The People's
Court examines China in flux, revealing the lengths to which Chinese
people must go to obtain justice and raising crucial questions about
their present system of law: Is it possible to get a fair trial in
China today? Will the "rule of law" transform Chinese society into one
that protects the legal rights of all citizens?
After the film, WIDE ANGLE anchor Daljit Dhaliwal will conduct
an interview with a foreign policy expert to examine the global
implications of China's legal reforms and connect the dots for American
For additional information and photography, visit
<http://www.thirteen.org/pressroom/wideangle> or pbs.org/pressroom
Major funding for WIDE ANGLE is provided by PBS, The
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Mutual
of America Life Insurance Company, The John D. and Catherine T.
MacArthur Foundation, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation, The
Jacob Burns Foundation, Josh and Judy Weston, Rosalind P. Walter, and
The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.
WIDE ANGLE is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York for PBS.
Stephen Segaller is executive producer. Pamela Hogan is series
producer. Andy Halper is senior producer. The People's Court was
directed by Bruno Sorrentino and produced by Maggie Still of Xanadu
June 18, 2007
CLD Consultants (Beijing) seeks program officer for Chinese law projects
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.