Monday, March 31, 2008
The hit counting service for this blog provides statistics on where visitors come from. As expected, the United States accounts for the plurality (as well as the majority) of visitors: 52%. But second place goes to Hong Kong: 12%. After that comes Canada (6%), France (5%), and Australia (3%). Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands, and Sweden each account for 2%.
The really interesting numbers come when you adjust for population, though. In terms of hits per 1,000,000 of population, here's the ranking:
Hong Kong: 1868
It's not surprising that Hong Kong would be a center of interest in Chinese law, but what's going on in Sweden and Belgium? Comments welcome (especially from Swedes and Belgians).
UPDATE: As one of the comments points out, the absence of China from this list is probably because this blog is blocked in China.
Here's an interesting news report quoting People's Bank of China official Zhang Tao as saying that housing prices in China are, relative to both income and rental prices, disproportionately high compared with the ratio in other countries. Zhang attributes this among other things to the (presumably disproportionate) desire of people to buy instead of rent, and in particular to buy a new residence. (This latter point squares with my own experience talking to Chinese acquaintances. Although people feel richer when housing prices go up after they buy, the increased wealth may be an illusion; the prices people see are for new housing, whereas there seems to be a very significant discount for "used" housing.)
What's interesting are the remedies Zhang proposes: essentially, to make it easier to buy through such mechanisms as government-guaranteed mortgages or direct aid to low-income buyers. Surely these remedies would have exactly the opposite effect: by making buying easier relative to renting, as well as easier for any given level of income, they would exacerbate the disproportionality of housing prices relative to rents and income levels. I'm no economist, but if one wants to narrow the gap, isn't the solution to make renting more attractive and buying less attractive? Rent subsidies, for example, would both decrease the price of bought housing by reducing demand and increase the general level of rents by giving renters more resources. (The slope of the supply and demand curves for rental housing would determine how the subsidy ended up being shared between landlords and tenants.)
What the disproportionality (if true) suggests to me is that housing prices are in a bubble, and indeed we are already beginning to see signs of softness in the housing market. If incomes in China have historically supported a particular ratio between rental and purchase prices, then it makes sense to think (absent particular reasons to think the contrary) that disproportionality will eventually be brought back into line.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
There is now a petition circulating in China addressed to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao asking that the government withdraw the ban. Here's an English translation; here's the Chinese original. Interestingly, some of the language tracks that of the report in the Procuratorial Daily that I translated here a few days ago.
Here's a video of Time reporters Simon Elegant and Austin Ramzy trying to visit Hu Jia's wife Zeng Jingyan at her apartment at the ironically named Bobo Freedom City apartment complex. Zeng is under what amounts to house arrest, although as far as I know no legal justification has been offered. Here's a video shot by Hu Jia earlier of their life under house arrest. And here's the story of an attempt to bring milk powder to Zeng Jinyan and her baby. Fascinating stuff.
Last month I posted about the WTO's interim ruling; the final ruling has now been issued (but won't be public until July). Those who have access to the BNA's WTO Reporter can see a full report here. Here are the first few paragraphs, the quoting of which will not, I hope, exceed the bounds of fair use:
A World Trade Organization dispute panel has issued a final ruling upholding complaints filed by the United States, the European Union and Canada against China's discriminatory tariff treatment of imported automobile parts.
The final ruling circulated to the four parties March 20 maintains the findings in the panel's interim report issued Feb. 13, according to officials familiar with the ruling (30 WTO, 02/14/08).
The panel rejected China's arguments in defense of regulations that the United States, the EU, and Canada said resulted in illegal duties being imposed on imported auto parts.
Officials said China contested only one part of the panel's findings during the review of the interim report, namely that Beijing's decision to subject imports of completely knocked-down (CKD) and semi knocked-down (SKD) auto kits to the same 25 percent tariff as complete motor vehicles violated China's WTO accession commitments. The panel rejected China's claims in the final ruling, the officials said.
The final ruling is due to be issued to all WTO members and made public sometime in July.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Here's a remarkable article about one CPPCC's delegate's call for the State Council to enact regulations on physical fitness (全民健身条例). Despite going on at length about the urgent need for such regulations, the article manages to avoid entirely telling us exactly (or even inexactly) why they are needed. It seems that every sphere of human activity in principle has to have a governing statute.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Here's a cool Chinese-language blog of which I recently became aware: the "Re-Education Through Labor" (劳动教养) blog. It's blocked from China (this really shouldn't be a problem for most people any more, given proxy servers, virtual private networks, etc.), but has an RSS feed that works without any need for fancy software if you can just get to the site once to sign up for it.
HT: Otto Malmgren.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Having chivalrously taken up the cudgel on behalf of Tang Wei, I now present some follow-up. A report in the Procuratorial Daily discusses some of the legal issues involved in the banning order. Here's a summary (i.e., a hasty, selective, and inexact quasi-translation, with the really inexact parts in square brackets):
Just before March 7, the media reported that Tang Wei, the star of "Lust, Caution," had been "banned," and that cosmetics advertisements in which she appeared as a spokesperson were no longer being broadcast.
On March 9, Zhang Haitao, the vice director of the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, in response to reporters' questions, said, "This policy is directed at subject matter, not people." But he did not reply as to the reason for the banning. Zhang's words were interpreted by the media as a first direct official confirmation of Tang Wei's having been "banned." The company on whose behalf Tang had appeared in advertisements [i.e., Pond's] also confirmed that many television stations had stopped broadcasting Pond's advertisements with Tang Wei, but that the reason was by no means clear.
On March 13, at a press conference in connection with the Two Meetings [i.e., the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress], the Vice Minister of Culture, Zhou Heping, upon being asked about the banning order, said, "As long as they are in accordance with China's rules, in accordance with China's relevant rules about the administration of advertising, then I think these things should be permitted."
On March 18, a relevant person at SARFT, during a media interview, said that SARFT had not "completely banned" Tang Wei, but was simply not encouraging the continued expansion of her influence. Tang Wei was a good actress, but many young people thought that they could be like her and strip their way to fame; this could easily have a negative effect on the maturation of young people.
The news of Tang Wei's being banned drew a lot of attention. On March 19, a large number of legal scholars participated in a meeting held in Beijing on the legal aspects of the phenomenon of banning. Some experts believed that the racy scenes in "Lust, Caution" had a bad influence on society, particularly on young people, and should have been banned; that the actions of SARFT were welcomed by the people; but that this banning order had a number of legal problems.
"'Lust, Caution' was shown on the mainland in a cut version that was approved by SARFT, and didn't contain any over-the-top sex scenes. If it had any problems, it is SARFT's behind that should get paddled first, because it was SARFT that approved it. How can Tang Wei be asked to take responsibility?" "Fundamentally, this is not a problem of just Tang Wei alone; the whole movie crew is responsible." Scholar Hao Jian from the Beijing Film Institute believes that when "Lust, Caution" was shown and under discussion, there was no overt administrative interference from the government, but then SARFT issued its banning order against Tang Wei appearing in advertisements in film or on television. The issuance and implementation of the banning order will have a great effect on Tang Wei and on artistic creation on the Chinese mainland.
[The article then has a few more quotes from Hao Jian saying it's absurd to ask Tang Wei to shoulder all the responsibility for this; how is she supposed to know what the government considers artistically and historically appropriate? If anyone, it's the censors who should be punished.]
[Other scholars are then quoted saying that the banning order should be in the form of an official document that sets for the nature of and reasons for the banning; that the government has to justify its actions to Tang Wei and to the public. One says it's not about whether the movie is good or bad, or what kind of a person Tang Wei is, but rather about the need for limits on government power. Another one looks at SARFT's listed powers and responsibilities and finds no legal basis for the issuing of a banning order.]
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I have received the following announcement:
The China Law Center of Yale Law School is seeking a graduating senior or recent university graduate for a Research Associate position based in Beijing. The Research Associate will support Center projects in China by conducting research and writing on issues related to legal reform; interacting with scholars, officials, and lawyers in China; and performing administrative and logistical tasks.
Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume (including contact information for references) to The China Law Center at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications should be submitted by April 15, 2008 but will be reviewed on a rolling basis beginning March 31, 2008. Applicants will only be contacted if invited for an interview. The Research Associate will receive a competitive one-year fellowship stipend for the 2008-2009 year.
Please see the attached position announcement for more information.
Monday, March 10, 2008
The China Digital Times reports that in a telephone memo, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has banned media in China under its authority from having anything to do with Tang Wei, the actress who starred in "Lust, Caution." The memo reportedly says, among other things, ""All television programs, including news, features, entertainment, advertising and live broadcasts, must not cover Tang Wei or stir up issues related to her from now on." The memo, reportedly issued on March 6th, seems to coincide with the issuance by SARFT on March 3rd of a notice restating its policy on censorship.
The banning was reported on March 8th by the Hollywood Reporter, and although SARFT clearly doesn't want to talk about it - what doesn't exist can't be effectively challenged, after all - a SARFT official acknowledged the action in remarks at the meeting the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress currently taking place in Beijing.
This action raises all kinds of interesting questions, the primary one of which of course is whether she would have standing to sue SARFT under the Administrative Litigation Law (or indeed, any other law) to make it justify the legality of its action - assuming unrealistically that any court would take the case. After all, the order isn't directed at her; plenty of reason for a nervous court to decline to take the case.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
There has been some discussion on the Chinalaw listserve about the legality of his detention. Without rehashing the discussion - the archives are available to anyone who joins the list, and joining is free - I thought it might be useful to highlight the two issues that emerged.
First, of course, is the main issue of whether his detention and the manner in which it was effected are lawful under Chinese law. Under Chinese law, restrictions on personal freedom may be justified only pursuant to legislation passed by the National People's Congress or its Standing Committee. Thus, it is acknowledged by just about everyone that the "shuanggui" (double designation) system of detention by Party disciplinary organs is illegal, even though it continues to operate unembarrassed by this problem.
In Teng's case, the relevant statute would seem to be the Criminal Procedure Law. But was he detained as part of a bona fide criminal investigation? And does the CPL justify detentions that are not part of a bona fide criminal investigation? I don't ask these questions rhetorically, but I think the answer to both is no.
The second issue is whether observers should spend energy trying to figure out if a lawful basis for the detention might have existed, and what conclusions, if any, should be drawn from the failure of the Chinese government to provide information or a justification. As one contributor pointed out, while it's legitimate for the detainee to argue that the detention is illegal unless the state shows legal grounds, the position of the outside observer is different. The detainee is trying to obtain his freedom, while the observer is (or should be) trying to understand the Chinese legal system; the notion that the government should pay a cost for its silence is good advocacy but poor scholarship.
In any case, an interesting discussion.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Friday, March 7, 2008
According to a Chinese press report (reported by Reuters here), Huang Ermei (黄尔梅), the president of the Supreme People's Court's criminal chamber, stated that in 2007 - the first year the Supreme People's Court reviewed all death sentences - it rejected 15% of the cases it reviewed. The number of death sentences still remains a secret, it appears, but more and more numbers are coming out. For example, Judge Huang said that in 2007 the number of suspended death sentences (with a two-year reprieve) was for the first time greater than the number of ordinary death sentences.
Since the normal procedures for arrest do not seem to have been followed, "kidnapping" seems about the best term to describe the seizure of attorney Teng Biao (滕彪) by unknown persons in a black car without license plates. Needless to say, the probability that these are agents of the state is very high. Here's the news story from The Guardian; a statement by the Hong Kong organization China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group is here.
The statement also mentions a contemporaneous incident in which the car of attorney Li Heping (李和平), who was recently kidnapped and severely beaten by unknown assailants (again, very probably state agents), was rammed by a police vehicle as he was taking his young son to school.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I recently posted a paper with the above title on SSRN; it can be downloaded here: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1097587. It's a pre-publication version of a somewhat shorter piece that has appeared in the China Quarterly (the full reference is in the paper).
Here's the abstract:
Since the early 1990s, China has come a long way in legislating the foundational rules for its reformed economy. Virtually all of the important areas - contracts, business organizations, securities, bankruptcy, and secured transactions, to name a few - are now covered by national legislation as well as lower-level regulations. Yet an important feature of a legal structure suited to a market economy is missing: the ability of the system to generate from below solutions to problems not adequately dealt with by existing legislation. The top-down model that has dominated Chinese law reform efforts to date can only do so much. What is needed now is a more welcoming attitude to market-generated solutions to the gaps and other problems that will invariably exist in legislation. The state's distrust of civil-society institutions and other bottom-up initiatives suggests, however, that this different approach will not come easily.
I have been asked to post the following:
Yale-China Association Law Fellows Program
Call for Applications
The Yale-China Association is pleased to invite applications for its 2008-2009 Law Fellows Program. The program places young U.S.-trained attorneys at Chinese universities as visiting professors. Fellows spend one academic year in residence at a Chinese law school, teaching classes in areas of their own expertise and contributing to clinical education programs at the host institution. During the 2008-09 academic year, Yale-China will send two Law Fellows to China. One will be placed at the Hunan University School of Law in Changsha, Hunan, and will have the opportunity to help develop the school's new clinical legal education program. The other Fellow will be placed at a top law school in the Pearl River Delta region of China.
Anyone with a J.D. from an accredited U.S. law school and two years experience in legal practice is eligible to apply. Preference will be given to those candidates who speak Chinese, are familiar with China, and have teaching and/or clinical law experience. Fellows will receive intensive Chinese-language instruction during the summer 2008 in Beijing and continued Chinese-language instruction during their residency. Round-trip airfare to China, on-campus housing, health insurance, and a stipend are provided as part of the package.
Application Deadline: March 20, 2008.
For more information, please visit: http://www.yalechina.org/dynamicpage.php?Id=10&SubId=
New Haven, CT 06520-8223
Tel: (203) 432-0850
Fax: (203) 432-7246
Tuesday, March 4, 2008