Friday, May 30, 2008
The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group has posted translations of commentaries by three PRC lawyers (Teng Biao, Li Heping, and Zhang Jiankang) on China's amended Lawyers Law. The document is here [PDF on this site | HTML on CHRLC site].
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Here's an interesting article from the English-language on-line edition of Caijing on corruption and cronyism in Shanghai real estate deals (surprise, surprise). Here are the first few paragraphs:
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Here's something that's been bugging me for a long time; I'm finally writing about it because I came across instances of it three times in the last two days. What am I talking about? The practice of citing Chinese-language sources in English-language writing using only an English translation of the source, such that there is no way to find the original Chinese source. Why is this bad? Because it forgets a very important purpose of citation: to allow the interested reader to track down your sources herself and verify that they say what you say they say. It's like spelling out your experimental method in a science paper so as to allow others to attempt to reproduce your results. When you don't allow the reader to find your source, a citation is merely an acknowledgment that you found the language in question somewhere else or an unverifiable claim that you found the fact in question somewhere else. It says to the reader, "Hey, trust me!"
In one case the offending author supplied only the English-language title of the article, but also supplied a URL. Not bad, but not satisfactory. URLs go bad and web sites disappear. What we need is the Chinese title of the article because if it's publicly available on one Chinese web site, it's probably publicly available on many others. Knowing the Chinese title allows us to find it easily through Google or Baidu.
In another case, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, in his report on China, actually invites us in footnote 27 to "see" the Study of the Prevention of and Counter Measures for The Extortion of Confessions by Torture of the Legal Studies Association (The Task Group On The Prevention of the Use of Torture in Interrogation), March 2005. Without knowing the Chinese title of this work, how are we supposed to find it, let alone see it?
It's no excuse to say that it takes too much space to include Chinese titles; why not just have no footnotes at all, if space is the problem? If citations are going to be used, they have to serve their purpose. Otherwise it's just a waste of space. Authors and editors, when citing a source, please ask yourself: could an interested reader competent in the field and with access to the internet and inter-library loan facilities find this source with the information you've provided?
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Here's a piece from the May 1st edition of The Economist about the problems of enforcing environmental law in China, and the fate suffered by whistle-blowers such as Wu Lihong, who is now languishing in prison for his efforts while his wife is the target of continued surveillance and harassment. I'm not an expert in environmental law or policy, but I cannot offhand think of any societies that managed to tackle the pollution caused by industrialization solely through top-down government efforts of the kind with which the Chinese state is comfortable. Of course, state law has played an important role, but citizen involvement, whether as a spur to government action or as plaintiffs in environmental lawsuits, appears indispensable. Government officials cannot monitor every pipe end in the country.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Some time ago, a discussion on the Chinalaw list about LLMs for foreigners (typically English-language) offered by Chinese institutions prompted me to ask for those with views on the subject to write to me so I could assemble a document that would answer questions that often came up.
Here's the result; hope it's useful to all.
MAY 26 UPDATE: I have posted a revised document here.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
It seems that public entertainment, including entertainment web sites, are to be shut down, but the scope is very unclear and no doubt varies from place to place. Obviously, a mourning period is appropriate and understandable, but it seems that a wide range of perfectly legal businesses are being ordered to shut down for three days simply because the local government says so. For the text and translation of Hefei regulations (and some commentary), see here.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Here's a note on libel cases in China from the China's Scientific & Academic Integrity Watch blog. In a recent case, a manufacturer sued CCTV for a report it had made criticizing its products. Although apparently part of the CCTV report was factually false, it won on the grounds that manufacturers should put up with sharp criticism from the media. This is similar to the principle enunciated in a 2003 case from Guangzhou: that journalists should be immune from suit if their is backed by a source that is reasonable and credible and not based simply on rumors. (Text of judgment and commentary by Pu Zhiqiang here.) Can citizen critics benefit from these court decisions in favor of media defendants with government connections? China does not of course have a system of precedent (even if it did, these lower-court decisions wouldn't bind other courts), but judges do look at what other judges are doing.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Well, not really. It was actually fictitious cases based on literary characters tried in the old style for the purpose of spreading legal knowledge. Drawing on the story of Pan Jinlian (潘金莲) from the classical novel "The Water Margin" (水浒传), the court tried the divorce case of Pan Jinhua. The petitioner Pan was (again) a beautiful young woman, this time married to plain but good-hearted villager Wu Dafa (Wu Dalang in the novel). In order to make more money, Pan took to the road (probably to Dongguan) to seek work. There she met the wealthy and licentious Ximen Da (Ximen Qing in the novel), who we are told was from Guangdong. Together they cooked up a scheme whereby Pan would claim Wu had beaten her and get a divorce, and thereafter they could live together. (Pretty harmless compared with the story in "The Water Margin", in which Pan had to kill her husband to be rid of him, and not even necessary at least according to the formal law of the PRC, in which fault on the other side's part is nice to have but not a necessary condition for divorce.) But the court saw that Wu was an honest-looking fellow and didn't look like a wife-beater at all. Further investigation revealed the hand of Ximen Da. The court then explained to Pan what kind of person Ximen really was, at which point Pan's heart was moved so that she rejected Ximen and got back together with the faithful Wu.
One of the court's personnel explained that there were many cases like this in some respect - people leave the village and get exposed to life in the big city, and their values change (presumably for the worse).
Here's the news report.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Remember, you don't have to human-rights oriented to post a position here. As long as it's related to Chinese law, I'll be happy to post job opportunities regardless of ideological affiliation or commercial orientation. Well, almost regardless; I suppose if the KKK were looking for a Chinese law specialist I might not be willing to help out.
Monday, May 5, 2008
The trade unions in Chinese Wal-Mart stores are often dismissed as hollow shells set up by the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) without workers’ involvement. But through monitoring Chinese media and online blog discussions among Chinese Wal-Mart employees, CLNT has found workers who take an active interest in their store union, and at least in one case, of an elected rank and file trade union chair using the trade union platform to actively defend workers’ interests. While most – if not all – of the trade union branches are heavily dominated by Wal-Mart management or local governments, some workers have seized this union-building exercise and try to turn the unions into a body that they identify as their own to protect and to use in their struggle against Wal-Mart management.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Here's an interesting article about problems faced by victorious plaintiffs in collecting awards under the State Compensation Law. The courts have no compulsory enforcement powers against state organs, and so if the state organ in question simply refuses to pay, there's not much anyone can do about it.