Saturday, April 5, 2008
Here are some observations on the conviction of Hu Jia from the Dui Hua Foundation. The article compares the time taken to process Hu's case and finds it extraordinarily fast, compared with other similar cases in Dui Hua's database. It concludes that one "cannot help but suspect that the relevant authorities were reluctant to announce a judgment against Hu too close to the Olympics (where it might cause image problems), preferring instead to send an early warning to other activists not to make trouble." It also suggests that based on what we know of sentences in similar cases, there is no reason to consider Hu's sentence particularly lenient, contrary to Xinhua's claim.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Fresh from his kidnapping by the police, Teng Biao has now joined an effort to offer legal assistance to Tibetans detained in the recent unrest. Here is the open letter in which he and several other signatories offer assistance. Teng is a brave man; the rabid nationalists - and there sure seem to be a lot of them - may be less polite to him than the police were.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
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.