May 17, 2008
Libel cases in China
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.
May 12, 2008
Shaanxi court tries new cases in the old style
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.