May 30, 2008
Three PRC lawyers comment on amended Lawyers Law
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].
May 28, 2008
Dirty dealings in Shanghai real estate
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:
A massive villa project advertised in glowing terms as a “super large-scale community” -- an appeal designed to attract investors and house-hunters alike -- is still under construction in Shanghai's Jia Ding District, nearly two years after its confident developer launched an initial public offering to kick-start financing.
Today, the unfinished project stands as a sprawling testimony to the cronyism and greed that spread through city hall and the real estate sector in recent years, infecting business leaders as well as top officials including, authorities say, Yin Guoyuan.
On April 4, a Shanghai intermediate court indicted Yin, a former deputy director of the city's Real Estate Department, on charges of abuse of power, illegal possession of ammunition, accepting 36.7 million yuan in bribes, and holding US$47,900 in cash as well as more than 8 million yuan in property that could not be legally accounted for.
Yin had been under investigation for an unrelated social security issue in April 2007 when authorities tied him to players in the now 2-year-old Shanghai pension scandal, which involved the illegal diversion of city pension funds for real estate deals and led to convictions for several ex-officials including former party boss and mayor Chen Liangyu and wealthy tycoon Zhou Zhengyi.
Officials connected Yin's activity to the ex-mayor's brother Chen Liangjun and city land officials including Zhu Wenjin, who worked as director of planning and management in Yin's department.
The case dates to December 2002, when Yin was in charge of a restoration in Shanghai's old city. Authorities said he violated regulations on behalf of Chen and Zhou by ruling that a land plot in Gao Jing City, Bao Shan District, met conditions for restoration, when in fact it failed to meet the criteria, costing the state about 46 million yuan in land transfer fees.
After reselling the plot, Chen pocketed a cool 118 million yuan profit. Now he's now being investigated -- and may become the next member of the real estate web to face trial. Zhu Wenjin, convicted of accepting bribes, is already serving a 15-year jail term following a conviction last year.
May 27, 2008
Citation of Chinese sources in English
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?