November 7, 2008
Court proceedings unlawfully closed
Here's a report from the Financial Times about proceedings at the Xicheng District court in Beijing in a case involving objections to forced demolition. Although none of the grounds for not opening the proceedings to the public would seem to apply, the court closed them anyway.
It's not difficult to find reports of court proceedings in politically sensitive cases being closed even where the conditions for closing aren't met. Article 7 of the Court Organization Law, passed in 1979, says: "The hearing of all cases by People's Courts shall be public, with the exception of cases involving state secrets, private personal matters, and minors." (人民法院审理案件，除涉及国家机密、个人阴私和未成年人犯罪案件外，一律公开进行。) And this rule has been repeated in other regulations at other times since then (Article 120 of the Civil Procedure Law, for example, has called for open trials since 1991, and there are many, many Supreme People's Court notices and rules on this subject, including this one from 1999). But almost three decades later - a very long time in the history of the PRC, and a period in which other features of Chinese society have changed unrecognizably - courts regularly ignore their own rules, and the promise of truly open court proceedings remains unfulfilled. Kind of remarkable.
November 6, 2008
Masters and Doctors sue CNKI
Here's an interesting case: 104 writers of master's and doctoral thesis are suing the China National Knowledge Infrastructure database (CNKI) [China | US mirror site] in Chaoyang District, Beijing for putting their theses on line without their permission. According to the plaintiffs, CNKI (operated by a company called Tong Fang, which to the best of my knowledge is owned by Tsinghua University), obtained copies of their theses, scanned and digitized them, and made them available for downloading, all in order to make high profits. They are seeking an apology and compensation.
I'm not an expert in copyright law, but if CNKI didn't get the authors' permission, it looks like a pretty open-and-shut case to me. But I want to talk about the business issue, not the legal one. It seems obvious to me that CNKI should have adopted a different business model. Instead of publishing the theses without seeking permission or paying for them, CNKI should have contacted the authors and offered to put the theses on line if the authors paid CNKI. Let's face it: very few master's and doctoral theses are really worth publishing. Academic authors in China regularly pay to get published in certain journals. If CNKI had treated its web site as a publication opportunity for the authors, to be withheld from them unless they paid, the authors probably would have done so happily - especially given that the database for master's theses was called "Full-Text Database of Outstanding Chinese Master's Theses" (中国优秀硕士学位论文全文数据库). That's exactly the kind of thing people are often willing to pay for.
I'm curious - do my Chinese readers agree with this analysis?
November 3, 2008
Raoul Wallenberg Institute seeks program officer for Beijing office
I have received the following announcement:
RWI is currently seeking a Programme Officer at RWI’s Field Office in Beijing for an initial time period of twelve months starting in January 2009, at the earliest. The Programme Officer’s primary responsibilities are to ensure that RWI’s international programmes in China are planned, implemented and followed up so as to achieve expected results enhancing the overall impact, quality and coordination of RWI’s activities in the country.
Full details here.
November 2, 2008
Death by lethal injection in China
Here's a report from the Beijing News (新京报) on the switch over to death by lethal injection in China. (The traditional technique has been a bullet in the back of the head.) interesting photographs and quotations. Thanks to Otto Malmgren for the pointer.
Here are two good web sites for information on lethal injection in the US (I suspect anti-death-penalty in orientation), with lots of good links further sources: