February 2, 2008
Living under house arrest: the video
Beijing-based human rights activist Hu Jia, arrested in late December on a subversion charge, had been under house arrest for a large part of last year. (Actually, calling it "house arrest" is generous to the authorities, since what happened was simply that plainclothes police prevented him from leaving his home, without any apparent legal basis.) Here's a video diary he compiled of their activities.
January 31, 2008
Go ahead and speculate
The State Council's latest batch of abolished regulations includes the 1987 Provisional Regulations for the Administrative Punishment of Speculation (投机倒把行政处罚暂行条例) and the corresponding 1990 Implementing Rules. The reason for the abolition? "The object of regulation has disappeared, and [the regulation] has already lost its effect in practice" (调整对象已消失，实际上已经失效).
Since the crime of "speculation" (投机倒把) disappeared with the 1997 revised Criminal Law, these State Council regulations were pretty much the last refuge of this pre-reform-era concept, which might mean nothing more than buying low and selling high. The regulations themselves barred such vaguely-defined activities as "jacking up prices" (哄抬物价) and "other speculative activities that disturb the socialist economic order" (其他扰乱社会主义经济秩序的投机倒把行为).
Some of the specific activities that were deemed to constitute speculation might still, of course, be illegal, but the final (it seems) death of this particular term in the Chinese legal system should not go unmarked.
January 28, 2008
US to initiate WTO dispute proceedings with China over financial information rules
The BNA's WTO Reporter reports as follows (excerpt only; full story here):
The United States has signaled it will initiate new World Trade Organization dispute settlement proceedings against China to address a standing U.S. complaint regarding Chinese restrictions on foreign financial information service providers.
Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said a letter was sent by the United States to China Jan. 25 warning that U.S. patience on the issue has finally run out. As a result, barring quick action by Beijing, Washington is expected to initiate proceedings by requesting WTO dispute consultations with China.
At issue is a September 2006 administrative measure issued by China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency prohibiting foreign financial information services such as Bloomberg or Reuters from selling their services directly to Chinese domestic clients. Instead, the measure requires the foreign news services to operate through an agent designated by Xinhua.
To date, the only agent designated by Xinhua is a Xinhua affiliate.
For a great story of an earlier attempt by Xinhua to control (and profit from) the information flow from foreign providers, see James McGregor, One Billion Customers (2007), pp. 129 ff.