Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 10 crackdowns of 2009

Here's the list (in English) from the China Daily.

December 31, 2009 in Commentary | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Life imitates art: cruel murders in coal mines

This is the kind of thing that makes it hard to maintain a principled opposition to the death penalty.

Chinese police have arrested nine people suspected of trafficking mentally disabled people from Leibo County in southwest China' Sichuan Province to other areas and then murdering them in coal mines to blackmail the mine owners, police said Wednesday.

The rest of the story is here.

If you follow Chinese cinema, you'll think right away of Li Yang's (李杨) excellent movie Blind Shaft (盲井). Here's the Wikipedia plot summary:

Song Jinming (played by Li Yixiang) and Tang Zhaoyang (Wang Shuangbao) are professional con artists, running an intricate scam they have perfected through repeated practice. They find a naive young man looking for work, and convince him that they have arranged three lucrative coal mining jobs for themselves and a relative. The relative has not arrived in time, leaving a gap which they generously offer to the victim, on the condition that he pretend to be the missing relative. After a few days of working in the mine, they murder the victim, and by making the murder look like an accident, they use his death to extort compensation money from the mine's management.

December 31, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Guardian on Akmal Shaikh's mental condition

Was Akmal Shaikh's mental condition such as to warrant decreased or even no culpability? We will never know for sure. The legal system that just executed him seemed uninterested in the question; the courts refused to order, or allow, a psychiatric evaluation. (This is not, of course, to say that psychiatry is infallible.) Was there a prima facie case to be made that Shaikh had serious mental problems that warranted further investigation? Here the answer is pretty clearly yes. Check out this story from The Guardian.

December 30, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Verdict in Liu Xiaobo case: English translation

Here's an English translation (with Chinese text appended) of the Dec. 25, 2009 verdict against Liu Xiaobo. A couple of interesting points:

1. There are no allegations of anything other than pure speech.

CORRECTION (Dec. 31, 2009): A colleague has pointed out that this is not correct. The verdict states:

Between September and December 2008, the defendant Liu Xiaobo colluded with others to draft and concoct the "Charter 08", that proposed views such as "eliminate the monopoly of one party on the exercise of political power", "to create a Chinese federation under the framework of democratic constitutional system of governance", seeking to incite the overthrow of state power. Liu Xiaobo collected the signatures of over 300 people and sent "Charter 08" together with the signatures in an email to websites outside of the borders of mainland China publish it on websites outside the borders of mainland China such as "Democratic China" and "The Independent Chinese Pen Association".

On the whole, however, I believe the main charges still relate to pure speech.

2. I'm struck by the extent of government fears about Liu's impact despite the apparent lack of interest (as far as the evidence shows) that the wider world showed in Liu's on-line writings. Athough the verdict claims that Liu used the internet in order to take advantage of the wide circulation and broad social impact it could offer, none of the offending articles cited in verdict had been visited more than several hundred times. The most popular got 748 clicks; the least popular got 57 clicks. Not exactly a prairie fire.

Many thanks to the translator, who wishes to remain anonymous.

(Here's an alternate source for the translation.)

December 30, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law, People and Institutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My China-side blog closed


As some readers may know, this blog is blocked inside of China. As a workaround, I set up a blog inside the Great Firewall on Such a blog can't be blocked, but the blog host (acting on its own or under direction from the authorities) can of course delete individual entries, and if fed up can delete the whole blog. This has apparently now happened. I'll see if I can get anyone to tell me the specific reason (I'm not optimistic) and report back.

December 29, 2009 in Commentary, News - Miscellaneous | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chinese government rejects foreign pressure, saves national honor

Not wishing to fall below the standard set by Arkansas in the execution of the mentally pathetic (Ricky Ray Rector, who saved the dessert from his last meal "for later"), the Chinese state executed Akmal Shaikh today. (Actually, this beats Arkansas, since Rector was a killer, whereas Shaikh's crime was non-violent.)

December 29, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jerome Cohen on the Akmal Shaikh case

Akmal Shaikh is a UK citizen sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling. His sentence was recently confirmed by the Supreme People's Court, and he is due to be executed this Tuesday. The problem is that he is pretty clearly mentally ill. (The drugs were apparently in a suitcase given to him by others to take to China; he was told they were going to make him a pop star there. And there's more, but I don't have space or time to go into it here.) Despite pleas by the British government to take this into account, the Chinese government insists that there is insufficient evidence of his mental illness - possibly because his defense counsel were denied the opportunity to introduce expert evidence on his behalf. As I was getting on a plane in Beijing on Dec. 23rd, I picked up a copy of the nationalistic 环球时报 (Global Times), which saw the UK government's protest as a hypocritical plea for special treatment for foreigners. "西方人不是最强调`法律面前人人平等‘吗?” (Don't the Westerners most emphasize "all are equal before the law"?), asked the reporter (this wasn't even an op-ed piece!) sarcastically. The Global Times insists that "the trial process was extremely careful" (审判过程非常慎重); perhaps this is its way of understanding the fact that when Shaikh insisted on presenting his defense himself on appeal, his rambling and incoherent statement caused the judges to burst into laughter at him. But maybe I'm being unfair; it could be referring to the 30-minute trial at which he was originally convicted.

Apparently China's government feels that national honor depends on executing this pathetic and deluded man. Here's Prof. Jerome Cohen's recent comment on the matter, from the Dec. 23rd issue of the South China Morning Post (reprinted here with permission from Prof. Cohen):

Arbitrary justice
Ignoring its own laws, China is set to execute a Briton with an apparent history of severe mental illness
Jerome A. Cohen
Dec 23, 2009     
China's Supreme People's Court has just announced a death penalty decision of great importance to the British government and the European Union, as well as Chinese and foreign human-rights advocates. In September 2007, Akmal Shaikh, a British subject of Pakistani descent, was detained at Urumqi airport in Xinjiang on charges of drug smuggling. He was convicted and sentenced to death in October 2008 and now confronts execution next Tuesday.

In a country that executes thousands every year, his case would be unexceptional - were it not for his alleged history of severe mental illness.

Although transparency is lacking in this case, as in so many others on the Chinese mainland, it appears that Central Asian smugglers, manipulating Shaikh's delusional ambitions to become a pop star in China, persuaded him to take in a suitcase containing 4kg of heroin.

Chinese legislation exempts from criminal responsibility someone unable to recognise or control his misconduct, and provides for reduction of punishment in cases of partial mental capacity. But Shaikh's 30-minute first instance trial ignored this major aspect of justice.

By the time of Shaikh's second instance trial, on May 26, the London-based rights organisation, Reprieve, had sent British forensic psychiatrist, Dr Peter Schaapveld, to Urumqi in the hope of conducting an examination that would confirm Shaikh's condition and inform the court's review. Unfortunately, without explanation, Schaapveld was denied an interview with Shaikh. He was also not permitted to attend the judicial hearing.

Moreover, the authorities, which had initially indicated that they would allow a local doctor to evaluate Shaikh, changed their mind. The reviewing court thus had the benefit of no expert opinion on this crucial issue. It did, however, apparently allow the defendant the opportunity, against the advice of his lawyers, to deliver a rambling, often incoherent, statement that caused the judges to openly laugh at him.

The second instance court affirmed Shaikh's death sentence and, although both his fitness to stand trial and his mental state at the time of the offence were in doubt, the Supreme People's Court has now agreed.

Yet there has been no indication that the mental condition of the condemned has ever been professionally evaluated, despite concerns expressed by the British government and the EU, as well as Reprieve and other organisations that have compiled massive evidence that Shaikh has long suffered from a serious bipolar disorder.

According to Schaapveld, Shaikh's condition very likely produced a delusional psychosis that enabled professional drug smugglers to manipulate him to act as their unwitting agent.

In these circumstances, one might have expected the Supreme People's Court to comply with Chinese law and international legal standards by requiring a thorough mental evaluation of Shaikh before rendering a final judgment.

However, in some recent highly publicised capital cases, in which mentally disturbed defendants were charged with heinous offences such as multiple murders, the Supreme People's Court failed to insist on psychological evaluations in accordance with fair procedures. Last year's execution of police-killer Yang Jia is only the most notorious illustration.

Yet, Chinese courts have sometimes met the challenge. Several years ago in Beijing, for example, an American, ultimately diagnosed as a paranoid-schizophrenic, killed his Chinese wife because of the delusion that she was poisoning him. The trial court called for a thorough examination by experts at a local mental hospital.

After careful study, six specialists submitted a report that recognised the severity and relevance of the defendant's mental condition. When the victim's family objected to their conclusion, the court sought a second evaluation by another group of experts. When they rendered a similar opinion, the court reduced what would otherwise have been a death sentence to a prison term of 15 years. Although a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity might have been warranted, and would have resulted in the defendant's confinement in a facility more likely to offer better treatment than a prison, at least his life was spared.

Sadly, it is now too late for a similar evaluation in Shaikh's case, although British clemency pleas may yet succeed. In any event, the National People's Congress should enact legislation that will confirm detailed procedural protections to guarantee a fair and accurate mental assessment whenever the defence reasonably requests.

Professor Jerome A. Cohen is co-director of NYU School of Law's US-Asia Law Institute and adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. See also

December 27, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

China adopts Tort Law

The National People's Congress Standing Committee adopted a tort law on Saturday, Dec. 26th. It comes into effect in July. Here's the full text.

December 27, 2009 in News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mo Shaoping profiled in the New York Times

Periodically I post profiles of well-known figures in the Chinese law world (but usually only when someone else writes them). Here's a profile of attorney Mo Shaoping in the Dec. 22 issue of the New York Times. It was Mo's firm, by the way, that defended Liu Xiaobo. As fellow attorney Pu Zhiqiang wrote bitterly back in 2004, "Lawyer Mo Shaoping . . . has with a succession of defeats become the glory of his profession." (Pu was being bitter about the legal system, not about Mo.)

December 26, 2009 in People and Institutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Liu Xiaobo sentenced to 11 years

Liu Xiaobo, one of the key figures behind the Charter 08 document, was sentenced to 11 years on December 24th on charges of incitement to subversion. According to the New York Times report,

Mr. Liu has been held in secret for more than a year and his lawyers were given less than two weeks to prepare their defense. The trial on Wednesday lasted two hours and was closed[.]

I guess all that work at the front end paid off at the back end. In a sign of confidence in the justice of its case, the Chinese government has reportedly issued orders restricting search results for the term "11年" (11 years). Here's what you get from (subject to these orders); here's what you get from (not subject to these orders).

Here's a copy of the verdict (Chinese only; full text appended below just in case it disappears from the web site provided here).

Remember that this is the first-instance judgment. Liu may still appeal. This does not mean that the higher court could on its own decide that the lower court's verdict was wrong; it's impossible to believe that the proceedings in this case are not subject to high-level political direction. But if the government changes its mind about the proper sentence, an appeal is the proceeding through which that would be done.

*   *   *   *   *

Text of Verdict in Liu Xiaobo Case









北京市人民检察院第一分院起诉书指控,被告人刘晓波出于对我国人民民主专政的国家政权和社会主义制度的不满,自2005年以来,通过互联网先后在“观察”、“BBC中文网”等境外网站上发表《中共的独裁爱国主义》、《难道中国人只配接受“党主民主”》、《通过改变社会来改变政权》、《多面的中共独裁》、《独裁崛起对世界民主化的负面效应》、《对黑窑童奴案的继续追问》等煽动性文章。在文章中造谣、诽谤︰“自从中共掌权以来,中共歷代独裁者最在乎的是手中的权力,而最不在乎的就是人的生命”;“中共独裁政权提倡的官方爱国主义,是‘以党代国’体制的谬论,爱国的实质是要求人民爱独裁政权、爱独裁党、爱独裁者,是盗用爱国主义之名而行祸国殃民之实”;“中共的这一切手段,都是独裁者维持最后统治的权宜之计,根本无法长久地支撑这座已经出现无数裂痕的独裁大厦”。并煽动︰ “通过改变社会来改变政权”;“自由中国的出现,与其寄希望于统治者的‘新政’,远不如寄希望于民间‘新力量’的不断扩张”。


























(2)2008年12月19日至2009年8月3日,北京市公安局公共信息网络安全监察处一大队,在互联网上发现并下载了暑名“刘晓波”的文章《刘晓波︰难道中国人只配接受“党主民主”》, 该文章存在于域名為大纪元)和域名為观察)的网站,网站服务器均位于境外,文章显示发布时间為2006年1月5日和2006年1月6日。该文章截止至2008年12月23日,在互联网上共存在登载或转载该文章的网页链接共计5个,总点击率402次。

(3)、2008年12月20日至2009年8月3日,北京市公安局公共信息网络安全监察处一大队,在互联网上发现并下载了暑名“刘晓波”的文章《刘晓波︰通过改变社会来改变政权》, 该文章存在于域名為大纪元)和域名為观察)的网站,网站服务器均位于境外,文章显示发布时间為2006年2月26日和2006年2月27日。该文章截止至2008年12月23日,在互联网上存在登载或转载文章的网页链接共计5个,总点击率748次。

(4)2008年12月20日至2009年8月3日,北京市公安局公共信息网络安全监察处一大队,在互联网上发现并下载了暑名“刘晓波”的文章《刘晓波︰多面的中共独裁》, 该文章存在于域名為看中国)和域名為观察)的网站,网站服务器均位于境外,文章显示发布时间為2006年3月13日。该文章截止至2008年12月23日,在互联网上存在登载或转载文章的网页链接共计6个,总点击率512次。

(5)2008年12月20日至2009年8月3日,北京市公安局公共信息网络安全监察处一大队,在互联网上发现并下载了暑名“刘晓波”的文章《刘晓波︰独裁崛起对世界民主化的负面效应》, 该文章存在于域名為看中国)的网站,网站服务器位于境外,文章显示发布时间為2006年5月7日。该文章截止至2008年12月23日,在互联网上存在登载或转载该文章的网页链接共计7个,总点击率57次。

(6)2008年12月20日至2009年8月3日,北京市公安局公共信息网络安全监察处一大队,在互联网上发现并下载了暑名“刘晓波”的文章《刘晓波︰对黑窑童奴案的继续追问》, 该文章存在于域名為民主中国)和域名為人与人权)的网站,网站服务器均位于境外,文章显示发布时间為2007年8月1日。该文章截止至2008年12月23日,在互联网上存在登载或转载文章的网页链接共计8个,总点击率488次。

(7)2008年12月11日北京市公安局公共信息网络安全监察处一大队,在互联网上发现并下载了标题為《零八宪章》的文章, 该文章存在于域名為独立中文笔会)的网站,该网站服务器位于境外,显示网络发布时间為2008年12月9日,作者署名為公民群体。同日在域名為博讯)和域名為民主中国)的网站,发现并下载了标题為《中国各界人士联合发布<零八宪章>》,网站服务器均位于境外,文章显示发布时间為2008年12月8日和2008年12月9日。上述文章截止至2008年12月12日,在互联网上存在登载或转载该文章的网页链接共计33个,其中境外网站19篇,总点击率5154次,回復158篇。2009年12月9日,在域名為零八宪章)的互联网站发现该网站首页显示截止至2009年12月9日,《零八宪章》签名共计10390人。


15、刘晓波签字确认的文章证明︰刘晓波对公安机关网络监管部门下载、保存的文章《刘晓波︰中共的独裁爱国主义》、《刘晓波︰难道中国人只配接受“党主民主”》、《 刘晓波︰通过改变社会来改变政权》、《刘晓波︰多面的中共独裁》、《刘晓波︰独裁崛起对世界民主化的负面效应》、《刘晓波︰对黑窑童奴案的继续追问》、《零八宪章》及从其电脑中提取的电子文本《中共的独裁爱国主义》、《难道中国人只配接受“党主民主”》、《通过改变社会来改变政权》、《多面的中共独裁》、《独裁崛起对世界民主化的负面效应》、《对黑窑童奴案的继续追问》进行了辨认,刘晓波确认辨论的文章是其撰写并发布到互联网上的文章。刘晓波辨论并签字确认的文章,有上述事实认定的煽动性言论。






一、 被告人刘晓波犯煽动颠覆国家政权罪,判处有期徒刑十一年,剥夺政治权利二年。


二、 随案移送的刘晓波犯罪所用物品予以没收(请担负后)。







1、 笔记本电脑(IBM牌T43型)1台

2、 笔记本电脑(联想牌朝阳700Cfe)1台

3、 台式电脑(联想牌家悦型)1台


December 26, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Three detained in China for tainted milk powder

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

China offers cash incentives to surf porn sites

Actually, this news report says that China's offering cash rewards for those who discover porn sites and report them. But isn't that the same thing?

December 16, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is the Antimonopoly Law a protectionist tool?

Not on the basis of what we've seen so far, says Wentong Zheng of SUNY Buffalo Law School in this post on the Antitrust and Competition Policy Blog. Well worth reading.

December 15, 2009 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rural Development Institute seeks China Country Director for Beijing office

Here's another job opening at RDI:

Rural Development Institute ( is hiring a China Country Director in Beijing, China.

RDI is an international nonprofit organization working to secure land rights for the world’s poorest people, those 3.4 billion chiefly rural people who live on less than $2 a day.  For 40 years, RDI professionals have worked with the governments of 40 developing countries, foreign aid agencies, and other partners to design and implement laws, policies, and programs that provide opportunity, further economic growth, and promote social justice. To date, RDI has helped provide land rights to more than 400,000,000 people.

The China Country Director (CCD) will be responsible for helping to define and ultimately for ensuring that the China team meets all RDI’s China program objectives.  The CCD provides leadership, direction, and coordination to China’s program staff in China and ensures coordination with RDI’s staff in the international headquarters to ensure the effective achievement of RDI’s China program objectives.  The CCD will not only lead the overall China program team, but be an active member of that team on various program tasks (research, writing, etc.), including on task teams where s/he plays a supporting rather than a lead role.  The CCD will be responsible – both directly and indirectly through other China team members – for initiating, fostering, and enhancing key partnership relationships with government partners, program partners, and donor partners.  The CCD will be responsible for recommending annual China work plans and budgets to the RDI Management Team and to effectively execute the approved work plans consistent with the budget.  The CCD will provide regular program and financial reports to RDI’s Leadership Team, Board of Directors, and donors.  The CCD will build and maintain a cohesive, effective, collaborative, and collegial China program team.  The CCD will also provide vision, management expertise, information, advice and counsel concerning the affairs of the organization to the President ad CEO.

Qualified candidates will possess;

- Graduate degree in Law, Economics (including Agricultural, Natural Resource or Institutional Economics), Sociology, or a closely related field. Preferred undergraduate degree in area studies, business, anthropology, economics, geography, political science, sociology, or other field related to international development.

- Minimum 10 years overall relevant work experience, a minimum 5 of which should have been in a management position responsible for overall operations of an organization or major program/division as well as revenue generation and/or fundraising.

- Fluency in written and spoken Mandarin.

- Fluency in written and spoken English.

- Strong leadership to set and communicate vision and strategy, team building skills and ability to manage budget processes and P&L.

- Knowledge of public policy, legal, economic, sociological, political, institutional, geographic, and/or anthropological concepts and information.

- Experience in managing senior level relationships – both internal and external – in an international context.

- Communications skills include an ability to make and use distinctions as to types, frequency, tenor, and levels of communications, depending upon the circumstances, audience, recipient, and content.

If you feel you are interested in learning more details about the position, please submit your resume and/or cover letter to

December 3, 2009 in Internships/Employment Opportunities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rural Development Institute seeks rural land rights lawyer for Beijing office

I have received the following announcement:

Rural Development Institute ( is hiring a Rural Land Rights Lawyer in Beijing, China.  

RDI is an international nonprofit organization working to secure land rights for the world’s poorest people, those 3.4 billion chiefly rural people who live on less than $2 a day.  For 40 years, RDI professionals have worked with the governments of 40 developing countries, foreign aid agencies, and other partners to design and implement laws, policies, and programs that provide opportunity, further economic growth, and promote social justice. To date, RDI has helped provide land rights to more than 400,000,000 people.

The Rural Land Rights Lawyer will provide legal, policy, and implementation input and expertise on issues involving the land rights of China’s farmers, and especially those of women farmers.  The Lawyer will conduct legal and social science research (both from the desk and in the field), and work with teams to both prepare and present legal education programs, analytical reviews, research papers, draft legislation, regulations, surveys, training programs, presentations, and other products.  As a part of these activities, the Lawyer will manage the related assignments, programs, projects, and tasks, and also pursue private donor funding, fee-for-service opportunities, and public sector grants.  (S)he may also be asked to perform other management and administrative tasks.

Qualified candidates will possess:

- A law degree from an accredited law school.

- Fluency in written and spoken Mandarin.

- Fluency in written and spoken English.

- Minimum of 3 years of public or private sector professional legal work, preferably with experience in legal aid and education or other public interest issues in China.

- Knowledge of legal, economic, sociological, political, institutional, geographic, and anthropological concepts and information.

- Ability to work collaboratively with a range of people at all levels, including those from host country governmental and non-governmental organizations, and other counterparts, clients, donors, and grantors.

- Communications skills include an ability to make and use distinctions as to types, frequency, tenor, and levels of communications, depending upon the circumstances, audience, recipient, and content.

If you are interested in learning more details about the position, please submit your resume and/or cover letter to

December 3, 2009 in Internships/Employment Opportunities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)