Sunday, April 29, 2012
Dan Harris over at the China Law Blog has a post discussing his not-just-once experience with lawyers in China who betray their clients to the other side. (He also saw it happen in Korea and was assured it was par for the course there.) Sigh.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Here’s an interesting Caixin article. The main objections seem to center on proposals to have, in effect, state-set prices for creative work. For example, a mere three months after a recording is produced (I don’t know the definition of “produced”), anyone can reproduce it without permission from the copyright owner merely by paying a fee (set by the National Copyright Administration) to the China Music Copyright Association (MCSC), an GONGO that represents copyright holders including song writers and composers. I'm not close to an expert on copyright, but this would seem to remove a lot of the reward to creativity. And how is the NCA supposed to set the fee? At present fees for this kind of thing are set by bargaining between copyright owners and would-be buyers. Under the proposed revisions, the NCA would have to figure out the right price for every single song ever recorded. How can a bunch of bureaucrats - how can a bunch of anybodies - possibly do that? The answer is, they can't. Instead they will just set uniform prices for everything, and so you'll get the same for composing another "Yesterday" as for composing another "I Write the Songs." Does anyone really want to live in that world? Brrr.
The last few days have brought first the rumor and then the confirmed news of Chen Guangcheng's extraordinary escape from his unlawful home confinement to (apparently) the safety of the US embassy in Beijing. Chen has now released a video open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao (English translation here) asking Wen to investigate the circumstances of the vicious treatment that has been meted out to him and his family since his release from prison in 2010. Some more or less random comments:
- A number of the reports of his video message to Wen state that he makes three "demands." The Chinese term he uses is 要求 (yaoqiu), which can mean "demand" but can also mean "request." In this case, I think "request" is probably closer to correct. He begins the message by saying 敬爱的温总理" (jing'ai de Wen Zongli): roughly, "respected and beloved" or "dearly respected." Although it's not nearly so over the top in Chinese as it sounds in English, it nevertheless demonstrates (sincerely or not) a respectful attitude that is inconsistent with making demands.
- Some reports have stated that Chen's being in the US embassy puts the US in a difficult situation similar to what it faced when Wang Lijun walked in the door of the Chengdu consulate and (apparently) asked for asylum. I disagree. Consider this: what exactly is the Chinese government going to demand that the US do? Chen is not a wanted man; he has neither broken nor been accused of breaking any Chinese laws; it is perfectly legal for a law-abiding Chinese citizen to walk into a US embassy if the embassy is willing to let him in; it is perfectly legal (as far as I know) for that law-abiding citizen to stay in the embassy as long as both he and the embassy are happy with the arrangement. The Chinese government is hoist on its own petard: having decided that it was easier to persecute Chen by not using the formal legal system, it now faces the consequences of that choice. Chen has not, in a legal sense, "escaped" anything.
- It is not just a wayward local government in Linyi that is behind Chen's cruel treatment. Of course, the central government can't know about every injustice, and if it knows it can't just send out orders and see everyone obey instantly. But this is a prominent case that cannot have escaped the attention of the senior leadership, and there's no evidence that the center is even trying. It is, in fact, actively taking steps to support the Linyi authorities. The Linyi authorities don't have the authority or ability to censor internet search results for Chen Guangcheng, and it wasn't the Linyi authorities can't make police in Nanjing detain one of those who helped Chen escape. Chen's politeness to Wen in his video message is a face-saving fiction.
- How the heck did he manage this extraordinary escape? It's all very well for some to comment that to a blind man, night is no disadvantage, but his house was supposedly surrounded by lights at all times. And even if it had not been lit up, no matter how well he knew his way around the area, he could not have known where the guards were and how to avoid them. I suppose they were simply not expecting anything like this remarkable feat; I'm looking forward to the movie version. My guess is that heads are rolling in Linyi right now.
Friday, April 20, 2012
The case of Wu Ying, a rags-to-riches billionaire convicted of "fundraising fraud" and sentenced to death, attracted a great deal of attention in China - this time, because a substantial element of popular opinion was against her death sentence. As the Los Angeles Times reports,
Critics of the death sentence, some of them prominent businessmen, had denounced it as a step backward for China's largely state-controlled legal system. Many claimed that Wu’s fundraising strategy was no different from that of most Chinese entrepreneurs and that the ruling would have a chilling effect on private enterprise.
And Caixin writes,
Wu had public sympathy on her side. Many argued that she was a scapegoat for the defects in China's formal lending network. Lawyers and scholars across the country pleaded for leniency, citing the potential impact on private lending systems, through which companies and individuals provide crucial, albeit risky and sometimes costly, financing for one another beyond the formal banking system.
All death sentences are subject to mandatory review by the Supreme People's Court, and it just overturned the sentence and returned the case to the Zhejiang Province High Court for retrial. At this point it seems likely that the most she'll get is a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which in practice is almost always later commuted to life imprisonment. This would not, of course, be a just result if her supporters' take on the case is correct, but it leaves open the possibility of a later leniency in the way a death penalty does not.
Monday, April 9, 2012
I've been asked to announce an upcoming symposium on "China and the Human" on April 19th at City University of New York. It's being held in conjunction with the publication of a double issue of Social Text on the same theme. As the symposium is sponsored in part by Emory Law School and the double issue is co-edited by law professor and Chinese law scholar Teemu Ruskola, I'm sure there will be something of interest there for law types.
Here's the full announcement.
Friday, April 6, 2012
The National Copyright Administration recently published a draft of revisions to the Copyright Law as well as a commentary explaining the revisions. Here's the draft revised Copyright Law (in Chinese, .doc format); here's the commentary in English, translated by Dr. Rogier Creemers (scroll down for the original in Chinese).
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
I have received the following announcement:
Taipei law firm Winkler Partners is looking for an intern for the summer of 2012 (c. June to August).
You will need to be currently enrolled in law school for us to get work authorization.
The basic qualifications include good analytic, research, and writing skills. We will try to pair you with an intern from a Taiwanese law school.
You do not need to know any Chinese for this position although it would be helpful.
Your duties would include curating social media sites, writing updates on legal topics, and light case work for 15-20 hours per week. The pay is US$8 per hour (the same as what the Taiwanese intern will receive) and you will have to cover your own travel to and living expenses in Taipei (very roughly, about US$700 per month on a tight student budget).
This position would be ideal for a current law student who would also like to study Chinese over the summer since we are located conveniently close to both National Taiwan University (ICLP) and National Taiwan Normal University (Shida Mandarin Training Center).
Please send a resume and a brief writing sample to the attention of Gladys Kao (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested.