Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More on the timing of the Bo Xilai trial

Now we're being told (Global Times story here) that it will be after the March meetings of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. According to the report, unnamed insiders say that the case is complicated and that the trial might last ten days.

Ten days would be extraordinarily atypical in a criminal trial. A recent study of a large sample (non-random, but those are the limitations of research in China) of criminal cases found that two thirds of Basic Leval court cases and one third of Intermediate Level court cases were completed within one hour, including adjournments. Of course, that's hardly surprising - in the vast majority of cases, the defendants admit most or all of the prosecution's case, so these trials are functionally similar to a US court's processing of a plea- bargained deal. (This is by no means to claim they are identical or problematic in the same way.) What empirical research shows, however, is what anecdotal evidence has long suggested: that matters of importance are almost never decided at the trial stage, and that the mere fact that the case has gotten that far is evidence that a guilty verdict will be forthcoming. (The acquittal rate is below 1%.)

But the Bo case is of course an atypical case. Still, if he’s not contesting the charges (Chinese criminal procedure doesn’t have a formal guilty/not guilty plea), one wonders what can be so complicated about it. If he is contesting the charges, then going forward with the trial really is atypical. Possibly he is being allowed to contest some minor aspects of the charges – for example, did he take $10 million in bribes or was it only $9 million – and the court will reject a few elements of the prosecution’s case in an attempt to show that it wasn’t all pre-ordained from the start.

January 27, 2013 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law, People and Institutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stuart Schram, 1924-2012

Last July, Stuart Schram, a giant in the field of modern China studies, passed away. He was my professor when I did an M.Sc. degree at SOAS, and he left an indelible impression - truly a brilliant man. The Dec. 2012 issue of the China Quarterly carries a terrific obituary by Roderick MacFarquhar that is not a simple hagiography but captures him in all his complexity. I'm very lucky to have known him.

January 27, 2013 in Commentary, People and Institutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Law and economics in the Beijing taxi industry

Some years ago I read a fascinating law-and-economics analysis of the Beijing taxi industry [available here; thanks to a commenter for the link] written by a Chinese graduate student under Prof. Fang Liufang; as a piece combining empirical research, economics, and law it really stood out among the usual crop of dreary statutory exegeses. I was reminded of it today when I came across a pair of articles discussing well known (at least, well known to those of us who spend time in Beijing) problems getting taxis in Beijing.

The Global Times reports that the Beijing government recently passed rules designed to address the problem: if a taxi company is the subject of too many complaints (for example, about drivers refusing to pick up during peak times), then it will be punished. This attempt at a cure obviously reflects a particular diagnosis: that the reason drivers refuse to pick up fares is just simple cussedness.

But of course that's ridiculous. Like most of us, Beijing cab drivers hope to earn money from their occupation. And as anyone who has talked to a Beijing cab driver about this knows, a cab driver loses money by taking fares during rush hour and other times when traffic is jammed (which is a lot of the time in Beijing). The meter simply ticks over too slowly for them to recover their fuel costs; they're better off parking of-road with the engine off instead of parking on the Third Ring Road with the engine running.

One obvious solution is to raise the permitted rate, which has stayed the same now for (I believe) over a decade, although fuel surcharges of one or two yuan per trip (totally unrelated to distance) have been around for a while. Another solution is to return to the good old days of the 90s, when different classes of taxis were allowed - some were nice cars that cost more, some were in ... let's say, less nice vehicles, and cost less. A third alternative is to subsidize taxi drivers - this is suggested by Prof. Meng Bin, a professor of urban planning quoted in the Global Times story. (This seems like the worst solution to me; subsidies are always tremendously hard to administer and vulnerable to cheating, and it's hard to see why (relatively well-off) taxi riders should be supported by (less well-off) non-taxi riders. In addition, Prof. Meng suggests this because he's opposed to any increase in fares; it's hard to see the basis for thinking that somehow the current fare structure, in January 2013, by some amazing coincidence is exactly what it should be and mustn't be changed.)

For a more detailed analysis of the economics of it all, see this article by Michael Cormack.

January 26, 2013 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bo Xilai trial scheduled for Jan. 28th in Guiyang, to last three days

That at least is what's being reported in Hong Kong's PRC-affiliated Ta Kung Pao (大公报). His defense lawyers are Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng of Beijing's Deheng Law Firm. I don't know anything about Wang, but Li is a respected figure.According to some reports, Bo's son Guagua had previously attempted to retain another lawyer - Li Xiaolin, who had defended Gu Kailai's accomplice, Zhang Xiaojun - but Bo had nixed it. Li Xiaolin is quoted in the Ta Kung Pao as saying he didn't mind: "The less I know [about this case], the better."

UPDATE: The Duowei news site says that the Guiyang Intermediate People's Court states that it has "received no plans" for the trial of Bo. This is kind of a strange locution to use if an outright denial was intended. On the other hand, they're going to look pretty silly if the trial does indeed go ahead on the 28th and they insist they knew nothing about it a mere three days earlier, and they must know that, so maybe the denial is accurate. Wheels within wheels!

January 25, 2013 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New dean for Peking U's School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen

It's Philip J. McConnaughay, who will step down as dean of Pennsylvania State University's Dickinson School of Law on July 31st of this year and take up his new duties the following day. Here's the news report.

January 24, 2013 in News - Chinese Law, People and Institutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

China's new Mental Health Law - an interview with Guo Zhiyuan

Here's an informative interview with Prof. Guo Zhiyuan of the China University of Political Science and Law on China's 2012 Mental Health Law. Well worth reading is this subject interests you at all.

January 24, 2013 in Commentary | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 4, 2013

The approval process for FDI in China

The US Chamber of Commerce has produced an excellent and comprehensive report on the approval process (actually, many processes) for foreign direct investment in China. It includes both details and big-picture perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of information all brought together in a single report before, at least at this level of detail. It should be on the reading list of all courses about doing business in China.

January 4, 2013 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

SEC vs. Deloitte: Chinese law aspects

US securities regulators have been engaged in a long struggle to obtain the workpapers of auditors of Chinese companies listed in the US, and last month the SEC initiated administrative proceedings against the Chinese affiliates of five big accounting firms (NYT story, plus useful background, here.)

In related proceedings, the SEC subpoenaed documents from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CPA, Ltd. (DTTC), the Chinese auditors of Longtop Financial Technologies, a Chinese company whose financial statements were apparently less than totally accurate.

DTTC has been fighting the subpoena on the grounds that it is liable to punishment under Chinese law if it provides the documents the SEC is seeking. Below are links to relevant court filings that look at the Chinese law issues here. I produced an expert witness declaration in support of the SEC's position in this matter and so my own views are stated there. The expert witness declarations in support of DTTC's position were produced by my colleagues (and as it happens my good friends) Prof. Tang Xin of Tsinghua University Faculty of Law and Prof. James Feinerman of Georgetown University Law School.

January 2, 2013 in Commentary, News - Chinese Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)