Saturday, June 29, 2013
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time Report has an article entitled, "Why Chinese Workers Sometimes Hold Foreign Execs Hostage." The report begins:
Beset by stories of runaway bosses, Chinese workers are adopting increasingly drastic methods in negotiating with their employers – including caging them in their own offices.
As The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, an American medical supplies executive in Beijing has been trapped inside his office since Friday — held hostage, he says, by about 80 employees who believe he is shutting down the factory and who are demanding he pay them severance.
It's important to remember a few things, among them that it is the company, not its executives, that is liable for unpaid wages. The workers are not caging their employers; they are caging senior employees of the employer. As to why they are doing it, the answer is simple: it apparently works. Certainly there seems to be little downside: according to the article, the trapped executive "said local police were bringing him three hot meals a day to him, but had declined to free him from his captivity." In other words, there is an ongoing crime of unlawful detention, possibly kidnapping, going on right in front of their noses, but the police are simply standing by with arms folded. It is hard to imagine a similarly casual attitude were local Party officials to be trapped by a group of Falungong adherents.
It's a little absurd that this kind of official toleration of self-help remedies that violate the criminal law should be going on in the year 2013, in the world's second-largest economy, on the territory of a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Bananas, anyone?
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Last January I posted some expert witness reports, including one by me, in the continuing proceedings of SEC vs. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu CPA Ltd. (District of Columbia District Court). In these proceedings, the SEC is seeking to compel a Chinese accounting firm to produce documents. Here are two declarations (publicly available, of course) filed in May that may be of interest to those following the case.
- First Declaration of Alberto Arevalo, Assistant Director, Office of International Affairs, SEC (filed May 1, 2013)
- Second Declaration of Alberto Arevalo, Assistant Director, Office of International Affairs, SEC (filed May 1, 2013)
As before, I am providing these with no comment.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Here's a report from the Wall Street Journal's China RealTime Report about a statement from Chen Guangcheng's former adviser, Mattie Bekink. Ms. Bekink's full statement is below. One has to wonder who has Chen's ear and what advice they are giving him. Is he even aware of the shitstorm his statement has kicked up? As many have noted, it's a sad situation all around. And let's not forget who's really to blame here: not Chen, not NYU, not his current or former advisors, but the Linyi authorities who made it necessary for him to leave China in the first place by their inhumanly cruel persecution of him for perfectly lawful activities, and the central government that enabled them and consistently looked the other way.
NYU has been Generous to Chen Guangcheng
Cheng Guangcheng is not being forced out of NYU. Neither the Chinese government nor the university is pushing him out. His time at the university is simply coming to its conclusion, a conclusion that was determined long ago and that Mr. Chen has been aware of since shortly after his arrival in the United States. NYU's campus in Shanghai had nothing to do with it then, and has nothing to do with now. And to suggest China's Communist Party is somehow involved or is putting pressure on NYU is absurd.
I should know, since I am the one who told him about the length of his tenure at NYU.
I currently have no affiliation with NYU. But I was a consultant to the university in 2011 and 2012, first working in Shanghai for a year on establishing the campus there, and then coming to New York shortly after Mr. Chen's arrival at NYU to serve as his special advisor.
As a lawyer who had done rule of law work in China, I was glad to come to New York to assist the courageous Mr. Chen and his family. I believe he is a remarkable individual who has faced tremendous injustice, suffered greatly, and nonetheless continues to shine with a sense of purpose and optimism that is inspiring. His legal advocacy work was impressive and important for China. It was a great privilege to work with him and I look back at our time together fondly. I am very saddened to see him now distorting the facts about his time at NYU. It is for this reason that I wish to set the record straight.
NYU has consistently been generous to and supportive of Mr. Chen and his family. The university, with no advance warning, no budget, and no chance to prepare, embraced Mr. Chen and provided him with an unprecedented level of support. Professor Jerry Cohen's comment that "no political refugee, not even Albert Einstein, has received better treatment," couldn't be more apt. Professor Cohen's personal generosity similarly cannot be overstated.
NYU’s support for the Chens was extensive and comprehensive. It was thoughtful and deeply personal, specifically designed to meet their needs and adapted as those needs changed. When Mr. Chen arrived in New York, he was recovering from injuries sustained from his dramatic escape. NYU provided physical therapists to work with him along with an interpreter. When the children faced an unplanned summer, NYU found them a bilingual Mandarin summer camp and provided daily transportation. My clear instructions from the university were to do whatever was necessary to support this family. Never once did NYU deny a request I made on behalf of the Chens, regardless of expense. The university always put the Chens’ needs first.
Professor Cohen and others at the university tried to help the Chens make the difficult transition from rural China to the heart of Manhattan. He and other colleagues invited them to their homes, organized dinners with people they thought the Chens might like to meet, and arranged outings and activities for the children. We wanted to see them thrive. We cared. NYU cared. And, as far as I can tell, still cares. This is why I was so mystified to see his claims.
Mr. Chen's advocacy was also in no way curtailed or limited by NYU. In fact, the university enabled him to continue his advocacy by providing him with interpreters, helping him to write and get op-ed pieces placed, facilitating meetings with relevant stakeholders in the human rights and disability rights communities, government, academia, and media, and supporting his work. Professor Cohen, himself an outspoken critic of China, worked tirelessly to ensure that Mr. Chen's voice was heard and especially to draw attention to the ongoing suffering of his family members still in China.
NYU's unflinching support for Mr. Chen clearly demonstrates that it was not influenced by the Chinese government. As the university has pointed out, approval for the NYU Shanghai campus came only after Mr. Chen was already comfortably settled in his Greenwich Village apartment. If the university had put its own interests in China ahead of its commitment to academic integrity and principles of academic freedom, it never would have extended the invitation to Mr. Chen in the first place. NYU also did not accept Mr. Chen under duress. It was public knowledge as Mr. Chen's departure from China was being negotiated that he had offers from other institutions, such as the University of Washington. NYU could easily have side-stepped this matter, so its welcoming of him and its continuous support make plain the university's values have not been compromised.
NYU provided Mr. Chen with a soft landing as a fellow in the Law School and helped him adjust to life in the United States. The plan was to support him and his family for a year and then assist them in making more permanent arrangements. That was always the understanding, and Mr. Chen was informed of this and was very grateful. NYU never committed to supporting the family indefinitely. The only thing that has changed is the passage of time.
It is a great shame that as his time at NYU comes to a close Mr. Chen chooses to malign his friends and supporters at the university with false statements. But his comments suggest that he is having a hard time accepting the reality of his new life. It is not the Chinese communist authorities who "want to make [him] so busy trying to earn a living that [he doesn't] have time for human rights advocacy". Rather it is life in capitalist America that requires individuals to support themselves. NYU's extreme generosity has perhaps protected him from confronting this reality until now, but that level of largesse was never intended to continue indefinitely.
I wish Mr. Chen and his lovely family nothing but the very best during their continued stay in the United States. My time helping him continue his advocacy work and helping his wonderful wife and children adjust to their new home was deeply meaningful and rewarding. I respect the many real challenges Mr. Chen has overcome. But any alleged challenges coming from NYU's being under pressure from China are entirely fictional.
Mattie J. Bekink was formerly affiliated with NYU's US-Asia Law Institute as Special Advisor to Chen Guangcheng. She is a lawyer and independent consultant currently based in Milan, Italy.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
The circumstances of Chen Guangcheng's leaving New York University have been in the news lately and the subject of dispute. Essentially, Chen says he is being pushed out due to pressure on NYU from the Chinese government. (Here's his statement (web version here).) NYU says that the original arrangement was that he would come and be supported for a year, and the year is up. (Here's an interview with Jerome Cohen, and here's a good post from China Digital Times that puts the whole story together with links to all these souces.)
My impression is that NYU is more sinned against than sinning here; the one-year deal squares with my recollection, and I think it's beyond question that NYU has been quite generous to Chen during the time he's been there. If you believe that NYU has an obligation to look after Chen indefinitely, then of course you'll see him as being booted out, but I note that neither Chen nor anyone else has offered actual evidence, or even specific (as opposed to general) allegations, of Chinese pressure on NYU to get rid of him. Activist Bob Fu, for example, declines to identify any direct pressure from China, but still manages to imply that NYU did something discreditable: "There is also self-censorship, particularly if a college president believes their China campus or the future enrollment of Chinese students will be sabotaged." In other words, there are absolutely no facts that could prove Fu wrong. He just knows.
Prof. James Feinerman of Georgetown Law School has kindly permitted me to quote his post to the Chinalaw list on this subject:
I'm taking this in from London, where there's little to no interest in this development. However, I have several reactions to the news and to how it's become public. First of all, a little history - Months ago my colleagues and I at Georgetown were approached by Chen's "people" (yes, he has them), sounding us out about a move to Georgetown (and presumably, more importantly, DC). This set off certain "alarm bells" - why was he leaving or interested in leaving NYU? The pretext for his departure to the US less than a year earlier was the fellowship he received to study at NYU; would moving elsewhere upset that? We were assured that, No, he was just "reviewing his options," probably because the term of his stay was coming to an end after one year. Obviously, he's been checking elsewhere, if rumors of his departure for Fordham are true. That's just one reason not to buy his story that PRC interference has caused his "ouster" from NYU. Secondly, he's waited until the very end of his stay at NYU - the term of which was well known all along - to voice his first complaints about the mistreatment he's suffered. If this were an ongoing problem, why not previously? Third, along with others (such as both Don Clarke and I), Jerry Cohen and a host of China scholars in the US regularly write, speak and even testify before committees of the US Congress and other governmental bodies about China's human rights abuses, flawed rule of law and other shortcomings - rarely pulling our punches - and have faced no retaliation for doing so. We still get visas to visit the PRC, have regular interchange with Chinese colleagues and (to my knowledge, at least) have caused no undue problems for our home institutions with our activities. Notwithstanding this, I take [another contributor]'s point that a few Western academics have been targetted - Perry Link and Andy Nathan come immediately to mind. Old habits die hard among the Communist diehards.
We may have to remember back to the era of the Tiananmen dissidents - Wu'er Kaixi, Chai Ling and others - to find a good analog for Chen. They came to the US after the massacre, were lionized for a while as the heroes of the "Democracy Movement," and then faded from public attention in fairly short order. As that happened, they became vocal and bitter, complaining just like Chen, that they were betrayed, that the cushy welcome they received was evaporating as memories faded. In short, they learned (as Jerry Cohen liked to quip at East Asian Legal Studies lunches to the invited speakers) that "there is no free lunch." After a reasonable transition, they were supposed to find something to do, on their own. In Chen's case, he's had a pretty sweet deal - a year of housing in Washington Square, financial support, translators, educational opportunities if he chose. Understandably, he's unhappy. But biting the hand that fed you - well, for a year - makes Chen seem like an ingrate.
Finally, Chen mistakes what he knows (and what he knows works) in China for the way things work in the US. He assumes that the PRC government - or government in general - can make academics fall in line. How little he knows us. Nothing rankles the academy more than a heavy governmental hand - especially that of one viewed by most as a vile totalitarian autocracy - trying to wield influence. It's more likely to cause academics - even academic administrators - to react in opposition. We prize our freedom more than that. It's a shame he's failed to learn at least that much about the institution that has sheltered him and his family for the past 16 months or the country of his exile. This latest screed, however, is likely to backfire. Remember Solzhenitsyn? Despite his heroism, his Nobel prize, and his writerly brilliance, he was remembered more as a reactionary scold, ranting about the West while enjoying its perks. From various accounts, Chen also risks becoming a captive and a mouthpiece for the religious right, anti-abortion, and China-threat factions here in the US. His current story will resonate with them, but in the longer run it promises he will receive even less attention from influential mainstream opinion makers in this country.
Saturday, June 1, 2013
I have received the following announcement: