ChinaFile. Forty Years on, Is China Still Reforming?

ChinaFile. Forty Years on, Is China Still Reforming?

In late October, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Reform and Opening” policy, China’s Chairman Xi Jinping visited the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, the first major laboratory for the Party’s post-Mao economic reforms. Like his predecessors, Xi often praises the policy, which the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping launched in 1978. Xi visited Shenzhen, he said, “so that we can declare to the world: China’s reform and opening up will never stop.”

Lena Zhong. Journal of Contemporary China. "The Politics of Wrongful Convictions in China"

Recently a series of high-profile wrongful convictions in China have undermined public confidence with the criminal justice system and the official stress on ‘ruling the country by law’. This article aims to further the scholarship on wrongful convictions in China by investigating the characteristics of 141 erroneous convictions (206 defendants) in which the defendants are declared factually innocent by a court. These cases allow an examination of the direct contributing factors (such as mistaken eyewitness identification and forensic errors) and underlying political factors (such as the form of political–legal work as led by the Party/State and the political importance in maintaining social stability) for wrongful conviction in China. The analysis enables us to develop more effective countermeasures against wrongful conviction in the Chinese context.

Aaron Halegua. Marianas Variety. "The Need for Meaningful Oversight"

Aaron Halegua. Marianas Variety. "The Need for Meaningful Oversight"

We are individuals and groups concerned by the labor abuses that transpired at the Imperial Pacific construction site.

The confiscation of worker passports, failure to pay workers the minimum wage, high rates of injury and even deaths, and retaliation against complaining workers have all been well-documented. In order to prevent future exploitation, we support the proposal to establish an independent and transparent monitoring mechanism in which the voice of workers and their representatives plays a crucial role.

He Xia. Exposing Secrets: U.S. Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation in Response to the “Me Too” Movement

打破秘密: 美国反性骚扰立法对“我也是”运动的回应

Author: He Xia
Translated by Amanda Morrison with Allen Clayton-Greene

The “Me Too” movement has placed sexual harassment, which is prohibited by American law but remains commonplace, right at the heart of the storm. Since the accusations of sexual harassment against Harvey Weinstein exploded into the limelight, there have been daily news reports of sexual harassment, in various sectors: the entertainment industry, the US Congress, business executives, the doctor to the US gymnastics team, and senior government officials. The perpetrators   have been fired, forced to resign, faced lawsuits for high damages and have even been sentenced to life in prison as a result.

The reason why ten or more years passed before victims stood up and said “Me Too,” is not only because of factors such as emotional pain, the feelings of shame, concerns about privacy and the need to maintain employment and survive, but there are also institutional obstacles that keep sexual harassment secret and prevent victims from speaking out. This secrecy has led to victims being unaware of the risks of sexual harassment because they simply do not know about violations that have previously occurred. These institutional obstacles include confidentiality agreements and compulsory arbitration agreements, which force employees to act separate from each other and silence victims. They make it very difficult for employees to tell others what happened to them. They also prevent victims from bringing class action lawsuits to vindicate their rights.

America’s legislative organs and legislators have, in the wake of the “Me Too” movement, passed revisions to the tax code, and have passed bills proposing to end confidentiality for sexual harassment as well as a bill to end mandatory arbitration, in the hope that more people will stand up and swiftly bring an end to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination.

“Me too”(“我也是”运动)将美国法律禁止却又普遍存在的性骚扰推到了风口浪尖。从哈维·温斯坦的性骚扰指控曝光开始,每天都有性骚扰的新闻报道,演艺界、议员、企业高管、体操队队医、政府高级官员因为性骚扰的指控或曝光而被辞退、辞职、面临高额索赔,甚至被判处终身监禁。




Tax Law Revision Increases the Cost of Confidentiality Agreements


On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, amending the 1986 Internal Revenue Code to reduce corporate and individual tax burdens. However, Section 162(q) of the Act clearly stipulates that if a business signs a confidentiality agreement with a victim of sexual harassment or abuse, then the related expenses, such as settlement costs and attorney’s fees, are not tax deductible. Prior to this, settlement fees and expensive attorney fees had been considered “ordinary and necessary business expenses,” which were tax deductible. Senator Menendez (D-NJ), who proposed this part of the tax bill, declared that by increasing the cost of companies covering up misconduct, they would be encouraged to effectively prevent sexual harassment.

According to Title VII of the American Civil Rights Act, workplace sexual harassment constitutes gender discrimination. Employers bear legal responsibility for sexual harassment because they have not fulfilled their obligation to provide a safe work environment. From the plaintiffs’ perspective, an employer that exists as an organization is more financially capable of bearing the burden of any award of damages than the individual who committed the harassment. From the lawmakers’ perspective, apportioning risk among those who are most capable of controlling that risk is consistent with economic principles.

Before the tax bill was passed, employers tended to settle after paying victims of sexual harassment a fixed amount of financial compensation. Moreover, within settlement agreements, victims signed a confidentiality clause, which silenced them. Generally, the behavior of harassers follows certain patterns and is repetitive. Confidentiality agreements expose employees to the continued risk of  being sexually harassed, and render work environments as unsafe as they were previously. In fact, these kinds of corporate expenditures were tax deductible, and firms could purchase liability insurance, which enabled them to pass on the risk. This makes the handling of sexual harassment an economic matter.

The partners of the law firms we visited, which provide legal services for employers, told us that prior to the “Me Too” movement, after taking economic responsibility, employers usually handled sexual harassers by transferring, demoting, or even simply failing to deal with them at all. For those senior executives who brought the company high returns, substantial punishment was rare. But after the “Me Too” movement, companies are inclined to fire executives – even those running the company – who have been accused of sexual harassment, or have asked them to resign.

In an anti-sexual harassment seminar held at New York University Law School this February, an HR director at a Fortune 500 company responded to why companies are now paying more attention to sexual harassment. The HR director said that the first concern is that public media reports affect the company’s image; the second is expensive economic compensation; the third is the impact on company culture and cohesion.



2017年12月22日美国总统特朗普签署实施的《减税与就业法案》(Tax Cuts and Jobs Act)对1986年《国内税收法》(the Internal Revenue Code)进行了修订,减轻企业和个人的税收负担。但是在该法的第162条却明确规定,如果企业与性骚扰、性虐待的受害人达成保密协议,那么有关的和解费、律师费等费用就不能再进行税收抵扣。而在此之前,和解费和不菲的律师费可以通过“普通、必要的企业支出”进行税收抵扣。对该法条进行提案的参议员梅内德斯主张,通过增加企业掩盖不当行为的成本来敦促企业有效地防治性骚扰。






Bill to End Secret Settlement Agreements


A confidentiality agreement—in addition to requiring the victim to refrain from making statements to other people or to the public media—also restricts a victim’s right to sue in court. As well as applying economic pressure on companies through the tax law revision, members of the US Congress have also proposed to abolish confidentiality agreements that restrict a victim’s legal rights, arguing the agreements conceal illegal incidents of sexual harassment.

In December 2017, Representative Maloney (D-NY) and other representatives put forward the Ending Secrecy About Workplace Harassment Act, which would require employers to annually report the number of settlement agreements involving sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexism to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Lawmakers in California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC, have, in turn, put forward proposals calling for state legislation to abolish confidentiality agreements that restrict victims’ right to appeal.



民主党派的马洛尼(Maloney)等众议员于2017年12月提出《终结工作场所性骚扰秘密》议案(Ending Secrecy About Workplace Harassment Act),要求雇主必须每年度定期向美国平等就业机会委员会(EEOC)报告雇主通过和解协议处理的涉及性骚扰、性侵害、性别歧视的案件。


Bill to Invalidate Mandatory Arbitration Agreements


On December 6, 2017, Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) proposed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, which would render invalid and remove enforceability for preemptive mandatory arbitration agreements signed by employers and employees—which limit employees’ rights to appeal a sexual harassment case.

When an employee joins a company, he or she will usually sign a mandatory arbitration agreement at the request of the employer as a prerequisite for obtaining the job. In labor disputes, including those occurring after instances of sexual harassment, an employee can only seek arbitration and cannot file a lawsuit in court. It is actually a requirement for employees to give up their right to appeal.

According to a 2017 study by the US Economic Policy Institute, currently 53.9% of non-union member employees have signed mandatory arbitration agreements, and within companies hiring more than 1000 people, 65.1% of employees have signed.

Arbitration is a closed adjudication procedure, and the investigation of the facts and determination of legal liability tend to favor the employer. Unlike a court hearing, there are no discovery procedures for complex evidence, nor are there punitive damages. Compulsory arbitration means that employees who have encountered sexual harassment or discrimination cannot resolve matters in court, the victims stay out of the public’s view, and in some instances, a perpetrator may continue to engage in misconduct for years without receiving due punishment. Therefore, compulsory arbitration agreements are considered to be a contributing factor in long-term, ongoing workplace sexual harassment.

Although the bill still has not yet been passed, the proposal has already had a positive effect on HR management of large companies. According to a New York Times report from December 19, 2017 (Beijing time), Microsoft has already publicly stated that employees who have suffered from sexual harassment will be released from compulsory arbitration agreements, and that it supports the adoption of a federal law that completely prohibits such agreements.


2017年12月6日,参议员吉利布兰德Gillibrand提出“终止性骚扰的强制性仲裁法案,” 该法案规定如雇主与雇员事先签订强制仲裁协议(mandatory arbitration),限制雇员对性骚扰行为的诉权,那么这项协议是无效的,不具有强制执行力。





Proposals to Establish Sexual Harassment Training Mechanisms


US federal law does not require employers, including private companies or the government, to set up internal anti-sexual harassment training mechanisms. Instead, it regulates the issue from the perspective of exemption from liability. Where sexual harassment accusations are made and alleged to have taken place in a “hostile work environment,” an employer can be exempt from liability if it can prove that the company already provided the victim with reasonable complaint and relief procedures, and that the victim unreasonably failed to use them. This kind of system design incentivizes companies to adopt policies that actively prevent internal sexual harassment.

Before “Me Too,” California and Connecticut had clear state laws requiring employers to formulate measures to prevent sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

After many members of Congress were faced with allegations of sexual misconduct, Congress approved legislation requiring all 535 Congress members and their employees to receive mandatory anti-sexual harassment training. Maine and Virginia also proposed that employers with more than 15 employees must require mandatory anti-sexual harassment training.

On February 6, 2018, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation by voice vote that would reform the way Capitol Hill handles sexual harassment cases, aiming to streamline the complaint process and improve public transparency. The bill would no longer require Congressional staffers to go through psychological counseling and mediation before filing a complaint. Instead, complainants would be able to immediately contact a lawyer and may choose to initiate an investigation or to file a federal lawsuit. When lawmakers settle sexual harassment charges, the legislation prohibits “public funds for private use,” and requires them to be personally responsible for any settlement fees. At the same time, the Office of Compliance would be required to publish statements online every six months, specifying the settlement fees and offices in which allegations of sexual harassment occurred.

The “Me Too” movement has given significant impetus to the prevention of sexual harassment in the US. I came to the US for an academic visit in mid-January. In three short weeks, I saw daily news about sexual harassment in the media and scrolling broadcast notices on the subway that said, “sexual harassment is a crime, if you experience sexual harassment on the subway, please notify our employees right away.” In the process of visiting the EEOC, federal judges, law offices, legal aid agencies and law professors, sexual harassment was always a hot topic of discussion.

Using a movement to promote social change has its advantages—it is rapid and passionate, it has attracted universal attention, and it will usually overcome opposing voices. But there also exists another challenge; how to protect the rights of perpetrators so that they receive a punishment that is proportional to their individual offenses? How do you prevent this kind of movement from becoming another form of oppression? Is there a rational response from a legal point of view? These are thoughts from outside the movement that also need to be considered.

(He Xia, Assistant Law Professor, Southwestern University of Finance and Economics)




在“me too”以前,加利福尼亚州和康涅狄格州有明确的州立法要求雇主制定防止性骚扰、歧视和报复的措施。






Aaron Halegua. Open Democracy. "Sexual harassment at Walmart’s stores and suppliers in China"

Aaron Halegua. Open Democracy. "Sexual harassment at Walmart’s stores and suppliers in China"

A coalition of labor groups, including Global Labor Justice and the Asian Floor Wage Alliance, issued a report last month documenting extensive sexual violence and harassment at Walmart apparel supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Indonesia. In the study, ‘Gender Based Violence in the Walmart Garment Supply Chain’, women also reported retaliation when they refused sexual advances or complained about the mistreatment. The findings are based on interviews with 250 workers in 60 factories over a six year period.

Ira Belkin & Sida Liu. Professional Ethics for the Criminal Defense Lawyer: A Transcript of a Discussion Comparing the Rules and Practice in China and the United States

Ira Belkin & Sida Liu.  Professional Ethics for the Criminal Defense Lawyer: A Transcript of a Discussion Comparing the Rules and Practice in China and the United States

In 2012, the revisions to the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law strengthened key procedural rights of defendants, including the right to conduct an independent investigation into the facts of a case and the right to request a special hearing to exclude “illegally collected” evidence. Yet with an expansion of rights comes a concomitant expansion of defense lawyers’ professional and ethical responsibility.

Aaron Halegua & Yizhi Huang. ChinaFile. "What Is the Significance of China’s #MeToo Movement?"

As the #MeToo movement has swept America, it has also made waves in greater China. On the mainland, the most widely publicized incident involved Luo Xixi’s allegation in a January 2018 Weibo post that her professor at Beihang University, Chen Xiaowu, sexually harassed her over a decade ago. The allegation lead to Chen’s dismissal. Since then, Chinese women have organized at least 70 open letters to universities and have posted some of their stories of sexual harassment on social media, with the #MeToo hashtag attracting over 4.5 million hits on Weibo. The government has tried to suppress some of this, blocking the #MeToo hashtag and deleting posts, and China’s social media movement has had difficulty moving “offline,” as it has outside of China. Nonetheless, some Chinese officials have acknowledged that sexual harassment is a problem and are discussing how universities and government agencies should respond. Hong Kong women have similarly been taking to social media to air their grievances.

The following conversation, organized by Aaron Halegua, a lawyer and research fellow at NYU School of Law, addresses the significance of the #MeToo movement from a variety of perspectives, including its impact on sexual harassment litigation and worker protections; implications for youth, feminist, and LGBTQ movements; the role of public interest lawyers in social movements; and the push for gender equality in Hong Kong. —The Editors

Read Aaron Halegua and Yizhi Huang's Comments here:

Alvin Y.H. Cheung. ChinaFile. Who's to Blame for Hong Kong's Weakening Rule of Law?

January 23, 2018

Rimsky Yuen, Hong Kong’s third Secretary for Justice, stepped down in early January. He leaves his department, and the city’s reputation for rule of law, markedly worse than they were when he took office in July 2012.

According to the Department of Justice’s website, the Secretary for Justice’s role is to act as “guardian of the public interest in a wider sense.” Yet Yuen’s tenure has been marked by attempts to wield the law against political opponents, a refusal to defend the courts from unfair and racially-charged criticism or Beijing’s attempts to strip them of their power, and a steady attack on the foundations of Hong Kong’s constitutional order. Far from fulfilling his constitutional duty to speak up for the rule of law in Hong Kong, he has been a willing collaborator in Beijing’s sustained campaign to undermine it.

Ira Belkin. Justice in the PRC: How the Chinese Communist Party Has Struggled with Managing Public Opinion and the Administration of Criminal Justice in the Internet Age

Ira Belkin. Justice in the PRC: How the Chinese Communist Party Has Struggled with Managing Public Opinion and the Administration of Criminal Justice in the Internet Age

The influence of Chinese public opinion on individual criminal case decisions is a phenomenon that has received a great deal of attention in China and around the world. Some commentators have lauded the phenomenon as empowering the public to seek justice in Chinese courts. Others have expressed concern that following public opinion may achieve justice in an individual case but does little to improve the justice system.

Aaron Halegua. ChinaFile. Is Chinese Investment Good for Workers?

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a $1 trillion plan to deepen economic relations between itself and up to 60 other countries worldwide through large investments in infrastructure, construction, and other projects. Many commentators have considered the significance of Belt and Road from a political, economic, or even environmental perspective. This discussion, conceived and led by Aaron Halegua, considers a largely neglected topic: what are the initiative’s implications for labor in China and the target countries?

Margaret K. Lewis. ChinaFile. Protecting the Rights of the Accused in U.S.-China Relations.

As President Donald Trump visits China, the Chinese government wishes that billionaire fugitive Guo Wengui would follow suit and board a plane to Beijing. For months, he has regaled the world from his luxury apartment in Manhattan with stories of high-level corruption among China’s elite. Untangling the truth of Guo’s claims is complex, but what the Chinese government wants is simple: to have some of its citizens, especially Guo, returned to China to face a long list of criminal and civil charges.

Margaret K. Lewis. East Asia Forum. Taiwan's Enduring Death Penalty.

In May 2014, a man stabbed four people to death and injured dozens on a Taipei train. He was executed on 10 May 2016 — 10 days before President Tsai Ing-wen assumed office. The pace of executions in Taiwan has waxed and waned over recent decades — after a nearly five-year pause in executions, 33 people were executed between 2010 and 2016. Today, the death penalty remains legal, popular and contentious.

Margaret K. Lewis. The Diplomat. "Taiwan’s Human Rights Revolution and China’s Devolution"

The gulf between legal systems across the Taiwan Strait is far wider than a hundred miles. Last month, Lee Ming-che — a Taiwanese citizen and human-rights activist — pleaded guilty to subversion charges in China for peacefully expressing political opinions. Today he remains in custody awaiting a decision on his punishment. Lee’s case has heightened already strained cross-strait relations. It has also laid bare the increasing divergence between China and Taiwan with respect to protecting human rights.

Eva Pils. CPIA. "A New Torture in China"

‘In China, we say that for a person meditating in a cave, a day passes as though it were a thousand years; it is like paradise. And where did I experience paradise? In there in the detention centre, being tortured. A day was like a thousand years. That’s how it felt. The disturbingly aged and altered face of the human rights lawyer sharing this observation gave me a sense of what he had been through during his most recent detention, and what colleagues who remained ‘in there,’ including Jiang Tianyong and Wang Quanzhang, might still be suffering.

Margaret K. Lewis. China Policy Institute: Analysis. "Penetrating Law Into the Walls of Chinese Detention Centers."

Last Saturday, the window closed for comments on the draft PRC Detention Center Law.  The Ministry of Public Security touts the draft law’s ability to protect human rights (人权保障), and the release of the long-awaited draft at least indicates the government’s acknowledgement that existing legal provisions are inadequate. Yet any celebrations about an improvement to current detention practices is premature.

Jerome A. Cohen. Peter Dutton. SCMP. "How India border stand-off gives China a chance to burnish its global image."


Jerome A. Cohen and Peter A. Dutton call on Beijing and New Delhi to seek impartial arbitration to resolve their problem. After its heavy-handedness in the South China Sea, the latest row offers China a fresh chance to show respect for international law.

Friday, 21 July, 2017

For the past month, there has been a tense stand-off between China and India in the tri-border Himalayan region that ­includes Bhutan. Troubles began when China resumed building a road on the Doklam Plateau, which is disputed between Bhutan and China. India, because of its own security interests and as Bhutan’s security guarantor, stepped in to defend the position of the kingdom. China now claims India has invaded “its” territory. Tensions are high, and more than a few commentators have suggested this may be the most serious Sino-Indian ­border crisis since their 1962 war.

Many possibilities have been advanced for ­Beijing’s motive to stir up trouble. Some suggest ­Beijing seeks to peel Bhutan from India’s orbit. ­Others believe China seeks to take tactically useful high ground from which to threaten a narrow pass connecting to India’s eastern territories. Others focus on domestic Chinese political-military motivations ahead of the 19th Communist Party Congress. Another possibility is that China may be using the tension to create leverage in advance of border ­dispute negotiations. But why provoke India now?

It is important to remember that President Xi ­Jinping (習近平) undoubtedly wants to demonstrate to the upcoming party congress that he has a plan to make his bold foreign policy undertaking, the “Belt and Road Initiative”, a success. The long-term problem Xi faces is that both the maritime “Road” and the overland “Belt” are vulnerable to Indian interference. Thus, the future of the initiative relies heavily on Indian cooperation, or at least non-interference.

What does China have to offer India in return for its important acquiescence? Perhaps Xi created serious border tensions in order to bring India to the negotiating table, where China could offer a settled land border on terms favourable – but not too favourable – to Indian security. There is precedence in China’s negotiating approach with Vietnam ahead of finalising their land border in 2009. Indeed, unlike its thousands of miles of disputed maritime borders with eight other states, Beijing has in fact successfully negotiated nearly all its land border disputes, sometimes explicitly invoking relevant international law. Stark exceptions are China’s still-disputed borders with India and Bhutan.

Yet, almost seven decades of experience suggests that prospects for successful Sino-Indian border negotiations are not bright, and the current military confrontation might lead to actual armed conflict between two nuclear powers.

To avoid such a dangerous development, both Beijing and New Delhi should consider the time ripe for impartial arbitration or adjudication to resolve the problem. This would be a much less dangerous way than military provocations to achieve the “peaceful dispute resolution” that Beijing so vociferously endorses. Moreover, resorting to an independent international tribunal would go a long way towards repairing the damage to Beijing’s reputation caused by its refusal to accept the outcome of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea arbitration brought against it by the Philippines over disputes in the South China Sea.

As of now, Beijing is vulnerable to criticism that its heavy-handedness in the Himalayas is another example of Xi’s “peaceful” policies. On the one hand, he professes to favour peaceful settlement through negotiations; on the other, he says, “China will never compromise on matters of sovereignty” over what are, in fact, controversial territorial claims. Beijing’s bullying in the South China Sea has also led ­others to conclude it believes only in power-based approaches to international dispute resolution.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in September 2015, he was asked whether India and China might settle their land border disagreements through arbitration. Modi dismissed the possibility without stating any reasons. But since India recently settled its disputes with Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal through the UN convention arbitration, we are left to infer that the problem is China, not India. Apparently, Modi understandably has no hope that China would agree to such an approach.

Indeed, it is a fair question to ask, especially in view of Beijing’s recent flat-out rejection of the decision in the South China Sea case, why should India seek arbitration with Beijing? Even knowing Beijing will reject the arbitration proposal, India may want to strengthen the global esteem it already enjoys from its gracious acceptance of the adverse Bay of Bengal arbitration award. Seeking arbitration would also ­reflect India’s confidence in its legal position and its rejection of China’s current preference for bullying.

Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the Philippines gained much through its arbitration against China. It may take years or even decades for the fruit of its efforts to ripen, but even now it is apparent that quiet bilateral negotiations stimulated by the arbitration have gradually begun to emerge. And it is important to note that through arbitration, even ­“losers” can be winners.

When India was awarded the lesser portion of maritime rights in the Bay of Bengal, Modi’s enlightened acceptance emphasised that now the two sides could cooperate in regional resource development that had been previously stymied.

Beijing has a lot of work to do to repair its international image. What do other members of the UN sea convention think about China’s blatant rejection of its commitment to the agreement’s mandatory dispute resolution provisions? What do the British think about Beijing’s recent unilateral declaration that the 1984 Joint Declaration supposedly guaranteeing Hong Kong’s future until 2047 no longer has realistic meaning? What do other states that have ratified the UN Convention against Torture think about China’s continuing nationwide abuses? What do Australians think about the way Rio Tinto’s Stern Hu was tried despite the bilateral consular convention? What do Taiwanese think about Beijing’s refusal to apply the cross-strait judicial assistance agreement to Taiwan human rights activist Lee Ming-che’s detention? What do forcibly repatriated North Koreans think of Beijing’s violations of the Refugee Convention?

The present dispute with India offers Beijing a splendid chance to demonstrate respect for the institutions and processes of international law.

Jerome A. Cohen is an NYU law professor, faculty director of its U.S.-Asia Law Institute and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Peter A. Dutton is a professor and director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College and adjunct professor of law at NYU

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: move moUntains

*Click here to view original article.


Jerome A. Cohen. South China Morning Post. Taiwan's Landmark Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage Highlights the Gulf with Mainland China.


May 29, 2017 


The decision of Taiwan’s constitutional court last week, invalidating a civil code provision prohibiting same-sex marriage, will have profound implications. Domestically, it will spur the executive and legislative branches to break the political stalemate over the legislative action necessary to amend the code, so as to conform to the constitution’s guarantee of social equality for all. They must now fulfil this constitutional responsibility within two years.

The constitutional court has taken similar actions in other controversial situations in recent decades. For example, its decisions played a critical role in ending the power that Taiwan’s police long exercised outside the regular judicial system, to imprison anyone they chose to declare a “hooligan”. The court also required that the government end an abuse similar to the notorious “re-education through labour” recently abolished, at least in form, in mainland China.

The much more controversial same-sex decision reminds me of the landmark US Supreme Court Brown vs Board of Education ruling, which in 1954 led a divided America away from segregated schools and other previously legal segregation practices. Although Brown, like last week’s Taiwan case, generated a major backlash from many conservative groups, it proved a major step toward social progress.

Read the entire article here.



Jerome A. Cohen. ChinaFile. Comments on Lee Ming-che's Arrest.

April 20, 2017

A Taiwanese Man’s Detention in Guangdong Threatens a Key Pillar of Cross-Straits Relations

Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che mysteriously disappeared in China on March 19. Ten days later, Beijing, having ignored the Taiwan government’s frantic appeals for information through prescribed channels, finally admitted that Lee has been placed in official custody on suspicion of “endangering state security.”

Yet, even today, a month later, virtually nothing more is known about Lee’s situation. Where is he being detained and by whom? What evidence justifies his detention? Does he have a right to meet his family, see a lawyer, and consult a Taiwan official? How long can he be held until charged with an offense or released? Can he get a fair trial? Why did Beijing not promptly notify Taipei of Lee’s detention, as required by their Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement, a compact in force since it was concluded in 2009? Why has Beijing gone to great lengths to avoid cooperating with Taipei?

Lee was “disappeared” while entering Mainland China from Macau. A former worker for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and more recently an administrator at a Taipei community college, he has been a long-term volunteer for Taiwanese human rights NGOs. He often discussed human rights, democracy, and Taiwan’s experience on Chinese social media, called for support for the families of detained Chinese human rights activists, sent Taiwanese books on history, literature, and social sciences to Chinese friends, and traveled to the mainland every year to see them.


Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che mysteriously disappeared in China on March 19. Ten days later, Beijing, having ignored the Taiwan government’s frantic appeals for information through prescribed channels, finally admitted that Lee has been placed in official custody on suspicion of “endangering state security.” Yet, even today, a month later, virtually nothing more is known about Lee’s situation. Where is he being detained and by whom? What evidence justifies his detention? Does he have a right to meet his family, see a lawyer, and consult a Taiwan official? How long can he be held until charged with an offense or released? Can he get a fair trial? Why did Beijing not promptly notify Taipei of Lee’s detention, as required by their Cross-Strait Joint Crime-Fighting and Judicial Mutual Assistance Agreement, a compact in force since it was concluded in 2009? Why has Beijing gone to great lengths to avoid cooperating with Taipei? Lee was “disappeared” while entering Mainland China from Macau. A former worker for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and more recently an administrator at a Taipei community college, he has been a long-term volunteer for Taiwanese human rights NGOs. He often discussed human rights, democracy, and Taiwan’s experience on Chinese social media, called for support for the families of detained Chinese human rights activists, sent Taiwanese books on history, literature, and social sciences to Chinese friends, and traveled to the mainland every year to see them.

Read the entire article here.

Jerome A. Cohen. Storm Media Group. 孔傑榮專文:北京錯估逮捕李明哲的後果

June 06, 2017





Read the entire article here.

USALI Affiliated Professor Eva Pils Quoted in Guardian Article

April 28, 2017

China convicts rights lawyer Li Heping of 'subversion of state power'

Li, once told that China considered him ‘more dangerous than Bin Laden’, sentenced in secret trial to three years in prison with a four-year reprieve

A respected Christian human rights lawyer has been convicted of “subversion of state power” at a secret trial in China, almost two years after he was first detained in a sweeping crackdown.

Li Heping was sentenced to three years in prison with a four-year reprieve, the court in the eastern city of Tianjin said on an official social media account, meaning he should be released but could be arrested and jailed at any point.

The trial was held behind closed doors on Tuesday because “the case involved state secrets”, the court said, but was only announced along with the verdict on Friday.


'I want to rescue my dad': children's heartbreak for the lawyers China has taken away

Li was swept up in a nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in July 2015, where police detained or questioned about 250 people. Since assuming power, China’s president, Xi Jinping, has launched a new wave of attacks on activists and the lawyers who defend them.

Li’s case drew attention around the world, and EU officials, as well as the embassies of 11 countries, called for his claims of torture while in custody to be investigated. His wife has said authorities used electric shocks on him.

“A suspended sentence does not mean he’s free until we actually get to see him and he’s allowed to speak freely, and given what we’ve seen in the past that probably won’t happen,” said Eva Pils, a professor at King’s College London and longtime friend of Li.

“It was a secret trial so we don’t know what state he is in,” Pils added. “In addition to our usual concerns about torture and physical health, I’m worried that this entire process may have robbed him of his mental health, especially after what they’ve apparently done to his brother.”

Li’s younger brother, Li Chunfu, emerged from 500 days of secret detention in January and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to his family.

Li became well known for defending the disenfranchised, including Christian house churches, victims of forced evictions and free speech advocates. He worked within the scope of China’s legal system, rather than taking to the streets in protest. One Chinese security agent reportedly once told Li that the state considered him “more dangerous than Bin Laden”.

Although Li is likely to be released in the coming weeks, he has already spent more than 20 months in detention. At least 11 activists who received suspended sentences disappeared shortly after they were released, with some forced to undergo months of political education classes before being placed under house arrest by local police, according to human rights groups.

The court’s verdict was seen as a warning to other activists, and included a catalogue of vague charges, without citing any specific examples of illegality.

“The court ruled that since 2008, the defendant Li Heping repeatedly used the internet and foreign media interviews to discredit and attack state power and the legal system,” the court said. The court also accused Li of accepting foreign funds and employing paid defendants.

A lawyer hired by Li’s family to defend him was rejected by authorities and he was ultimately given a government appointed lawyer, an increasing trend in political prosecutions.

The conviction came on the same day that another civil rights lawyer, Xie Yang, was set to go on trial, but it was later cancelled.

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