Tag Archive | "China"

Critical Analysis: The U.S. Should Suspend Adoptions from China

China, like the U.S., has a website that is dedicated to finding missing and exploited children called, “Baby Come Home.” Unlike the U.S., a large percentage of those children have probably been kidnapped for adoption by unsuspecting American parents. Since China opened its doors to international adoption in 1991, over 83,000 Chinese children have received American parents, the largest number worldwide.[1]

In 2006, the Chinese police uncovered six Hunan orphanages that had paid kidnappers anywhere from $400 to $538 for each child acquired. The operation had been going on for four years, so at least a thousand children had been stolen from their birth families and sent to the orphanages for international adoption. The children were usually taken from another province in China and moved to Hunan to avoid detection. It would be naïve to assume that these problems are all in the past. In June of 2012, the Chinese police arrested 76 suspects for infant abductions acquired for resale in the Yunnan province. The infants went for as high as $1,582.

Parents hold on to hope of finding their missing children. Image Source: AP

Parents hold on to hope of finding their missing children. Image Source: AP

In 2010, parents of missing children protested in Beijing about the lack of investigation by the Chinese police. China claims that only 10,000 of its children are abducted each year; however, the State Department has conceded that the numbers may be as high as 20,000 annually. Every year, approximately 30,000 to 60,000 missing children are reported to Chinese police. A child is usually taken from migrant workers because of the parents’ lack of clout with police.

Once an orphanage decides to put a child up for international adoption, it must publish an ad in the local newspaper to notify potential claimants about the lost child. Since most of the kidnapped children are routed from their homes to other provinces, it is unlikely that the local paper of the orphanage would inform searching parents of their children’s whereabouts. Sixty days after the post, the child is available for adoption to the US.

The media has often portrayed China as a land full of abandoned, healthy baby girls, but the current lack of supply and the subsequent need to refill that supply has been glossed over. In 2007, China admitted that it “lacked available babies to meet the spike in demand.” In 1991, the one-child policy (“policy”) may have contributed to the surplus of female infants in Chinese orphanages but oversupply is no longer a problem. Abortions and other forms of birth control are readily available in China. The policy has been effective at reducing China’s population from 5.81 children per family in 1970 to an average of 2.31 in 1990.[2] At 2.31, the population will no longer grow but simply replace the current generation. Moreover, with China’s increasing economic wealth, families are able to pay the penalties for having more than one child if the province strictly enforces the policy.

In an informal survey conducted by Stuy, 227 out of 259 Chinese orphanages claimed that they did not have any healthy infants available for domestic adoption even though the children were conveniently available for Americans. American parents must pay the orphanage a fee of $3,000 to $5,000 for each child adopted. Assuming the minimum fee of $3,000, almost $252 million has been transferred from the U.S. to China in exchange for children since 1991.

In the U.S., the birth parents’ rights to a child tend to supercede the adoptive parents’, even if the child has been with the adoptive parents for years. However, when it comes to international adoptions, the U.S. does not give the same amount of deference to Chinese parents’ rights to their children. As a ratifying country to the Hague Convention, the U.S. should attempt to uphold the principles of the Convention even if the treaty is not self-executing. The U.S. should suspend adoptions from China because the practice is feeding into the kidnapping of children and corruption within the country. The “best interests of the children” are not being taken into account when encouraging adoptions from China. China is more than capable of absorbing any healthy, abandoned children within the country. U.S. suspension of adoptions from China would force the country to take kidnappings more seriously, especially with the amount of Chinese parents that have lost children.

Helen Lee is a 3L at the University of Denver and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

[1] See, Elizabeth Bartholet, Int’l Adoption: Thoughts on the Human Rights Issues, 13 Buff. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 151, app. B (2007). See also, Significant Source Countries of International Adoptions (Totals of IR-3, IR-4, IH-3, and IH-4 Immigrant Visas Issued): Fiscal Years 2003-2012, U.S. Department of State, http://travel.state.gov/visa/statistics/ivstats/ivstats_4581.html

[2] Sharon K. Hom, Female Infanticide in China: The Human Rights Specter & Thoughts Towards (An) Other Vision, 23 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 249, 266 n.59 (1992).

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Critical Analysis: China’s Air Defense Identification Zone


Ownership of the disputed islands is crucial for the rights to use the oil, minerals, and fish in the surrounding waters. Image Source: Wikimedia

On November 23, 2013, China declared an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which stated that “aircraft in the area must report their flight plans to China, maintain two-way radio and clearly mark their nationalities on the aircraft.”  China’s declaration has drawn harsh criticism from Japan and the United States.

While ADIZs are not a new concept, China’s ADIZ has created tension because the zone includes a chain of islands that are the center of a long dispute between China and Japan.  ADIZs are declared by many nations, allowing the territory to potentially stop unfriendly aircraft from entering its airspace.  James Hardy, the Asia-Pacific Editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, stated that an ADIZ is “unilaterally imposed, so it doesn’t really have a legal basis and isn’t based on negotiations with neighbors.”  The ADIZ includes the Daioyu/Senkaku islands, which both Japan and China claim as part of their territory.

Secretary of State John Kerry released a press statement on November 23, noting its deep concern over China’s ADIZ and warning that the move will increase tensions and a risk of an accident.  The Secretary stated that the United States does not “apply its ADIZ procedures to foreign aircraft not intending to enter U.S. national airspace,” and urged China not to take action against aircraft that do not comply.  China’s state-run news agency said that the U.S. and Japan are “pursuing double standards,” condemning the countries for voicing concerns over China setting up an ADIZ while both countries have had an ADIZ in place for years.  The state-run news agency said, “Japan set up such a zone in the 1960’s and it even one-sidedly allowed the zone to cover China’s Diaoyu Islands.”

The disputed islands, called Senkaku Islands by Japan and Diaoyu Islands by China, are claimed by both Japan and China.  China claims that Chinese fisherman began using the islands in the 1400’s, and has had a right of ownership ever since.  However, Japan recognized the islands as part of its territory in 1895, after conducting a survey in which it “saw no trace of Chinese control of the islands.”    After Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, the islands were “administered by the U.S. occupation force.” Once the U.S. withdrew in 1972, the U.S. returned the islands back to Japan.

The islands have remained in dispute, but tensions have increased over the past year.  In April 2013, a Japanese nationalist group sent several boats into the disputed waters, a mission aimed at “publicizing Japan’s territorial claim to the area.”   China responded by sending five more ships to the already three ships stationed in the waters to monitor Japan’s activity.  When Japan’s coast guard ordered the Chinese ships to leave, the ships refused, claiming they were “patrolling Chinese territory.” Eventually the ships set out by the Japanese nationalist group left the area without incident.  The islands are important to both countries because the territory that owns the islands has “exclusive oil, mineral, and fishing rights in surrounding waters.”

On November 26, two United States Air Force B-52 planes flew over the ADIZ, and the pilots did not identify themselves as required by China.  Although the United States has stated that it does not recognize China’s ADIZ, it is urging commercial pilots to adhere to China’s new requirements, citing safety reasons.  However, Japan has stated that its commercial airlines will not follow China’s requirements.  As tensions rise in the Pacific, the U.S. has cause for concern – Japan and the U.S. have “a mutual security treaty.”   Although the Treaty does have a provision where both parties undertake to solve disputes peacefully, Article V of the Treaty recognizes that each party would “act to meet the common danger” in the event of an armed attack in Japan.


Lisa Browning is a 3L and the Training Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy

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Critical Analysis: U.S. B-52s Cause More Buzz Over Disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands

On Monday, November 26, the United States sent two B-52 bombers over a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea after China recently declared that the islands were within the country’s air defense zone. The disputed islands, called the Diaoyu Islands by the Chinese, and the Senkaku Islands by the Japanese, are at the heart of an international dispute in which each country claims the islands as their own.

After China released new coordinates for its air defense zone, the U.S. flew two unarmed B-52 bombers over the islands.

After China released new coordinates for its air defense zone, the U.S. flew two unarmed B-52 bombers over the disputed islands.

The islands are prized for their strategically significant location to nearby shipping lanes, and for their potential abundance of natural resources. Modern dispute over the ownership of the islands has existed since the 1970s. However, the dispute over the islands seems to be escalating. A little over a year ago Japan sent fighter jets to the islands after a Chinese plane was sighted in the area on December 13, 2012. That marked the first time that aircraft became involved in the dispute.

A little less than a year later, on November 23, 2013, China released information pertaining to the coordinates of its new air defense zone, which happens to encompass the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. It accompanied the release with a declaration requiring any aircraft entering the zone to clearly mark the nationality of the aircraft and for pilots of the aircraft to identify themselves and to report their flight plans to Chinese authorities. Additionally, China claimed that it would defensively respond to aircraft that refused to follow these procedures.

Three days later, the United States flew two unarmed B-52 bombers over the islands, which lie within the new Chinese air defense zone. The United States claimed that the flyover was part of a training exercise. The United States conducted the exercise following its normal procedures, which disregard China’s new requirements for aircraft entering the zone. China has not directly responded to the actions of the U.S., but claims that the new air defense zone is a proper exercise of its right to self-defense and territorially integrity.

The institution of the Chinese air defense zone and the United State’s flyover of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands demonstrate that tensions over the disputed islands are escalating. These events come on the heels of a recently released statement by the United States about its focus on enhancing security in the Asia-Pacific region through increasing the presence of U.S. forces. With a larger U.S. presence in the region, and with an already strained relationship between China and Japan, a diplomatic resolution is needed sooner rather than later. In fact, a peaceful resolution to the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute could help build a bridge to better relations between all parties involved.


Lincoln Puffer is a 3L and is the Cite and Source Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: China and a Clean Energy Future

When Chinese authorities fired up numerous coal-fired power plants in the northern province of Heilongjiang, a dense cloud of smog descended upon the city of Harbin.  As air pollution soared high above what the World Health Organization deems “safe”, schools, airports, and roads shut down.  With winter descending, people are left wondering whether smog clouds will become more common.  Harbin’s smog cloud was not the first incidence of extreme air pollution in China’s cities.  Beijing has become known for its heavy air pollution and garnered world attention last January when off-the-chart levels of air pollution were recorded during what news sources called “airmageddon.”  Although there are several reasons for smog clouds such as those covering Harbin and Beijing, the main culprit is coal, China’s main source of energy.  To stem the pollution problems, and the environmental and society issues that arise alongside them, China has pledged to move away from coal to other, cleaner, sources of energy.

Northern China smog shuts down roads, schools, and airlines. Source: Reuters

Northern China smog shuts down roads, schools, and airlines. Source: Reuters

Globally there is no consensus as to what our energy future should look like.  Ideally, we will move away from burning fossil fuels entirely, but for now natural gas is seen as a good transition fuel.  In the United States, a shift from coal to natural gas has brought about a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions.  China’s pollution reduction pledge includes switching from coal to natural gas, but it will take years, maybe decades, for China to achieve energy changes, similar to those the United States is currently undertaking, due to chronic shortages of natural gas[G1]  in China.  China does not have the same domestic natural gas production levels that are aiding the U.S.  shift to cleaner fuel.  A current boom in U.S. natural gas production is keeping domestic natural gas prices in the United States at a fraction of the prices in Europe and Asia.  This price disparity is leading many to push for U.S. exports of natural gas, which would be an economic boon to the United States while creating a more competitive global market for natural gas.

Energy security and politics go hand in hand.  This week the Guardian newspaper declared that Russia and Ukraine are inching closer to a “gas war.”  Russian state energy giant Gazrom has demanded swift payment by Ukraine of $882 million in gas debt.  Some say this demand is politically motivated by Russia’s displeasure with Ukraine creating closer political ties with the European Union.  The pipelines running through Ukraine help supply Europe with natural gas, so political squabbles between Ukraine and Russia could jeopardize Europe’s gas supplies.  Should the United States begin exporting natural gas, the increased economic competition could alter the political relationships between countries that have grown up around current gas supplies.

Natural gas is not China’s only option for a cleaner energy future.  In addition to pledging to increase use of natural gas, China has also pledged to increase the use of renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power.  Moving away from fossil fuels is something many nations share in energy development.  Japan recently began a project to construct 140 offshore wind turbines by 2020 to add to the nation’s energy supplies in light of rising oil prices and concerns over nuclear power.  Japan’s new turbines are expected to create the same amount of energy generated by a nuclear reactor.  The United Kingdom recently gave the go-ahead to a new nuclear power plant, the first to be built in a generation.  China currently has seventeen nuclear power plants in operation and dozens more under construction.  Although nuclear power carries many concerns, increases in this energy source could also reduce the air pollution blanketing China’s cities.

China’s smoggy cities provide a clear example of the global energy problems.  While not all countries face the problems associated with dense smog clouds like those in China, the changing energy use in China tracks with global changes in energy use.  For China, like the rest of the world, the increased demand for natural gas will carry environmental, economic, and political changes.  Already we are seeing how the reliance on natural gas globally is altering international relationships on both political and economic fronts.  However, from an environmental standpoint, natural gas cannot be the final solution.  It is still a fossil fuel.  Non-fossil fuel and renewable energy sources should play a large part in China’s energy future, as they should globally if the full extent of the pollution problems are to be addressed.


Laura Wood is a 3L and the Senior Managing Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: The Internet: The Land of the Free?

“The Great Firewall of China” is well-recognized around the world as referring to China’s closed-internet policy.  Edward Snowden’s leaks advertised to the world that privacy online in America is more of a myth than an actuality.  But perhaps all of this is just leading to the next stage of internet freedom – not actual freedom, but more transparency in how the internet is being monitored.

A woman sits in a cybercafé in Beijing. Photo: Dan Chung/The Guardian

A woman sits in a cybercafé in Beijing. Photo: Dan Chung/The Guardian

Beijing News recently released a report that more than two million Chinese people are employed by the government and private companies to monitor web activity.  These “internet opinion analysts” are hired to search through opinions related to particular key words, gather the opinions, and then compile reports on these opinions.  However, a previous study indicates that these internet opinion analysts do more than just report on opinions.  This study of one specific site, Sina Weibo, discovered that these monitors will also delete posts that include particular keywords or that are posted by frequently-censored users.  Some of the most commonly censored topic during this thirty day study included “support Syrian rebels,” “judicial independence,” “one-child policy abuse,” and “human rights.”

Censorship in China is based mainly on government laws. The Sina Weibo study, for example, understood that “[i]f Sina Weibo had insufficient controls, the government may take action against the company.  If their controls were too rigid, users might abandon them for one of their competitors.” China is not the only state that uses laws, regulation, and general technology to regulate and monitor internet-use by its citizens.  Iran uses filtering and slow connections to attempt to censor internet use.  India actually has laws against monitoring, but apparently the government has violated its own rule by monitoring the activities of almost 160 million Indian internet users.  And of course, the United States’ NSA monitors the internet activity of millions of Americans.

Perhaps instead of using national laws to inhibit freedom on the internet through censoring or monitoring, as has apparently become the trend over the last three years, it is time to promote privacy instead.  While the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently attempted to negotiate a new treaty for states to sign, the treaty focused more on the rights of governments in telecommunications than individual privacy rights.  If the UN is not helping to promote an international standard, it may be best for a state or group of states to design a Model Law for states to adopt to promote internet privacy.  If a Model Law existed and was shown to be effective for some states, other states, that hold onto monitoring and censoring as necessary for security, would see a viable – and more politically palatable alternative.

Until then, China might at least be making strides in being more frank about how it is monitoring its citizens.  Although a long way from a lack of censorship, this could be a very important step towards more internet privacy – hopefully one that other states will be willing to adopt.

Samantha Peaslee is a 2L at Sturm College of Law and Managing Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Chinese urban center

Critical Analysis: China’s ‘Rebalancing’ Through Urbanization

Chinese officials recently announced their intention to move 250 million rural residents into cities over the next decade in an effort to reform China’s economy. The goal is to create a new class of urban consumers and increase demand domestically, thereby making economic growth more sustainable. The policy follows in the footsteps of previous actions by the Chinese government to expropriate farmers’ land for development while providing little to no compensation. This mass urbanization could prove to be similarly controversial.

Chinese urban center

A Chinese man in the shadow of the future for rural peasants (Reuters)

China’s economic success in sustaining economic growth through the last decade has been based primarily on exports. It accomplished this by a combination of low wages, currency controls, and investment in manufacturing, in turn becoming the world’s largest exporter in 2010. Recent forecasts have predicted that China’s growth will slow in the next few years, prompting officials to seek a more sustainable economic strategy, termed ‘rebalancing’. Urbanization, or relocating peasants to urban centers, is a highlight of the new strategy. The idea is that by providing rural farmers with apartments in cities, they will find better paying jobs and become a new consumer class, thereby increasing domestic demand and allowing China to be less dependent on exports. The plan is not without its drawbacks.

Problems have already arisen in this process. Jobs are not readily available for the unskilled peasant class, forcing laborers to take jobs significant distances from their subsidized housing. Urban living also has a higher price tag than a rural lifestyle, requiring a substantial portion of income for utilities and basic necessities like heat and electricity. Of course, farmers have no leverage in this process as urban land is owned by the government and rural by local farmers collectively. Without sufficient property rights, farmers are dependent on the meager subsidies provided by the government once moved into the city, while the market value for land is not truly reflected in the costs for development, leading to inefficiencies in land use and availability.

The last time China attempted economic engineering of this scale was in 1957 with Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward. Rural peasants were responsible for providing the food supply for the country’s rapid modernization as well as laboring in heavy industry like iron and steel in backyard furnaces. The result was the largest famine death toll in world history. While technology and improved planning would hopefully prevent a recurrence of famine, there are nonetheless several flaws in China’s urbanization plan. The most glaring is that consumption growth follows an increase in disposable income, which will not occur if wages continue to be suppressed by maintaining a surplus of unskilled labor in the market. Unemployment could lead to discontent and, in turn, a more organized opposition to the Communist parties as farmers are already the most vocal opponents to government actions. Additionally, emphasizing consumption rather than investment in innovation or technology will limit the future growth of the economy.

There is little doubt that China’s economic strategy must adapt to a more sustainable model, although it is yet to be seen whether urbanization will result in continued subsistent existence for peasants or a new era of prosperity. Along with environmental concerns and an aging population, China has its work cut out for it.

Alex Milgroom is a rising 3L at the University of Denver and the Online Editor-in-Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: What’s up with North Korea?

University students punch the air as they march through Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea (BBC)

University students punch the air as they march through Kim Il Sung Square in downtown Pyongyang, North Korea (BBC)

Since being sanctioned by the UN in March for carrying out a third nuclear test, Pyongyang has threatened nuclear strikes on the US, formally declared war on the South, and pledged to reopen a nuclear reactor in blatant defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.

On Friday, North Korea warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of foreign embassy staff if war broke out. But not a single country seems to be taking this threat seriously. Foreign embassies in the capital of Pyongyang appear to be staying put so far despite a warning. Russia is considering the request seriously. However, the British have brushed it off, considering the threat “part of a campaign of continued rhetoric” and asserting that North Korea is insinuating that it is making the request because the US poses a threat to North Korea.

Is war on the horizon?

General Walter Sharp, who until last year was the commander of US forces in Korea, explained the escalation problem to NPR.  The “counterprovocation” plan, that the US intends to invoke if the North Koreans launch even a limited artillery attack on South Korea, authorizes the South Koreans to fire back immediately. As defensive plan, at the root it is an “if you are fired at, fire back.” But this could easily mean war. U.S. officials say the counterprovocation plan and the U.S. flexing its muscles send three strong messages: the South Koreans see that the U.S. military is standing behind them; the North Koreans find out what they’d face were they to start something; and China sees how high the stakes are and why it may need to rein North Korea in.

Furthermore, the Pentagon decided to delay an intercontinental ballistic missile test that was scheduled for next week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, for fear that it would only intensify the tensions between the US and North Korea. North Korea has become angered by the military exercises that the US and South Korea are doing. These exercises demonstrate potential power the two allies have to strike back: B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters, and ballistic missile defense-capable warships.  But while the US is taking the threats seriously, leaders continue to say that there are no obvious signs that North Korea is planning for a large-scale attack.

Does North Korea have any support internationally?

Even China, North Korea’s longtime ally, is speaking critically of North Korea’s recent activities. “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping at an economic forum in Hainan province. Avoiding mentioning North Korea by name, Xi said, “[w]hile pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others.”

Chinese officials who value stability above all else will probably not abandon North Korea altogether during these tensions. But seeing an opportunity amid Chinese frustrations, the Obama administration is attempting to push Beijing to take a much stronger stance against the renegade country than it has in the past. China is tightening its stance; it wants dialogue to ease tensions, not war.

Mimi Faller is a 2L at DU Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Maritime Tensions between China and Japan Increase

Tensions between China and Japan  increased last week over the ownership of Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands. (Christian Science Monitor)

Tensions between China and Japan increased last week over the ownership of Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands. (Christian Science Monitor)

Maritime disputes between the Japanese and Chinese continue to escalate. The Japanese-named Senkaku Islands, and the Chinese-named Diaoyu Islands continue to be a major source of conflict between the two nations. Last week, the situation escalated when Japan scrambled fighter jets after a Chinese plane flew over the islands.  Though other island disputes between these and other countries exist, this is the first time the dispute over these islands has involved aircraft. These territorial tensions have only risen since Japan purchased three of the islands from a private owner three months ago.

Both countries have attempted to claim the right to these islands since the United Nations survey declared that the islands were rich in resources, the most important being oil. The issue has only increased as oil prices have risen in both countries. This latest action on the part of the Chinese is apparently one part of a strategy of steady escalation in an attempt to reclaim the islands. Since September, Chinese ships have been spotted in waters close to the islands, including warships and law enforcement patrol boats.

The presence of the Chinese Navy and Air Force is only making the situation more dangerous. China is trying to “unilaterally change the status quo of the islands” by using its forces as evidence of their longstanding claim over the islands. All action taken has been in hopes of deterring Japan from further developing the islands, but this recent escalation goes to show that the problem could soon get out of hand. Not only is the situation, which has enraged Chinese and Japanese citizens alike, becoming more volatile, it is also causing economic damages to both nations. Reports are now saying that these economic consequences could be disastrous.

The United States has not abstained from making declarations on these disputes. While the United States maintains that it takes no side on this territorial dispute, Washington acknowledged its belief that the islands belong to the Japanese. The United States has also officially voiced its concerns over the situation, stating that rising tensions and miscalculations could have serious negative consequences.

There seems to be no sign of tensions easing in the near future either. Japan maintains that it will strengthen the surveillance power of its air force and continues to lodge complaints with the Chinese government over the dispute. As Japan maintains official control over the islands, China’s recent actions are a violation of international law, which forbids one nation from entering another nation’s airspace without having permission.  Furthermore, a nation also has the right to expel unauthorized aircraft with force. One can only hope that force will not be necessary to resolve this dispute.

Bailey Woods is a 2L and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: China’s Upcoming “Elections” and Xi JinPing


Xi JinPing kicks a Gaelic football during a February visit to Ireland. (Wall Street Journal)

Xi JinPing is a likeable figure to the Chinese people: a fan of soccer and Hollywood war movies and married to a glamorous woman who is a famous Chinese folk singer. At ease with himself, the population is placing its confidence in this burley man with a deep, sonorous voice. Xi JinPing has some big shoes to fill. Not only is China a massive economic powerhouse, but also the Communist party is struggling with some heavy corruption. Dubbed the “fifth generation” of leadership, JinPing follows internationally known leaders that built a powerful country arguably more quickly than any other. Some analysts believe that China’s economic development model, which has delivered tremendous growth but at great environmental and social cost, is now unsustainable. As a result, JinPing must find a way to adapt a Leninist system of government to 21st-century economic problems and the political dynamics of the social media age.

Officially rising to the country’s top post as the chairman of the Politburo this Thursday, Beijing is preparing for a grand ceremony. The meeting to elect the new officials of the Chinese government, however, is not open to the public or available to media. Indeed, Internet searches have revealed new “censors” restricting searches with the party name included and any possible substituting words. On Thursday, some 2,268 delegates will elect 370 representatives to serve as the party’s central committee, who will in turn elect the two-dozen members of the Politburo. The Politburo then elects the seven- or nine-member Politburo Standing Committee who will become the epicenter of China’s power. All of this is completely hidden from the public eye.

China’s growth and the issue of US jobs being exported to China were hot topics during the recent presidential election in the United States. Now, with Xi JinPing as a rising political star in China, the United States will have to come to terms with a continuing economic battle. We, and the rest of the world, know what the United States struggles with because of media disclosure – the issues of our election were heavily discussed, from education and job growth to rebuilding our housing market. In stark contrast, we do not know the full extent of China’s struggles because the media is not allowed and is not privy to those discussions that may matter most to the public. In official deliberations, the issues are hidden behind ideological code phrases.

China’s challenges may hinge on the government’s lack of checks from the people and the media. Information is censored, government deliberations and decisions are not transparent, and many of the 1.3 billion inhabitants in China are oblivious of government policies and practices and why they exist. While the elections in the United States and China may occur contemporaneously, the processes and levels of disclosure are worlds apart.

Mimi Faller is a 2L at DU Law, and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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A Discussion with Chinese Legal Activist Chen Guangcheng

Remember this guy? Back in May he was on the cover of the Economist, this past week, three of the Sturm College of Law’s students got to hear him speak at International Law Weekend at Fordham University Law School in New York City. Did we mention we also represented yours truly, the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy?

Chen Guancheng

Mr. Chen is a blind, self-taught legal activist from China. Prior to April of this year, he had been on house arrest for 19 months after he took on the local party over the abortions and sterilizations it enforced as part of China’s strict one-child policy. On April 22, 2012, he fled to the American Embassy in Beijing, where he stayed temporarily. His departure from the Embassy raised some questions about whether the US had offered him enough support. But that seems water under the bridge now – Mr. Chen is currently our co-student and is getting his J.D. from New York University.

Your author, at least, considers it a great honor to be attending law school at the same time as someone who has done so many great things in the name of the law. His dedication, courage, and compassion serve as an example of what all of us can be. Not to mention, when we feel like complaining about finals coming up, remember this guy taught himself law and then took to the streets as a “barefoot lawyer” – putting himself at risk to help those in need. Finals indeed may be one of those “first world problems.” So study on, my friends.

Below are some highlights from his conversation with the moderators and the audience. Jerome Cohen, Professor at NYU Law, was the moderator and translator. Ira Belkin, Executive Director of the US Asia Institute at NYU Law, was also a panelist.

Q: How did you get interested in the law in China?

A: I recognized that people’s rights were being violated, it was the government. Disabled people couldn’t find [or] afford lawyers. So the only thing was to learn the laws ourselves, protect ourselves. To wait for the government was not practical.

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I didn’t go to school until I was 18, but I was educating myself on society and social problems before then. At that time, I really valued the opportunity to go to class. It was difficult for me to follow the curriculum, but I did the best he could to keep up. I first started learning Braille, but then I took the regular curriculum. My major was traditional Chinese medicine, traditional massage. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to go to university.

Q: Describe the first case you handled.

A: In 1991, there was a new law passed for people with disabilities. There were provisions people in the countryside who could not work didn’t have to, as well as providing other protections. But it didn’t really work out that way –disabled people were still discriminated against. At that time there was a village Party Secretary who went on a tirade against people with disabilities, saying they were useless to society and if it was up to him they would kill them. When I heard about this case, I showed my friends the law about people with disabilities, and we decided to do a administrative law suit.

Q: Why didn’t you find a local lawyer to support you?

A: This is a case suing the government. You can offend them –most lawyers didn’t/don’t want to take on those cases. Disabled people tend to be poor –that’s another reason. Legal aid lawyers in China were useless as well. Its only when other lawyers get interested that they become interested.

Q: Did the Association of Disabled Persons help you?

A: In terms of protecting fundamental rights, they’re not of great help. They’re an arm of the government.

Belkin: Deng Xiaoping’s [former “paramount leader” (head of the Party) in China] crippled son, Deng Pufang. Funny thing was when they needed help, they didn’t get it from ADP, they had to look locally.

Q: Can you share with us some of your early experiences in court in China?

A: In the first case I handled, the judge was sympathetic and gave us a just verdict. But later on, the judges were influenced by the Party Legal Committee, and were basically in the league of the government and weren’t helping us either. In the beginning, courts just refused to take cases. Local officials said to me that the law may be on paper, but actually enforcing it is up to us. We would go to one court, they would say we needed to go to another level court, and so on. We would do that –it was difficult for people with disabilities –but in the end, the courts didn’t help us. So in the end, I mailed the case file to the court so they could make a decision, so they accepted the case, but didn’t give us a just verdict anyway.

Belkin: It’s important to understand that geography is destiny. The village is so far from the various levels of government. The cost, time, work, money –it’s a challenge to try to use law in those circumstances.

Q: Why do you still have faith in the law?

A: The law can be a social tool, a tool to accomplish things in society. I hope that one day in China there will be rule of law, and it can be used as a tool. But right now the government is using it as a tool, so its not playing the positive role that it should.

Q: At the School for the Blind University, was he already interested in constitutional law?

A: The Constitution is a basic law –everyone should it obey it. It is only when everyone obeys it that we can all be safe and the law can be of use to us. I feel that the law not only can regulate life, provide a standard set of rules for living. But more importantly it can also control and limit government officials –create a zone in which they must act –prevent them from abusing their power. Morality, rules of ethics, can be important for people, but they don’t have any effect on the people in power. Its really the law that should serve that purpose.

Q: With regard to the role of the local Political Legal Party Committee –one of the major questions confronting the new leadership next month is are they going to reorganize the scope of authority of the party political leadership? Not only in the central government, but in the localities.

A: In China, the Party is separate from the government. It’s really the party that decides and controls how the government makes decisions –on all levels. The Party Secretary is the top official, the government is below them. The Political Legal Committee (PLC) is part of the party, that controls the government. It controls all judicial organs –police, Procurator General (Prosecutor)s, courts. So for example the public security officials should be deciding whether to investigate based on the law, but they have to do get permission from the PLC and do what the PLC says to do. The Chinese Procurator General (Prosecutor)s have a corruption case, they have decide whether to investigate, how far, whether to turn over to judicial. They have to take directions from the PLC. When it comes to the courts, especially in high visibility cases, the court needs to listen to the Party Secretary, the PLC, about what type of sentence to impose. There’s no independence of the governmental organs. When you bring it up, the government officials will say we know these decisions are wrong, but there is nothing we can do, this is what the PLC wants us to do.

Belkin: Right now, Mr. Chen’s nephew, Chen Kegui is before the Procurator General (Prosecutor)’s office. It was sent there by the police after holding him incommunicado for many months. We’re waiting to see what the Procurator General (Prosecutor) will do. Will he follow the recommendation of the police to indict the nephew  despite the nephew’s evident good case of self defense? Will he be charged intentional infliction of harm? And therefore since almost everyone the police ask to be indicted gets indicted and everyone who the Procurator General (Prosecutor) indicts gets convicted, will be be then sentenced to 2-3 years in prison at least?

Mr. Chen: This is a very typical case when the Party infringes on the rights of citizens. In this case, people climbed over the walls of my nephew’s house in the middle of the night, entered his house. My nephew just tried to protect himself and his family, but the law doesn’t protect him and hasn’t protected him. In these situations people within and without China are really afraid to confront the government. But we should be very clear when we face injustices like this we should just tell the government no.

Q: (from audience) What can US lawyers do?

A: Have US lawyers associations register their complaints with Chinese lawyers associations. Granted, Chinese lawyers associations are part of the government. Help people that are suffering speak out.

Belkin: They are trying to get NY law firms that do business in China to be interested in this. It hasn’t been very successful –you can imagine the practical difficulties –they don’t want to give up their competitive advantage. When I was in practice, other American law firms tried to use the fact that I had protested publicly and wrote things publicly against June 4, 1989 to prevent my firm from getting registered in Beijing. But what can we do practically? At least broaden people’s knowledge –let people know that we’re aware of it. Ask our firms what their positions are. The best work is through US Bar Associations –NY Bar is active.

Q: (from audience) Following the Constitution might not be the best. The Bill of Rights is kind of a laundry list of rights without any obligations. What was the actual and potential role of the Procurator General (Prosecutor) in trying to extend the rule of law in China?

A: He was meaning that the rule of law already exists, which it doesn’t yet. He knows the laws need to be amended, there are lots of bad laws now. As for the second question, it’s the Party Secretary that occupies the highest position, and the Vice Party Secretary occupies the second highest position. The Procurator General (Prosecutor), the head of police, or the head of the court, are assistants to the Party and VP Secretaries. So they work for the Party, and have to listen to them. So really they can’t make the difference because they don’t make the decisions themselves.

Belkin: They’ve revised Constitution a few times to protect human rights, foster the rule of law. The problem is its just not happening. The Procurator General (Prosecutor) is supposed to be more than just a Prosecutor – he’s supposed to be the watchdog. This was inherited from the Soviet Union, which got it from imperial Russia, which brought it in from Sweden. The idea is you have an official who would go out and investigate the legality of the conduct of government officials –something like the role that our Congressional Committees do –an investigatory role.

Q: (from audience) What role is social media having in China?

A: Its been very useful. In the past the media was completely controlled by the government. But now with social media the people can have their own voice and be a watchdog on the government. Now people inside and outside can hear other perspectives besides the governments.

Belkin: Of course it can be a two-edged sword. Sometimes the media has been mobilized in ways that have countered the rule of law –sometimes leading to the execution of people the courts didn’t think should have been executed. The government has also learned how affirmatively to misuse the media through their own hired staff –to have their own version of public opinion. This is a struggle. By and large, however, this is the most encouraging thing that has happened in the development of rule of law.

Jaime Menegus is a second year law student, on the Executive Board of the International Law Society, and a member of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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