This week passed fast. I kept working on the same project—making the materials of the E-Learning project available in Chinese and English. Besides the regular work, some pieces of news worth mentioning include our director of the Chinese program left for Kyrgyzstan to renew her Chinese Visa; and that IBJ turned in a comment on a draft law targeting foreign institutions in China.
Ira Belkin and Jerome Cohen, the executive director and the co-director of NYU Law School’s US-Asia Law Institute wrote an opinion on this draft law for the New York Times’ Chinese site. (The link: http://cn.nytimes.com/opinion/20150603/c03edbelkin/dual/) This draft law is part of a legislative package on national security and antiterrorism. It authorizes China’s security police to vet activities of any foreign-based nonprofit organizations, which could be a university, a museum, a charity organization... The biggest concern for NGOs like IBJ is that the proposal did not define “activity.” One of the most chilling parts of the proposal, according to Belkin and Cohen, however, is Article 59, according to which “if a student group on an American campus protests against Chinese government treatment of Tibetans, the university could be barred from activities in China, and its representatives in China could be detained and prosecuted.”
I personally believe this draft only reflects the views of a faction within the Communist Party, and will be revised before it becomes law. The legal environment in China has been improving. A lawyer who represents residents in eminent domain cases told me that at least in big cities, the phenomenon that judges are naturally biased toward public procurators is history. Instead, as long as lawyers present clear evidence, judges will rule impartially. The biggest problem for lawyers like him is that their clients lack the sense of taking or keeping legally material evidence. For example, an owner resisted demolition because the compensation offered was too low. The local government illegally demolished his property during a night when he was not at home. The owner wanted to sue the local government, but he could not provide any evidence proving what had happened during that night. Had he had any photo or video about the demolition, the case would be a much stronger one for his lawyer to present. A great number of international NGOs, such as IBJ, have been working on increasing people’s basic and practical knowledge about law. These people include entry-level lawyers, common citizens, and judges. A modern society cannot exist without these organizations, even though the fruit of their work comes very slowly.