2011

Media Coverage of Ling Li’s Research on the Judicial Corruption

Chinese vase frenzy: bribery and the auction house
As the Chinese government pays ever more attention to the country's pervasive corruption, art auctions have become the latest ruse for those giving or soliciting bribes.

By Malcolm Moore, Shanghai

12:30PM GMT 25 Mar 2011

Auction houses on the Chinese mainland are poorly-monitored, according to Li Ling, a law lecturer at Northwest University in Xian, and present a useful forum for people to pass bribes to each other.
The Chinese vase frenzy: Bribery and the auction house
The vase came from the collection of Dai Run Zhai, a Chineseman who became New York's most distinguished art dealer after moving to America in 1950

The practice helps to explain some of the hugely-inflated prices that have been paid for Chinese art in recent years, although there is no suggestion that international auctions are also being exploited by grafters.

A typical scenario would see the person who wants to be bribed putting an artwork or antique of little value up for auction. The briber then buys the agreed piece for a huge sum, according to Ms Li in a research paper, 'Performing Bribery in China.'

Sometimes, the auction house is not even required.

In one case discovered by prosecutors in the eastern city of Nanjing, a property developer bought two paintings directly from a government official. The appraised value of the paintings was 3,000 yuan (£284), but the developer paid more than 333 times as much.

The sly arrangement, and the role of the auction houses, has become the subject of a quasi-autobiographical bestseller by Hu Gang, a Chinese author and former auctioneer.

Mr Hu was convicted in 2003 for bribing three judges with 490,000 yuan in exchange for commissions to carry out auctions of court-seized property. He wrote "Celadon", a novel about a corrupt auctioneer, from his jail cell.

In the book, a protagonist called Mr Zhang bribes a judge in a remarkably circuitous way.

First Mr Zhang arranges for a tutor to teach the judge's son Chinese calligraphy. Then, he discreetly auctions the son's calligraphy at his auction house, and instructs his friend to bid for it. As the auctioneer, he then hands an envelope of cash to the judge, even subtracting the auction commission from the total.

"It can stand any investigation," Mr Zhang reassures the judge.

Mr Hu has confirmed that while the book is fiction, it is an accurate reflection of real life. The book has become wildly popular in China as a manual of how to practice the delicate, and often underhand, art of cultivating business relationships.

Please follow this link to access the original article, "Chinese vase frenzy: bribery and the auction house," in The Telegraph. 

Jerome Cohen’s testimony to the CECC on Chen Guangcheng

The plight of Chen Guangcheng and his family continues to attract attention inside and outside China. Chen is a self-trained legal advocate who has represented farmers, the disabled, and other groups. He is perhaps best known for the attention he drew to population planning abuses, particularly forced abortions and forced sterilizations, in Linyi city, Shandong province, in 2005. In deeply flawed legal proceedings, authorities sentenced him in 2006 to four years and three months in prison for, among other things, "organizing a group of people to disturb traffic order." While imprisoned Chen was reportedly beaten by fellow inmates and denied medical treatment. Following his release in September 2010, Chen, his wife Yuan Weijing, and their six-year-old daughter have faced stifling conditions of home confinement and constant surveillance. Chen and Yuan reportedly have been beaten since being released, and until recently their daughter was denied schooling. Chen's health also remains in doubt as he suffers from a digestive disorder. Authorities have continued to employ violence to prevent the growing numbers of journalists and supporters from visiting the family. Online campaigns in support of Chen have also sprung up in China, yet the government has censored terms that relate to him or his case. Witnesses examined why the Chinese government has not permitted access to information regarding Chen Guangcheng's circumstances and well-being nor permitted visitors to see Chen. Witnesses also examined the criminal procedure violations related to Chen's current detention under an illegal form of "house arrest" and Chen's access to legal counsel.

To read Jerome Cohen's testimony to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China on Chen Guangcheng, please follow this link

WSJ: Jerome A. Cohen on Ai Weiwei

This article was published in the  Wall Street Journal, Opinion Asia section on June 23, 2011. Available online here. Story image appearing on www.usasialaw.org created by Cain and Todd Benson.

China’s Shame Over Ai Weiwei

By JEROME A. COHEN

Before his arrest, Ai Weiwei was tireless in condemning the arbitrary nature of China’s government. But his impact as an activist paled in comparison with how his April 3 disappearance into a secret Beijing police “safehouse” exposed the unfairness of the country’s criminal justice system. By detaining him on suspicion of vague “economic crimes,” China’s leaders made him an international cause celebre whose case clearly illustrated the helplessness of any individual when confronted by the untrammeled power of the state.

Mr. Ai’s release late Wednesday represents a humiliating climbdown for Beijing. He and his family seem to have attained the best possible outcome in exceedingly difficult circumstances. And it’s notable that they did it not by relying on the rules of Chinese criminal procedure, which are full of loopholes and exceptions that the police, with assists from prosecutors and judges, skillfully manipulate to give them unchallengeable leverage over any suspect. Rather they did it the Chinese way, drawing on the high level connections bequeathed to them by Mr. Ai’s father, the famed revolutionary poet Ai Qing, himself badly abused by the Communist Party during his son’s youth.

Although the family had access to outstanding civil liberties lawyers who were prepared to take the case despite police intimidation of various kinds, they never formally retained counsel, knowing that the efforts of criminal defense lawyers would be futile at best and probably counterproductive. This was no ordinary tax case but a politically motivated investigation designed to silence an increasingly popular critic.

 

As such, the case had to be confronted politically and behind closed doors. We may never know the course of the negotiations, which appeared to break down not long ago but ended with a compromise. The state media is presenting it in a way that saves face for Party leaders, but nothing can conceal their profound embarrassment.

In an effort to put an end to international public protests and pressure from foreign governments, the authorities granted Mr. Ai the equivalent of bail, literally “obtaining a guarantee pending trial.” Under Chinese law this measure is available to only those suspects whose alleged crimes are thought to be relatively minor and not very harmful to society. It is telling that he was apparently never formally arrested, not to mention indicted, tried, convicted or sentenced.

This is the first human rights case in many years in which the Chinese government felt obliged to yield to world opinion. China’s entry into the WTO a decade ago assured it continuing access to American and other markets despite its human rights record, and since that time its government has proved largely immune to foreign protests over rights violations.

That said, Mr. Ai’s release late Wednesday, after 80 days of almost uninterrupted detention in an unknown place, leaves him far from free. Despite the fact that he was never formally arrested in the first place, he may find himself detained again if he publicly exults in the government’s embarrassment.

 

Mr. Ai still cannot leave Beijing without special permission, but he now has the physical freedom to be at home with his family and to move around the city for up to one year while the police ostensibly continue their investigation into charges of tax evasion and destruction of records. Actually, their investigation of these charges, which they gradually leaked to the media over the course of Ai’s detention, has been substantially completed. The announcement of his release said that he had already confessed to these crimes and had repeatedly “volunteered” to pay back taxes. In these circumstances, bail is simply a way of relieving the pressures on the Chinese government while limiting his freedom of expression, even though he seems to have never been charged with any offense.

Mr. Ai made clear on arriving home that he is no longer free to speak and criticize in the ways that made him world famous. He will not be using Twitter, Facebook, email, public meetings, interviews, books and art exhibitions to mock the Communist authorities as he previously delighted in doing.

Like others before him, Mr. Ai is now acutely aware that any misstep can lead to his renewed incarceration, undoubtedly for much longer than his initial confinement. Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, after all, is serving an 11-year sentence, and even some foreigners have been sentenced to as many as 16 years for tax evasion. Moreover, any “misbehavior” on his part could adversely affect the fates of four of his colleagues who remain detained outside the international spotlight.

China is preparing to revise its Criminal Procedure Law later this year. Perhaps the international attention stimulated by Ai Weiwei’s plight, which highlighted the techniques of police repression, will provide additional impetus for the introduction of meaningful protections for future suspects, especially those who lack Mr. Ai’s stature and connections.

The current political climate may not be conducive to law reform, but Party leaders also know that societal pressure is building against the abuses of one-party rule. Widespread police misconduct is fueling a rising sense of injustice among many groups. Undertaking such reforms is the Party’s best option for defusing public anger and avoiding future embarrassments like the detention of Mr. Ai.

Mr. Cohen is codirector of New York University School of Law’s U.S.-Asia Law Institute and an adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations

Jerome Cohen’s testimony to the CECC on Chen Guangcheng

November 1, 2011

The plight of Chen Guangcheng and his family continues to attract attention inside and outside China. Chen is a self-trained legal advocate who has represented farmers, the disabled, and other groups. He is perhaps best known for the attention he drew to population planning abuses, particularly forced abortions and forced sterilizations, in Linyi city, Shandong province, in 2005. In deeply flawed legal proceedings, authorities sentenced him in 2006 to four years and three months in prison for, among other things, “organizing a group of people to disturb traffic order.” While imprisoned Chen was reportedly beaten by fellow inmates and denied medical treatment. Following his release in September 2010, Chen, his wife Yuan Weijing, and their six-year-old daughter have faced stifling conditions of home confinement and constant surveillance. Chen and Yuan reportedly have been beaten since being released, and until recently their daughter was denied schooling. Chen’s health also remains in doubt as he suffers from a digestive disorder. Authorities have continued to employ violence to prevent the growing numbers of journalists and supporters from visiting the family. Online campaigns in support of Chen have also sprung up in China, yet the government has censored terms that relate to him or his case. Witnesses examined why the Chinese government has not permitted access to information regarding Chen Guangcheng’s circumstances and well-being nor permitted visitors to see Chen. Witnesses also examined the criminal procedure violations related to Chen’s current detention under an illegal form of “house arrest” and Chen’s access to legal counsel.

Read Jerome Cohen’s testimony here.