Jerome A. Cohen on Human Rights and Law in China

Originally published in SupChina

Professor Jerome A. Cohen began studying the law of what was then called “Red China” in the early 1960s, at a time when the country was closed off, little understood, and much maligned in the West.

Legal institutions were just developing in that time and, under the rule of Mao Zedong, were liable to dramatically change every three to seven years, Jerry says. After 12 years of persistence, he was finally able to visit the elusive country, and quickly became a pioneering Western scholar of China’s legal system. To read more about Jerry’s highly unusual decision to study Chinese law way back in 1960, see the first chapter of his memoir here.

He later practiced law for 20 years, representing companies and individuals that had disputes to settle or contracts to negotiate in China, and retired from a partnership of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in 2000. Jerry is now a professor of law at New York University, where he teaches courses on Chinese law, society, Confucianism, and international business contracts.

Jerry sat down with Jeremy and Kaiser at the China Institute in New York on May 17, 2017, to discuss his long and distinguished career, to comment on China’s legal development and the state of rule of law in China, and to talk about his relationship with Chen Guangcheng, the blind self-taught lawyer who left China in 2012 with Jerry’s help — only to find himself used by conservative ideologues in the U.S.

Recommendations:

Jeremy: Jerry’s video memoirs, posted as a wonderful collection of YouTube videos on his website. Specifically, the clip titled “The Soup Is Not Too Clear.”

Jerry: A recommendation that we have an administration in Washington that would do more to endorse the rule of law. One of the least-noticed sins of the current administration is its refusal to do this, specifically in relation to China.

NCUSCR: Aaron Halegua on the Legal Challenges Facing Chinese Workers

In this podcast interview, Aaron Halegua discusses the future of Chinese labor law with National Committee Senior Director for Education Programs Margot Landman.

The Chinese economic miracle of the last three decades has been powered by millions of people transitioning out of agriculture and into urban industrial jobs, transforming labor relations in the process. Legal mechanisms have struggled to keep pace with the frictions and challenges that accompanied marketization and the fastest urbanization in history. Progress in legislating legal protections for workers is often hampered by problems of implementation and employer preferences for unofficial mediation. New research suggests that labor unrest is on the rise, and the gap between legal needs and services remains substantial. Even though China’s Labor Law has been on the books since 1994 and was revised and updated in 2008, problems of wage arrears, workplace injuries, and illegal subcontracting persist. The effectiveness of attempts to curtail employer misconduct is not only an essential question for working class Chinese, but is also of great interest to a regime that emphasizes stability and social harmony. Aaron Halegua, an expert on U.S. and Chinese employment law, has written a new, in-depth report on the legal challenges confronting Chinese workers. In Who Will Represent China’s Workers? Lawyers, Legal Aid and the Enforcement of Labor Rights (October, 2016), Mr. Halegua looks at the structural causes of labor abuses, and offers policy solutions that would bolster legal protections for workers. At a National Commitee program on December 1, 2016, in New York City, Mr. Halegua discussed his new report.

Aaron Halegua is a practicing lawyer and consultant. He is also a research fellow at NYU Law School's US-Asia Law Institute and its Center for Labor and Employment Law. His areas of expertise include labor and employment law, dispute resolution, access to justice, corporate social responsibility and supply chains, and legal aid in the United States, China, and elsewhere.

Mr. Halegua has provided legal counsel on labor issues and law reform projects in China, Myanmar, and Malaysia for Apple, Ford Foundation, the International Labor Organization, International Labor Rights Forum, Asia Foundation, and the American Bar Association. He has been quoted in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Economist; was invited to speak to corporations, industry associations, universities, and think-tanks in the United States, Italy, China, and Japan; and has published numerous law review articles, book chapters, and op-eds.

Mr. Halegua also litigates employment disputes and matters involving Chinese entities. He has worked with both non-profit institutions and law firms such as Boies Schiller, Gibson Dunn, Shearman & Sterling, and Kaye Scholer. His litigation successes have been covered by the New York TimesNewsdayWall Street Journal, and Chinese-language television and newspapers.

Mr. Halegua was a Skadden Fellow in the Employment Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society in New York City and a law clerk to the Honorable Richard J. Sullivan of the Southern District of New York. He has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an A.B. from Brown University. He speaks and reads Chinese.

China and US Politics after Citizens United

Former U.S.-Asia Law Institute research fellow Elizabeth Lynch appeared on Ian Masters‘ “Background Briefing” on KPFK 90.7 to express her views on how the Supreme Court's  opinion in Citizens United might give foreign corporations a larger voice in American electoral campaigns. The interview follows the recent online publication of an article, "Citizens United: U.S. Politics with Chinese Characteristics on this topic at The Huffington Post.

Audio of the interview is available on Ms. Lynch's blog China Law and & Policy.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Jerome A. Cohen discusses the Rio Tinto case on ABC Radio Australia

Professor Jerome A. Cohen offers his views on the trial and sentencing of Rio Tinto's Stern Hu to Fran Kelly of Australian ABC Radio National's Breakfast:

TRANSCRIPT[文字纪录] :

(prepared from recording by USALI)

FRAN KELLY - […] from the fallout from the Stern Hu verdict.  The former Rio executive and three other employees of Rio Tinto were sentenced to between seven and 14 years in jail yesterday for accepting bribes and stealing trade secrets.  Rio Tinto has now sacked the four men.  But Foreign Minister Steven Smith still has “serious unanswered questions” about the most controversial part of the trial which covered the stealing of commercial secrets.  That part of the trial was held behind closed doors.  Jerome Cohen is professor of Chinese law at New York University and senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.  I spoke with him a short time ago from New York.

JEROME A. COHEN – Thank you Fran.

FAN KELLY – Jerome Cohen, did Stern Hu and his colleagues in your view receive a fair trial?

JEROME A. COHEN – Well, certainly it wasn’t fair by international standards.  For the guilty plea, on the first count, it would be alright, because we don’t try guilty pleas by and large.  But the second count, the commercial secrets acquisition that was declared secret, is very troublesome.  There are wheels within wheels.  People say that  Hong Kong companies have been involved, that perhaps political leaders have been involved.  You know, if one only knew the whole story it would be a great, great thing, but eh, we may never know the whole story but we’ll surely know more than we know now.

FRAN KELLY – And it seems to be, according to the judge anyway, what’s filtered out, that China claims its steel sector paid one billion yuantoo much for iron ore last year because of the bribery and industrial espionage by the Rio Tinto Four, that’s the charge.  Our Foreign Minister Steven Smith said last night that he is “advertising the fact that he doesn’t think was in China’s interest not to have this part of the trial transparent.”  Do you think this is against China’s interests - business interests?

JEROME A. COHEN – Well, certainly from the broader point of view, in most cases that I have been an advisor in in China, the Chinese government loses by secrecy.  People don’t credit the Chinese government claims that certain people have committed espionage or stolen commercial secrets because the procedures are so non-transparent.  So, China hurts itself by not opening many of these so-called “secret trials.”  And I think in this case, too, it leaves so many suspicions.  It gives such a bad reputation to Chinese justice that I think China’s “soft power” suffers by this kind of thing.

FRAN KELLY – And in terms of soft power Australia and China do have a consular agreement which would, or should have you would’ve thought, allowed Australian consular officials to observe the full trial – both parts of the trial.  That was denied.  And you’ve been critical of the Australian government for not doing more to get access to the court.

JEROME A. COHEN – Well at least the Australian government did a little bit more than the US government did when confronted by a similar problem last summer even though its consular convention and the Australian one with China are virtually identical.  And the conventions are clear.  And Chinese practice used to recognize the right of foreign consuls to attend even secret trial sessions.  And now, we found, a 1995 Chinese instruction endorsed by all the judicial ministries including the secret police as well as the court and prosecutor that says international obligations including the right of foreign consuls to attend secret trials have to be honored and come before domestic law.  And yet the Chinese government, trying to send off your foreign minister’s allegations and questions, said Chinese law must come before international obligations.  Well that’s a very dangerous comment for China to make.  So I think China looks bad on this.  There is a revival of their former, very hostile, defensive attitude to the world community.  So there is a more nationalistic tone, a revival of the old, sort of anti-international spirit.  That may be a reflection of China’s rising power, maybe a reflection of the new nationalism that’s sweeping certainly the younger generation in china.  We don’t know, but I think it’s important to point out this is a dangerous, anti-world community posture and again it hurts China’s position.

FRAN KELLY – And meanwhile these four men now, who is [sic] facing jail terms.  Do you agree with Australia’s foreign minister that these sentences imposed on Stern Hu and the other three Rio executives are harsh?

JEROME A. COHEN – Well, you know, it depends on the legal system, but China has a right to defend itself against corruption.  Commercial bribery, especially in important negotiations, is an important thing.  So china has a right to condemn these people.  I don’t think the sentences are unduly harsh, giving china’s normal sentencing policy.  But, the fact is, why did they pick these defendants?  China, and the steel industry included, is awash with corruption.  So why were these people picked out and not others?  Did it have something to do with the ore negotiation – [the] pricing?  I think it did.  But what about all the others who weren’t being pursued?  Or being pursued in totally non-transparent proceedings.  I think if you are after corruption you have to take an even-handed and vigorous policy toward it.

FRAN KELLY – And can I ask you, just finally, what you do think the way forward is in terms of the appeal?  At least one of the convicted, Wang Yong, will appeal.  The other three are still deciding.  In your view, is there a real avenue of appeal?

JEROME A. COHEN – Well there is an avenue but appeals usually don’t go anywhere in part because the trial court often secretly checks with the appellate court before it even hands down its trial, eh, judgment.  And of course an appeal in Chinese eyes traditionally is a refusal to admit guilt.  It’s a challenge to the state.  It shows you are not really repentant.  And sometimes you could regret it.  I don’t know what deals Stern Hu and his lawyers may have made with the government but they may think it’s wiser not to appeal.  Certainly on the receipt of bribes if he resisted as he apparently did the charge of stealing commercial secrets they may want to appeal that.  And that’s worth five years.  I thought maybe china would make a show of due process by acquitting some of the defendants on one charge and convicting them on the other.  Occasionally they have done that in order to make a good impression.

FRAN KELLY – Professor Cohen you mentioned the fact that bribery within the iron ore sector is not unknown, what about bribery in the Chinese judicial system in the use of bribes to help get convicted prisoners out of jail?

JEROME A. COHEN – Well, you know, it’s a very serious problem.  One of the vice presidents of the national supreme court of China has been sentenced to life for corruption.  And many judges are involved in corruption.  They are paid so little they often feel the need to take money on the side.  It’s a very sad thing.  Efforts are being made to stamp it out, but until the judges are treated like autonomous people who should be independent and should be paid well as they are in many other countries.  And you have to start by insulating the courts from local pressures, Communist Party pressures and many distorting influences.  Being a Chinese judge is difficult because they are under a lot of pressure in cases that have any sensitivity.  By the way this case is not over even if there is no appeal.  Because in many cases like this, even with ten-year sentences, the defendants get out quicker.  Of course legally after serving half the sentence the defendant is eligible to apply for parole.  But often, medical excuses are found.  There was even one case involving a Chinese national resident in America, Ms Gao Zhan, around 2000.  She was sentenced to ten years for espionage on behalf of Taiwan.  Forty-eight hours later she was on her way to Washington, where she lived.  The deal had been made in advance to first punish her formally by vindicating the Chinese judicial process and, then, let her go, on medical grounds.  So we don’t know whether Stern Hu can be home in a year, or, in five years.  That’s just not clear.

FRAN KELLY – That’s Jerome Cohen, professor of Chinese law at New York University and senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relationships. Relations.  I spoke with him early from New York.  It’s quarter to seven, on hour on Breakfast.

文字纪录

(translated by NYU US-Asia Law Institute)

主持人:[现在我们来谈谈]胡士泰案宣判带来的一系列波澜。前力拓经理与其他三名前力拓员工昨日被宣判,犯收受商业贿赂和盗窃商业秘密罪,获刑七至十四年不等。力拓业已将四人辞退。但是外交部长史蒂芬史密斯对审判最有争议的部分,即关于盗窃商业秘密的部分,仍然有“没有被回答的严重问题”。那部分审判是闭门进行的。孔杰荣是纽约大学中国法教授,外交关系协会资深研究员。我刚刚和在纽约的他通了话。

孔杰荣:谢谢你,弗兰。

主持人:孔杰荣,你认为胡士泰和他的同事们获得了公平审判么?

孔:按国际标准一定是不公平的。对于第一项指控,被告们都主动认了罪,这没有什么问题,因为既然认了罪,我们的通常做法也是不进行[实质]审理的。但是第二项、闭门审理的商业秘密盗窃的指控问题很多。这里套中有套。有人说有香港公司涉案,还有人说政治领导人也有可能涉案。你知道,如果我们知道事件的全部真相该有多好,但是可能我们永远也不会知道全部真相。不过日后我们一定能慢慢了解我们目前不了解的情况。

主持人:好像说 – 至少根据我们从法官那里听到的 – 中国声称去年它的钢铁行业因为所谓“力拓四被告”被控的受贿和工业间谍行为在购买铁矿石时多付了十亿元人民币。我们的外交部长史蒂芬史密斯昨晚说他在“广而告之这样一个立场,即他不认为中国作出的将这部分审判不透明进行的决定符合中国的利益”。你认为[该决定]不符合中国的利益 – 商业利益 - 吗?

孔:毫无疑问地,从更广的角度来说,大部分我参与过的中国的案件,当中国政府试图遮掩,中国政府就会失分。人们之所以不相信中国政府说的这些人从事了间谍活动或者盗窃了商业秘密,是因为程序太不透明了。这样,中国不开放这些所谓的“秘密审判”其实是伤害了自己。我认为这个案子里面同样充满了可疑。这个案子给中国司法带来了如此糟糕的名声,我认为它损害了中国的软实力。

主持人:谈到软实力,澳大利亚和中国之间其实有领事协议。这个协议本来允许 – 或者人们会说应该允许 – 澳大利亚领事官员旁听全部庭审过程, 包括公开的和不公开的两部分。但是后者被禁止了。你最近一直在批评澳大利亚政府没有做更大的努力去获得旁听的机会。

孔:至少澳大利亚政府作出的努力比美国政府稍微多一点。去年夏天美国政府遇到了一个类似案件;澳中领事协议和美中领事协议基本上是完全一致的。这些协议白纸黑字,内容是清楚的。而且中国过去的操作其实也一直是尊重外国领事旁听秘密审判的权利的。我们发现,1995年时中国所有的司法相关部委,包括秘密警察和法院、检察院,联名推出了一个指导文件,说国际义务包括外国领事旁听秘密审判的权利必须被尊重而且地位优于国内法。但是这次中国政府在回应你们外交部长的指责和质询的时候说中国国内法优于中国的国际义务。这对中国来说是一个非常危险的立场。这使得中国在这件事上看上去形象很差。现在有一种他们过去对国际社会敌对、防御性态度的复活。有一种更加民粹主义的腔调,一种老的、有一点反国际主义的精神的回归。这可能是中国上升实力的反映, 也有可能是席卷年轻一代的新民粹主义的反映。是不是这样我们不清楚。但是我认为,认识到这是一种危险的、反国际社会的姿态是很重要的,而且我重申这其实负面影响中国的国际地位。

主持人:现在这四人面临牢狱之灾。澳大利亚的外交部长说胡士泰和其他三名力拓员工的判刑过重。你同意么?

孔:你知道么,重不重取决于法律体制,但是中国有权利惩治腐败保护自己。商业贿赂,特别是在重要的谈判期间,是严肃的事情。所以中国有权利将这些人治罪。参照中国通常的量刑政策,我不认为这些人的量刑过度的重。但是,事实是,为什么他们偏偏挑中了这几个人?中国,包括它的钢铁行业,腐败泛滥。为什么只有这些人被挑中而不是别人?是不是与矿石价格谈判有关?我认为是的。但是那些逍遥法外的人呢?或者说,那些在完全不透明的程序里被追究的人呢?我认为如果你想打击腐败你必须采取不偏不倚的、积极的政策。

主持人:最后,可不可以请问你对上诉前景的看法?至少一名被定罪的被告,王勇,表示要上诉。其他三人还在考虑。你认为有真正上诉的渠道么?

孔:渠道是有的但是上诉通常无用,部分原因是一审法院常常在宣判前已经和上诉法院通了气。而且当然在中国人的传统眼光看来上诉表示拒绝认罪。上诉是对国家的挑战。上诉表示你没有真正悔罪。有的时候,如果你上诉,你会后悔。我不知道胡士泰以及他的律师是否和政府达成了某种交易,但是有可能他们会决定不上诉,认为不上诉更加明智。有迹象显示胡士泰对盗窃商业秘密的指控进行了否认;如果他对受贿的指控同样进行了抵抗,那么显然他们可以选择针对该指控的定罪上诉。那关乎五年刑期。我之前猜想中国可能会作正当程序的表面文章,对一些被告只在一项指控上定罪而在另一项上开释。过去有些时候他们为了留下好印象这样做过。

主持人:孔教授你刚才谈到铁矿石工业内的贿赂情况并非秘密,那么中国司法体系中的贿赂呢?我是指使用贿赂帮助服刑犯人出狱。

孔:你知道,这是个严重的问题。中国国家最高法院的一位副院长最近就因为腐败被判了无期徒刑。很多法官都涉及腐败。他们工资如此微薄以至于他们觉得边上拿点钱是必要的。这是件悲哀的事。反腐的努力有,但是只要法官不像很多别的国家的法官那样被当作自治的人对待,即,独立而且高薪[,反腐不会有根本效果]。而且你第一步必须把法院从地方压力、共产党压力和许多具有扭曲性效果的因素隔离。当中国法官挺难,因为案件稍微有些敏感他们就有很多压力。另外加一句,即使没有上诉这案子还没有完。因为在很多类似案件里面,即使是十年徒刑的案子,被告有办法提前出狱。当然,法律规定刑期要服完一半之后[才]可以申请假释。但经常能找到健康借口。有一个2000年左右的案子,关于一位中国籍的美国居民高瞻。她因为台湾做间谍获刑十年。四十八小时后她已经在去华盛顿的路上(她住在那里)。交易事先已经达成:先通过中国的司法程序在表面上惩罚她,然后以健康原因让她离开。所以我们不知道胡士泰要多久才能回家,是一年还是五年。完全不清楚。

主持人:刚才说话的是孔杰荣,纽约大学中国法教授,外交关系协会资深研究员。我今天早些时候和在纽约的他通的电话。现在是早上六点三刻,这是“早餐”节目。

The Leonard Lopate Show: Law and Politics in China

Ira Belkin, Executive Director of the U.S. Asia Law Institute at New York University School of Lawand Jerome Cohen, Co-Director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute and Professor at NYU School of Law, discuss whether there is a chasm between law and the rule of law in China and look at the relationship between politics and law in China.

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Dr. James Jacobs discusses the U.S. gun control debate with Zheng Chenguang on 'People in the Know'

This interview was originally posted by Chinese Radio International (CRI English) on January 11, 2013 under the title, "Global Gun Control."

In a nation where guns are easily accessible, largescale shooting incidents may seem nearly impossible to prevent. After recent mass shooting incidents in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, the topic of gun control is once more at the forefront of the American national dialogue. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the U.S. constitution, and support for gun control has ebbed over the past 20 years due to a variety of complicated factors.

Why is it so difficult to impose stricter gun control in the U.S., and what is the situation in the U.K.? While it may be difficult to limit gun sales and ownership altogether, are there effective measures that can be taken to better scrutinize potential gun owners, thereby preventing future tragedies? Zheng Chenguang of 'People in the Know' discusses these questions with Dr. James Jacobs, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts at New York University School of Law, and Director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice. Prof. Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at University of Brighton, addresses the British perspective on the matter.

 

CRI: Extradition of Fugitives with discussants Margaret Lewis and Wang Xiumei

On February 8, former USALI fellows Margaret Lewis and Wang Xiumei participated in a panel discussion on China Radio International to discuss the state of extradition agreements between the United States and China.

Text and audio courtesy of China Radio International.

Last year, nearly 300 fugitives were repatriated to China. North America, Europe and South East Asia have been found to be top destinations for criminals looking to escape the country, mostly for economic or financial crimes. China's Ministry of Public Security is now trying to set up an annual high-level meeting with judicial officials in the United States to collaborate on returning Chinese fugitives to face justice.

-Wang Xiumei, a Professor at the College for Criminal Law Science at Beijing Normal University.
-Vincent Yang, Chair Professor of International Law at the University of Saint Joseph in Macau.
-Margaret Lewis, an Associate Professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law in the United States.

 

Professor Jerome Cohen Speaks at Berkeley Law on the Future of the Rule of Law in China

China has made unprecedented progress in developing the elements of a comprehensive legal system, yet some have argued that China’s rule of law has been in full retreat in recent years. On March 20, 2013, Prof. Jerome Cohen, one of the leading experts in the world on Chinese legal development, delivered a keynote address on the future of rule of law in China and addressed questions such as: What sort of progress has China made in this regard? What can we expect in the wake of China’s recent leadership transition? What will developments in China mean for the United States? His remarks were followed by comments from a distinguished panel of China experts.

Speaker:
Jerome A. Cohen, Professor of Law, New York University; senior fellow for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Commentators:
Stanley Lubman, Distinguished Lecturer in Residence (retired), Berkeley Law
Paul Pickowicz, Distinguished Professor of History and Chinese Studies, UC San Diego
Rachel Stern, Assistant Professor of Law, Berkeley Law
Alex Wang, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Berkeley Law

Sponsored by the Institute for Legal Research, Berkeley Law; and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations' Public Intellectuals Program, which is funded by the Henry Luce and C.V. Starr Foundation.

Audio courtesy of Berkeley Law:

CRI: Extradition of Fugitives with discussants Margaret Lewis and Wang Xiumei

On February 8, former USALI fellows Margaret Lewis and Wang Xiumei participated in a panel discussion on China Radio International to discuss the state of extradition agreements between the United States and China.

Text and audio courtesy of China Radio International.

Last year, nearly 300 fugitives were repatriated to China. North America, Europe and South East Asia have been found to be top destinations for criminals looking to escape the country, mostly for economic or financial crimes. China's Ministry of Public Security is now trying to set up an annual high-level meeting with judicial officials in the United States to collaborate on returning Chinese fugitives to face justice.

-Wang Xiumei, a Professor at the College for Criminal Law Science at Beijing Normal University.
-Vincent Yang, Chair Professor of International Law at the University of Saint Joseph in Macau.
-Margaret Lewis, an Associate Professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law in the United States.

Dr. James Jacobs discusses the U.S. gun control debate with Zheng Chenguang on ‘People in the Know’

This interview was originally posted by Chinese Radio International (CRI English) on January 11, 2013 under the title, “Global Gun Control.”

In a nation where guns are easily accessible, largescale shooting incidents may seem nearly impossible to prevent. After recent mass shooting incidents in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, the topic of gun control is once more at the forefront of the American national dialogue. The right to bear arms is enshrined in the U.S. constitution, and support for gun control has ebbed over the past 20 years due to a variety of complicated factors.

Why is it so difficult to impose stricter gun control in the U.S., and what is the situation in the U.K.? While it may be difficult to limit gun sales and ownership altogether, are there effective measures that can be taken to better scrutinize potential gun owners, thereby preventing future tragedies? Zheng Chenguang of ‘People in the Know’ discusses these questions with Dr. James Jacobs, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger Professor of Constitutional Law and the Courts at New York University School of Law, and Director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice. Prof. Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at University of Brighton, addresses the British perspective on the matter.

Chen Guangcheng, Jerome Cohen and Ira Belkin on The Brian Lehrer Show

On Thursday, January 17 human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng sat down with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer to discuss his adjustment to ife in New York City, his ongoing advocacy for reform in China, and his views on both the U.S. and Chinese governments. Joining him were Jerome Cohen, Chinese legal expert and professor of law at NYU School of Law, and Ira Belkin, executive director of the U.S. Asia Law Institute and Chen’s interpreter for the interview.