Archive for ‘Law suit’


Chinese citizens sue government over transparency on Monsanto herbicide | Reuters

Three Chinese citizens are taking China’s Ministry of Agriculture to court in a bid to make public a toxicology report supporting the approval of Monsanto‘s popular weedkiller, Roundup, 27 years ago.

The case, a rare example of a lawsuit by private citizens against the Chinese government, comes amid renewed attention on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, after a controversial report by a World Health Organization group last month found it to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” – a claim denied by Monsanto.

It also underlines the deep-seated fears held by some Chinese over genetically modified food.

Beijing No.3 Intermediate People’s Court had accepted the case but a date for a hearing has not yet been set, an official at the court told Reuters.

Roundup is widely used on crops like soybeans that are genetically modified to resist its impact, allowing farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops. China imports about 65 percent of the world’s traded soybeans.

“The government is taking actions to deal with other food safety issues but it is not dealing with the GMO problem,” said Yang Xiaolu, 62, one of the plaintiffs bringing the case and a long-time GMO activist.

Monsanto officials have said glyphosate has been proven safe for decades, and the company has demanded a retraction from the WHO over its recent report.

Yang and the other plaintiffs, Li Xiangzhen and Tian Xiangping, are demanding in the lawsuit that the agriculture ministry make public the animal test that the ministry cited as evidence to support its approval of Roundup in 1988.

The test report by U.S.-based Younger Laboratories in 1985 was provided by Monsanto to the ministry, according to the plaintiffs, who argue that the ministry should allow the public to know how it determined that Roundup was safe.

The ministry has previously declined to show the plaintiffs the report, arguing that it would infringe on Monsanto’s commercial secrets, said Yang.

The agriculture ministry did not respond to a fax seeking comment.

The lawsuit comes at a time when the government is trying to foster positive public opinion of GMO food crops, currently banned for cultivation, but seen as crucial to future food security.

via Chinese citizens sue government over transparency on Monsanto herbicide | Reuters.


China aims to revamp justice system but Communist Party to retain control | Reuters

Legal reforms are a key platform for President Xi Jinping‘s government to restore popular faith in the Party and judicial system amid simmering public discontent over miscarriages of justice often caused by officialsabuse of power.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at the opening ceremony of the sixth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 5, 2014. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

China must “improve the requirements for appointing justices and prosecutors while upholding the principles of leading party officials and respecting the rule of justice”, an unnamed official in the top office in charge of judicial reforms told the official Xinhua news agency.

It did not say when the pilot programs would be launched.

To limit interference by local governments, provincial governments will pick judges and prosecutors and fix the budgets of local courts and procuratorates, Xinhua reported. The system currently gives local governments greater sway in appointments.

Panels of legal specialists at the provincial level will nominate judges and prosecutors, but the Party must still approve their appointments.

The reforms must “uphold the Party’s leadership,” the official said, signaling a willingness by the central leadership to improve its courts as long as the Party’s overall control is not threatened.

Critics have described the leadership’s call for greater independence for courts as a hollow gesture, because judges ultimately answer to the Party.

via China aims to revamp justice system but Communist Party to retain control | Reuters.


Freedom of information: Right to know | The Economist

IN THE summer of 2013 Wu Youshui sent an open government information (OGI) request to every provincial-level government in China. Mr Wu, a lawyer based in the eastern city of Hangzhou, wanted to know about the fines imposed on violators of the one-child policy. Each year provincial governments collect billions of yuan from couples who have too many children, but how this money is spent is not public knowledge. That leaves the system vulnerable to corruption, says Mr Wu. To expose misconduct and spur public debate, he used the legal mechanism of the OGI regulations, China’s version of a freedom of information act.

When the regulations took effect in 2008 it marked, on paper at least, the beginning of a profound change in how the Chinese government handles some kinds of information. A culture of secrecy had for decades been the mainstay of the authoritarian state. But in the modern era absolute opacity can cause discontent that threatens stability. The government’s failure to disclose information about the spread of SARS, a respiratory disease, in 2003 hurt its standing at home and abroad. A government operating in “sunshine”, as state media have put it, could regain citizens’ trust and, the party hoped, help ease tensions.

The OGI regulations set up two ways of accessing government information. Government offices at local and central level had to issue findings of interest, such as plans for land requisitions or house demolition. The information was to be published on official websites and community bulletin boards and in government journals. Departments also became answerable to citizens. A response to a public request had to come within 15 days. This created a new way for people to contact and monitor the government, says Jamie Horsley of the China Law Centre at Yale Law School. At the last nationwide count, in 2011, roughly 3,000 requests had been filed to central-government departments and 1.3m others to offices at the provincial level. Over 70% led to the full or partial release of information, on everything from pollution to food safety to the tax on air fares. “It is as if there has been a pent-up demand and now people are pushing for the information,” Ms Horsley says.

In an important case in 2012 the All-China Environment Federation, a non-profit organisation with links to the government, took an environment-protection bureau in Guizhou province to court. The bureau had twice failed to give a good answer to an OGI request about a dairy farm that was discharging waste. The court ordered the release of the information within ten days. Such rulings against government departments, once rare, are becoming more common. In 2010 the chance of a citizen winning an OGI-related lawsuit in Beijing was 5%, according to research from Peking and Yale Universities. In 2012 courts ruled with the plaintiff in 18% of cases.

On April 1st the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued new guidelines, requiring that officials pay more attention to disclosing information. The guidelines come as the government is curtailing freedom of expression online and in the press.

Inevitably, plenty of information remains off limits. Article Eight of the regulations says disclosure must not endanger state, public or economic security or social stability, an open-ended list that prompts utmost caution from compliers. State and commercial secrets—however vaguely defined—are out-of-bounds. Last June Xie Yanyi, a Beijing lawyer, applied to the public security ministry for information about the surveillance of citizens. He received a note saying such details were not covered by the law. China’s regulations are more restrictive than those elsewhere. In America a request in the public interest suffices. In China, people must prove a personal need.

Government departments, at all levels, still do not release everything they should. But Mr Wu, the lawyer, found they are less able to opt out without a good reason. Guangdong province’s Health and Family Planning Commission initially rebuffed his OGI request, saying “internal management issues” prevented compliance. Mr Wu tried again. On April 1st Guangzhou Intermediate Court ruled in his favour. The commission was ordered to reprocess his request. He awaits word of its decision.

via Freedom of information: Right to know | The Economist.

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Bo Xilai found guilty of corruption by Chinese court

BBC: “A Chinese court has found disgraced former top politician Bo Xilai guilty of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

The former party chief of Chongqing was sentenced to life imprisonment, but has the right to appeal.

He had denied all the charges against him in a fiery defence at his trial.

Bo was removed from office last year amid a scandal which saw his wife convicted for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

The verdict was handed down by the Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan, Shandong province.

Passing sentence the judge told Bo that he had damaged China’s national interests and the interests of its people, wrongfully using his position in power to receive bribes totalling 20 million Chinese Yuan ($3.2m; £2m).

He rejected Bo’s claims that his confession to the crimes was acquired through illegal means such as torture and interrogation, and said it therefore stood.

The BBC’s John Sudworth, outside the court, said that the judge completely demolished Bo’s defence arguments.

During Bo’s trial last month the court took the unprecedented step of releasing details about proceedings on its Weibo microblog.

The curtains appear to have finally dropped on Bo Xilai’s once-glittering Communist Party career.

Bo can appeal against the trial verdict and his life sentence, but it is highly improbable he could engineer a future in which he re-enters China’s political arena. He has been stripped of all political rights for life.

Of course, Bo can apply for release on parole after 10 years. Other convicted politicians were released from prison after serving only part of their original sentences. Chen Xitong, a former Politburo member, was released on medical parole after serving half of his original 16-year prison term.

However, Bo Xilai is 64-years-old. Even before his political downfall, he was moving towards the final chapter in his career. It is difficult to envision a scenario in which he can quickly revive his populist power base, even if he gains an early release from prison.

It is difficult to make predictions in the world of Chinese politics. Two years ago Bo appeared to be poised to move into Zhongnanhai, the government compound in Beijing were China’s top leaders reside.

Now, he will spend the foreseeable future inside a prison cell.

Bo was sentenced to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power – our correspondent says that he has been politically buried. In addition all his personal wealth has been confiscated.

He has 10 days to appeal against his sentence and conviction, but correspondents say that any such move is highly unlikely to be successful.

Although his trial was conducted under an unprecedented degree of openness for China, many analysts say that the guilty verdict was always a foregone conclusion – and many see the process against him as having a very strong political dimension.

Prosecutors had said that Bo accepted the bribes and embezzled public funds from Dalian, where he used to be mayor.

He was also accused of abusing his office by using his position to cover up for his wife Gu Kailai, convicted last year of murdering Neil Heywood in 2011.

In lengthy comments in court, he said he did not illegally obtain millions of dollars or cover up Mr Heywood’s killing.

He also dismissed the testimony of two key witnesses, describing his wife’s statement as “ridiculous” and his former police chief Wang Lijun’s testimony as “full of lies and fraud”.

via BBC News – Bo Xilai found guilty of corruption by Chinese court.


In Bo Xilai Trial, Some See Positive Signs for Legal System

WSJ: “Many China watchers see the trial of Communist Party insider Bo Xilai as scripted and staged, unveiling flaws of a closed Chinese judicial system. Yet amid the criticism, some are seeing positive signs emerge from Jinan, the northeastern Chinese city in Shandong province where Mr. Bo is facing corruption charges, including allegations that he took bribes with the aid of his wife.

The following are opinions of legal experts who have been following the trial:

Many Western critics of the Bo trial are comparing it to the stage-managed show trials of China’s past, including Jiang Qing [the wife of Mao Zedong] and victims of the Cultural Revolution. But this criticism misses the point. The Bo trial is exactly 180 degrees different in nature. In the show trials of China’s past, the politics would drive the criminal prosecution. In other words, the target would fall out of favor politically and then be legally persecuted as a result. In this trial, we have the opposite: the criminal prosecution is driving the politics. A towering and influential figure is being prosecuted in spite of his political influence, and the trial is driven primarily by the criminal allegations against him. Instead of being accused of serious crimes because his political standing has collapsed, his political standing has collapsed because he has been accused of serious crimes. –Geoffrey Sant, adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and special counsel at Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Despite the degree of supervision provided for the trial, there are nevertheless grounds for opening up the administration of justice to the supervision of the people. We’ve seen that in China there are many cases and trials that are not open, that attendance is constrained. Yet leaders have shown that they are willing to open up this case—to a certain extent—to the media, creating the perception that they are moving toward creating a more accessible judicial system.

Leaders are going farther than they could have to make the trial available. It’s a show trial, but not all trials are for show in China. To the extent that openness reveals shortcomings of the judicial system and promotes civil liberties is a positive thing. –Lester Ross a Beijing-based attorney with U.S. law firm WilmerHale.”

via In Bo Xilai Trial, Some See Positive Signs for Legal System – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


* China’s Supreme People’s Court judge urges end to wrongful convictions

SCMP: “One of China’s most senior judges has called for an end to miscarriages of justice by the nation’s courts after two cases of wrongful convictions have highlighted inadequacies in its legal system.


“If more of these wrongful criminal convictions appear, they will become an unprecedented challenge to the People’s Courts,” Shen Deyong, the executive vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court, wrote in the People’s Court Daily on Monday.

The paper is the court’s official mouthpiece.

“It’s preferable to release someone wrongfully, than convict someone wrongfully,” he said. “If a true criminal is released, heaven will not collapse, but if an unlucky citizen is wrongfully convicted, heaven will fall.”

Criminal trials in China had a conviction rate of 99.9 per cent in 2009, according to the latest China Law Yearbook. In recent months, several murder cases have raised public ire against the judicial system.

Zhejiang’s provincial supreme court on March 26 overturned a decade-old death sentence with two-year reprieve and a 15-year prison sentence for two men convicted on murder charges for killing a woman in Hangzhou.

Caixin in April reported on the ordeal of a farmer wrongfully sentenced to death with reprieve in 2008 in Zhecheng, Henan province. Also in Zhecheng, convicted murderer Zhao Zuohai gained prominence in 2010, when his purported victim returned to the village and Zhao’s death sentence had to be overturned.

Last year, Henan started to hold judges responsible for their rulings even after retirement to reduce the number of miscarriages of justice.”

via Supreme People’s Court judge urges end to wrongful convictions | South China Morning Post.


* China issues white paper on judicial reform

Reform in China continues apace.

China Daily: “The Chinese government issued Tuesday a white paper on judicial reform, highlighting the progress that has been made in safeguarding justice and protecting human rights.

The white paper was issued by the Information Office of the State Council.

Apart from reviewing China’s judicial system and reform process, the white paper focuses maintaining social fairness, justice and human rights protections.

“China’s judicial reforms are aimed at strengthening judicial organs’ capability to maintain social justice by optimizing the structure of the judicial organs and the allocation of their functions and power, standardizing judicial acts, improving judicial proceedings and enhancing judicial democracy and legal supervision,” it says.

Improving the protection of human rights is an important goal, the white paper says, adding that China’s Criminal Procedure Law amended in 2012 included “respecting and protecting human rights.”

In terms of protecting human rights, effective measures are being taken to deter and prohibit the obtainment of confessions through torture, better protect the rights of criminal suspects and defendants and protect attorneys’ rights to exercise their duties. Measures are also being taken to strictly control and prudently apply the death penalty.

Jiang Wei, a senior official in charge of the judicial system reform, said Tuesday at a press conference that China’s judicial system would be based on its reality, instead of simply copy from other countries.

A populous developing country, China still has problems in its judicial system, Jiang said.

The country’s economic and social development does not match the people’s increasing expectations for social justice. Capabilities of the judicial system do not meet the demand for judicial service, he said.

Imbalanced development in different regions also contributed to the existing problems, he added.

“The problems can only be solved by the Chinese way and the wisdom. Copying foreign experience or systems might lead to a bad end,” he said, in response to a question whether China’s judicial system should follow Western models.

However, he said, China is keen to learn from experience of other countries and will try to incorporate judicial concepts and practices utilized elsewhere.

Judicial reform, an important part of China’s overall political reform, remains a long and arduous task. The white paper urges continuous efforts to strengthen reforms with a goal of establishing a “just, effective and authoritative socialist judicial system with Chinese characteristics.”

via China issues white paper on judicial reform |Politics |

See also:


* Bo Xilai scandal: Gu ‘admits Neil Heywood murder’

BBC News: “Gu Kailai has admitted murdering British businessman Neil Heywood and blamed her actions on a mental breakdown, Chinese state media report.

The state news agency Xinhua said the wife of former top politician Bo Xilai had apologised for what she described as the “tragedy” of Mr Heywood’s death.

She said she would “accept and calmly face any sentence”, the agency added.

Ms Gu was accused of poisoning Mr Heywood with cyanide last November, at her one-day trial on Thursday.

Her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, also admitted his involvement in the murder and said he wanted to apologise to Mr Heywood’s relatives, Xinhua reported in a detailed account of Thursday’s proceedings in court.”

via BBC News – Bo Xilai scandal: Gu ‘admits Neil Heywood murder’.

Incidentally, many Chinese news items use the name Bogu Kailai. That is because of the convention that the wife adopts the husband’s surname  and prefixes her surname with his. See:

See also: 


* Bo Xilai scandal: Gu Kailai on trial for Neil Heywood death

BBC News: “The first day of the trial of the wife of former high-flying Chinese lawmaker Bo Xilai on charges of murdering UK businessman Neil Heywood has ended.

Gu Kailai is accused of poisoning Mr Heywood in 2011 in Chongqing, where her husband was the Communist party head.

State media has called the case against her and an aide “substantial”.

The country is preparing to install a new generation of leaders, and Bo Xilai had once been seen as a strong contender for one of the top jobs.

He was sacked in March and is currently under investigation for unspecified “disciplinary violations”.

The BBC’s John Sudworth says some Chinese leaders are said to welcome the demise of such an openly ambitious colleague, but the case still needs careful handling for fear it might taint the Communist Party itself.”

via BBC News – Bo Xilai scandal: Gu Kailai on trial for Neil Heywood death.



* In China’s Power Nexus, a Tale of Redemption

WSJ: “Liu Minghui’s battle to clear his name and save his business, a fight that pitted him against some of the most powerful forces in China, began the day of his company’s Christmas party in 2010.China Gas

Mr. Liu was set to leave his 18th-floor office in Shenzhen to cross the nearby border to Hong Kong for the party when plainclothes Public Security Bureau officers arrested him on suspicion of stealing money from the company he ran and co-founded, China Gas Holdings Ltd.

The former managing director spent nearly the next year in a Chinese jail, during which time he was forced to leave his executive and board roles at the company while remaining a substantial shareholder. He emerged from detention in time to see one of the country’s biggest companies launch a hostile offer for China Gas, the first by a state-owned business against a privately controlled company.

Now Mr. Liu’s comeback is nearly complete. He has been exonerated in the embezzlement case and is poised to win his fight with state-owned energy giant China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, and its partner, ENN Energy Holdings Ltd. The bidding consortium on Monday extended the deadline for the US$2.15 billion offer until early September, saying the bid is still waiting regulatory approval. But with the stock trading at a 22% premium to the offer price of 3.50 Hong Kong dollars a share, the group seems unlikely to attract the shareholder support needed to take control.

The case highlights the harsh nature of business in China, where the legal system is opaque and the fate of companies can be decided in Beijing. It remains unclear why Mr. Liu was arrested and then cleared, why Sinopec bid for his company and why a surprising group of white knights came to Mr. Liu’s rescue.”

via In China’s Power Nexus, a Tale of Redemption; Sinpec, China Gas, Liu Menghui –

In the same issue of, this article shows the positive (though still opaque) side of Chinese criminal justice and another the opposite:

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