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What says China’s criminal procedure law about Ai Weiwei? A Chinese says “Ideological bias clouds Western views”

Ai Weiwei appeared in Western headlines again after Xinhua reported Beijing police saying he was under ‘house surveillance’ and under investigation for tax evasion. (I should mention that while searching for materials for this post, I was struck by the lack of search results on Google on ‘Ai Weiwei’ from China. Why? I would venture to say, therein lies the true essence of Google’s struggles in China in search; but we have already made this argument in the past.)

Anyways, the Western media all seems to be colluding in characterizing the ‘house surveillance’ as simply Ai Weiwei went ‘missing,’ in the sense that the Chinese government is a irrational kidnapping criminal. By the way, the Chinese people have picked up on this behavior of the West (in Chinese here). Why spare no effort in understanding Chinese law and explain legal procedures behind this detention? In this post, I’d like to share key passages from China’s Criminal Procedure Law governing this ‘house surveillance’ as well an Op-Ed from China Daily writer, Mo Nong, called, “Ideological bias clouds Western views.”

(Also, note, some recent articles on this blog about Ai Weiwei.)

‘Ai Weiwei – ‘China’s Conscience’ And Another Dissident Bites the Dust’” by 龙信明 Blog
Ai Weiwei: fighting for justice or freedom of speech?” by raffiaflower

Below is China’s Criminal Procedure Law in English on the U.S. Congressional – Executive Commission on China(CECC) web site. The highlights are mine based on what I thought pertinent to this ‘house surveillance.’ (By the way, ‘residential surveillance’ and ‘house surveillance’ are the same.)

Article 64 When detaining a person, a public security organ must produce a detention warrant.

Within 24 hours after a person has been detained, his family or the unit to which he belongs shall be notified of the reasons for detention and the place of custody, except in circumstances where such notification would hinder the investigation or there is no way of notifying them.

Article 65 A public security organ shall interrogate a detainee within 24 hours after detention. If it is found that the person should not have been detained, he must be immediately released and issued a release certificate. If the public security organ finds it necessary to arrest a detainee when sufficient evidence is still lacking, it may allow the detainee to obtain a guarantor pending trial or place him under residential surveillance.

Article 66 When a public security organ wishes to arrest a criminal suspect, it shall submit a written request for approval of arrest together with the case file and evidence to the People’s Procuratorate at the same level for examination and approval. When necessary, the People’s Procuratorate may send procurators to participate in the public security organ’s discussion of a major case.

Article 67 The chief procurator shall make the decision on a People’s Procuratorate’s examination and approval of the arrest of a criminal suspect. Major cases shall be submitted to the procuratorial committee for discussion and decision.

Article 68 After a People’s Procuratorate has examined a case with respect to which a public security organ has submitted a request for approval of arrest, it shall decide according to the circumstances of the case either to approve the arrest or disapprove the arrest. If it decides to approve the arrest, the public security organ shall execute it immediately and inform the People’s Procuratorate of the result without delay. If the People’s Procuratorate disapproves the arrest, it shall give its reasons therefor; and if it deems a supplementary investigation necessary, it shall at the same time notify the public security organ of the need.

Article 69 If the public security organ deems it necessary to arrest a detainee, it shall, within three days after the detention, submit a request to the People’s Procuratorate for examination and approval. Under special circumstances, the time limit for submitting a request for examination and approval may be extended by one to four days.

As to the arrest of a major suspect involved in crimes committed from one place to another, repeatedly, or in a gang, the time limit for submitting a request for examination and approval may be extended to 30 days.

The People’s Procuratorate shall decide either to approve or disapprove the arrest within seven days from the date of receiving the written request for approval of arrest submitted by a public security organ. If the People’s Procuratorate disapproves the arrest, the public security organ shall, upon receiving notification, immediately release the detainee and inform the People’s Procuratorate of the result without delay. If further investigation is necessary, and if the released person meets the conditions for obtaining a guarantor pending trial or for residential surveillance, he shall be allowed to obtain a guarantor pending trial or subjected to residential surveillance according to law.

There has been few instances of Western press talking about Chinese criminal procedure law, and the magic ’37 days’ has been tossed around. Below is a quote from Adrian Searle’s article in the U.K. based Guardian:

It is, as I write, 37 days since Ai Weiwei disappeared, arrested by the Chinese police on 3 April in Beijing as he was about to board a scheduled flight for Hong Kong.

The 37 days come from a cursory reading of the highlights above: “after three days of detention . . . extension can be applied for 30 days . . .and People’s Procuratorate disapproves or approves in 7 days.” The Guardian report was published on May 9, 2011, which meant this 37 days would would have been up.

While I am no lawyer, after reading the last sentence above (in article 69), it seems the Chinese police are legally holding Ai Weiwei under ‘residential surveillance,’ even beyond the 37 days.

Searle’s article went on to say:

There is no currently no news on Ai’s condition, only rumour, including an unconfirmed and appalling graphic report, by a disaffected Xinhua journalist writing under a pseudonym, that Ai has been tortured, and has begun to confess to his supposed crimes.
. . .
A world expert in Chinese law at New York University, [Jerome A.] Cohen has pointed out that Ai’s detention is illegal even under Chinese law.

As we all know, the truth is Ai Weiwei was not tortured. Some ‘disaffected Xinua journalist under a pseudonym’ is somehow credible source? And how credible is this “world expert in Chinese law” Jerome A. Cohen?

Not.

The louder the Western media and ‘human rights’ activists call for Ai Weiwei’s release while preempting China’s judicial system, the less credible they become in the eyes of the Chinese. And, that, is articulated by a China Daily writer, Mo Nong, in an Op-Ed titled, “Ideological bias clouds Western views.”

Ideological bias clouds Western views
Updated: 2011-04-14 08:02

By Mo Nong (China Daily)

Ideological confrontation is the default mode for some Westerners and Western media when it comes to issues of human rights. For these people, it has become an intuitive reaction to point their fingers at China when anyone they consider a dissident is detained or arrested on legal grounds.

The detention of artist Ai Weiwei is no exception.

They were so eager to criticize China that they were too impatient to wait for the completion of the necessary judicial procedure and reacted before the relevant Chinese public security department announced why Ai was detained.

Instead, they started their customary verbal condemnation of China without any hesitation, asserting that the detention of Ai was for political reasons.
These Western media, and even some government representatives, continue to maintain that the Chinese government is persecuting Ai because of his political views even after the relevant Chinese judicial department announced that Ai was detained because of economic offences.

Ai’s case is still under investigation and it is quite natural and compatible with the rules for the public security department to remain cautious until it has completed its investigation.

However, our Western counterparts seem to know all the details of this case already and have judged it to be a political incident.

Whether Ai has violated the laws of the country is of no importance to these Westerners, who delight in voicing their opinions about China’s treatment of those they choose to consider political dissidents.

No matter what crime these people commit, they expect the Chinese government to exempt them from any penalties because of their Western-bestowed identity as political dissidents. It’s a pity that in their enthusiasm to condemn the Chinese government they don’t even stop for a moment to think that they may be branding economic offenders and petty lawbreakers as political dissidents.

The message behind such logic is clear. Despite the increasingly close economic cooperation between China and Western countries, some Westerners still harbor a Cold War mentality and consider China an enemy, at least, ideologically.

With such a mentality, they consider anyone who criticizes the political system of China and the Chinese authorities as they do, heroes or heroines, regardless of what these people have done, or how they behave, or what effect their activities will have on the future of this country and its people.

These Westerners always set themselves up on the moral high ground and therefore believe they are entitled to point their fingers at China, whether or not they have any facts to support their assertions.

The Westerners who stubbornly stick to their Cold War mentality need to escape their time warp, stop mouthing the outmoded ideological views of the past and study the realities of China today. They need to lend their ears to different voices in this country, not just those that mimic them.

On the question of Ai Weiwei, they need to be patient. They need to be sober-minded enough to understand that Ai’s political discrepancy with the Chinese government is one thing; his alleged involvement in illegal economic activities is another.

China has established its socialist legal system after decades of progress. Everybody, including Ai, is equal in the eye of the Chinese law. It is up to the Chinese judiciary to decide whether Ai is guilty, and should be duly punished or exonerated.

Giving up ideological blinkers and descending from the moral high ground is a prerequisite for normal political discourse. Ideological confrontation will benefit neither China nor the West in any way.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

  1. Lime
    May 24th, 2011 at 07:14 | #1

    Generally speaking, the China Daily piece, as well as the general argument put forward in the this article, is correct. Throughout the “West”, which includes Taiwan, Japan, and to a lesser extent many other countries outside of the traditional west as well, the Chinese government is commonly perceived as a tyranny; different only in degrees of success from the organisations that govern Iran, Libya, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other non-democratic countries, but cut from the same basic cloth. The government, according to this line of reasoning, is not legitimate in its current form. If a person doesn’t respect the legitimacy of the government’s right to rule, then of course any legal processes instituted and enforced by that government, regardless of how rigorously, will also not be respected. Whether or not this perspective is fair or valid is the true root of the disagreement, I believe, and that is what must be addressed.

  2. May 24th, 2011 at 07:55 | #2

    Law professor Cohen wrote, “If a famous figure like Ai Weiwei can be so blatantly abused in the glare of publicity, what protections do ordinary Chinese citizens receive from their police?”

    That’s actually quite a stretch of logic.

    (1) Even if Ai is treated harshly in his detention, it is a relative matter of humanity of the detention system, not the fairness of the legal system.

    In the eyes of every accused/arrested, EVERY criminal detention system is harsh and blatantly abusive. (For example, the California prison system counts 1 prisoner death almost EVERY WEEK! US federal court criticized it as inhumane. The point is, societies generally do NOT care about the accused/arrested/imprisoned. Unless we are talking about abolishing the criminal justice system altogether, the very concept of PUNISHING someone for their wrongdoing would be theoretically inhumane.)

    (2) Cohen seems to suggest that celebrities like Ai deserve some special privileges in the criminal justice system, because they are in the spot-light. (Or at least, if Celebrities like Ai did not get some special treatment, then ordinary people must be worse off.)

    That is at minimal baseless speculation, and more akin to arguing that if Rich Americans are subjected to more IRS audits, then the middle-class must be even more harassed by the US government.

    First, at least even in US, Celebrities are not supposed to be treated differently under the law than ordinary people.

    Second, Ai is not that well known in China, so there goes Cohen’s theory.

  3. Lime
    May 24th, 2011 at 09:18 | #3

    Curiously, the same author reposted an article concerning Ai Weiwei that was entitled “Ai Weiwei – ‘China’s Conscience’ And Another Dissident Bites the Dust”, rather than “Another Economic Criminal Bites the Dust” on this blog earlier. So obviously it wasn’t only the “Western” media that leapt to the apparently false conclusion that Ai’s detention was politically motivated.

  4. colin
    May 24th, 2011 at 10:13 | #4

    Well, the quote really shows how much supposed China experts like Jerome Cohen really know.

    Much of western media and academia is not about real truth, but to reinforce the “truth” as the west knows it and wants to promote. “Truths” such as “china is a tyranny”, “chinese can’t innovate”,”they’re stealing our jobs”.

    At the end of the day, people like Jerome Cohen and that NYT Jacobs guy are paid shills, whether they realize it or not.

  5. May 24th, 2011 at 10:44 | #5

    @Lime

    Nobody will take you seriously when you put Taiwan and Japan in the ‘West’ category. You ask someone from Taiwan or Japan if they are Western, they’d laugh in your face.

    If what you meant is *some* on Taiwan who do not like the Mainland uses the same ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ rhetoric for political purposes as those in the “West,” then that totally makes sense.

    That also in the same way ultra-nationalists in Japan using the same rhetoric against China or Russia over territorial disputes or for the Cold War.

    The Japanese government in general absolutely DO NOT pull the same ‘human rights’ or ‘democracy’ nonsense against China.

    The ‘Western’ governments do not say the Chinese government is illegitimate. Can you show one who does that? For example, the U.S. government will use those rhetorics to argue the Chinese government is not doing ‘good enough’ – not a wholesale ‘illegitimate’ claim.

    @Lime, #3

    I am sure “Another Dissident Bites the Dust” will occur again. The common theme with such cases are that they indeed break laws. Once laws are broken, ‘dissident,’ ‘human rights’ crusader, ‘democracy’ nut jobs, OR NOT, will be prosecuted. That’s what’d you expect from a legal society.

    It need not be more complicated than that.

  6. May 24th, 2011 at 12:38 | #6

    In case I wasn’t very clear – there’s the case of breaking the law and then there is the case of anti-government using the pretext of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy.’ People are capable of doing any one or both; these acts are not mutually exclusive.

    @raventhorn2000, colin

    And as in the NYT case with Jacobs, it is really funny they decide to interview this Cohen and not some real experts from China who knows the law there.

  7. raventhorn2000
    May 24th, 2011 at 13:08 | #7

    Cohen is an expert, in the sense that he’s an expert “advocate” of loss causes. As much as Ai may be an “expert” bigamist or tax evader, but I would not call him an “expert” of the political issues.

    He has been in some lawsuits in Taiwan, losing side.

    Bottomline, it’s not an “expert opinion”, but an “expert impartial opinion”. Cohen is not it.

  8. Rhan
    May 24th, 2011 at 20:04 | #8

    “Nobody will take you seriously when you put Taiwan and Japan in the ‘West’ category. ”

    Not entirely true, if given a choice, many Asia country love to be categorised under the ‘West’, or silently support the ‘West’.

    “The world’s power brokers lined up candidates to head the IMF while Asia held back, and its silence means it will probably have to wait five more years to break Europe’s grip on the top spot.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/24/us-imf-asia-successor-idUSTRE74N24120110524

  9. May 25th, 2011 at 00:57 | #9

    @Rhan
    LOL. Which ‘Asia country’ loves to be categorised under the ‘West’? I hope you can cite some evidence too.

    Btw, I was talking about the fact people don’t associate Taiwan and Japan as being parts of the ‘West.’

    That link you provided to – and the quote you pulled from – says what?

    Did you also look at another article from Reuters which quoted a Chinese saying China doesn’t have any candidate of her own where they feel experienced enough to run the IMF?

    Did you also see the joint statement from BRICS ministers saying the Europeans cannot claim the helm purely on “the Europeans must be at the helm” type nonsense?

    Actually, I just saw this article over at China Daily:
    “BRICS calls for end of European dominance on IMF chief”
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2011-05/25/content_12572780.htm

  10. Lime
    May 25th, 2011 at 02:33 | #10

    @YinYang
    Well personally I believe that any real usefulness dichotomising the world into the “West and the East” or the “West and the Rest” died with the end of the Cold War. To me, it over oversimplifies the complexity of modern international relationships and only serves to further increase the potential for misunderstandings and misleading generalisations. That said, this article of yours in particular, and maybe this entire blog in general, rely on a China vs the West premise. So if we have to accept that as a starting point, it’s necessary to categorise Japan and Taiwan in the latter category, not so much because that people in those places would by and large represent themselves as “western” (of course they don’t), but simply because the popular political and social ideologies of those countries (along with many others) are more closely aligned with America and western Europe than they are with China. You can reject or accept this as you like, it’s aside from my central point anyways.

    My central point is that citing PRC law is pointless exercise. The key word in the paraphrased quote from Cohen- “Ai’s detention is illegal even under Chinese law”- is “even”. In Cohen’s opinion, and in the popular opinions of most, if not all, “western” countries, it doesn’t matter what China’s law says, the laws are illegitimate because the government that instituted them is illegitimate, and it’s illegitimate because it’s a single party dictatorship, no different in essence than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, al-Assad’s Syria, or Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. This popular perception is the root of the problem. I’m not saying that the Chinese government should necessarily be seen this way, but if your purpose with this article is to address popular opinion in the “west” (wherever that may be for you), and you agree with my assessment, the question is why should the current Chinese government’s right to govern be seen as more legitimate than, say, the Saudi Arabian or Libyan ones?

  11. Rhan
    May 25th, 2011 at 02:37 | #11

    yinyang,

    You can laugh as loud as you wish to, but Taiwan was referred as an America’s unsinkable aircraft carrier, and like I wrote if choice is given, perhaps Taiwanese want to be part of West rather than be part of China. As for Japan, does “Datsu-A Ron” (“Escape from Asia”) and G8 ring a bell? And do you think Singapore would welcome China to share their US navy base?

    My link is trying to say that when most Asian and third world country look forward a IMF head that is not European, or the needs of one from developing country, it seem like some Asian country don’t think so and therefore remain silence, and surprisingly, this include China. Perhaps China wants to escape from Asia as well.

  12. raventhorn2000
    May 25th, 2011 at 05:37 | #12

    LIME,

    ““Ai’s detention is illegal even under Chinese law”- is “even”. In Cohen’s opinion, and in the popular opinions of most, if not all, “western” countries, it doesn’t matter what China’s law says, the laws are illegitimate because the government that instituted them is illegitimate, and it’s illegitimate because it’s a single party dictatorship, no different in essence than Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, al-Assad’s Syria, or Kim Jong Il’s North Korea.”

    That’s a bit of a logical stretch.

    Cohen said nothing about “legitimacy” of Chinese laws. His statement clearly stated his opinion that the actions were “illegal” by Chinese legal standards (which ASSUMED legitimacy of Chinese laws).

    You reading of “even” is totally skewing the word’s meaning, “even under Chinese laws” clearly meant “EVEN ASSUMING under Chinese legal standards”.

    When do people ever read 1 word by itself? When they are trying to take it out of context. And that’s what you are doing.

  13. raventhorn2000
    May 25th, 2011 at 06:07 | #13

    LIME,

    If Cohen is expressing his opinion of “illegitimacy” of Chinese laws, then he would be expressing a non-expert personal opinion, which is completely irrelevant to the discussion of actual legality of Ai’s arrest. (Since by your opinion, even if Ai’s arrest is legal under Chinese laws, it would still be “illegitimate”. Then what’s Cohen’s point in the first place.)

    your logic is stretching Cohen’s opinion into the realm of the irrelevant, since by your logic, LEGALITY of Ai’s arrest would become an irrelevant issue. (The mere fact that Chinese government, a single party dictatorship, did the actual arrest would make the arrest illegitimate, according to your logic.)

    Then I ask, by reverse, does your logic also make EVERY illegal action by a “democracy”, such as torture, LEGITIMATE?? Seems like it would. And hence, justification of a mob-tocracy, and your logical fallacy.

  14. Wahaha
    May 25th, 2011 at 07:48 | #14

    I dont know law, so I wont comment on if his arrest is legitmate or not.

    When he asked westerners not coming to Olympic, he disrespected the years’ effort by tens(if not hundreds) of millions of people, he disrespected the right of hundreds of millions of people to enjoy the first Olympic in China.

    What ? only those who shared the same opinion with Ai are people ?

    As he didnt respect the right of hundreds of millions of people, Chinese government, if it has to represent the chinese people, doesnt have to respect Ai’s right, whether it is written on papers or not.

    I dont see American people are angry at their government mistreating terrorists, except several Human right fundementalists.

  15. Wahaha
    May 25th, 2011 at 08:04 | #15

    A thought out of topic :

    What Westerners want to do is that they want to put everything on papers. They want the law to be so detailed that they can find answers from the law books. Once somethings happens and they cant find answer in law books, they add new law.(which means the money for lawyers)

    Who have benefit most from this procedure ? lawyers and criminals.

    Of course, that should not be the excuse for the poor judicial system in China, but west has gone too far which has messed up with ordinary people.

    What makes Westerners have trouble understanding Chinese is that they have lived in fish tank for too long, and dont understand trade-off. Therefore they cant understand why Chinese dont bear-hug their beautiful “freedom”, but Chinese fully understand what they would lose if they have this so-called “freedom”.

    BTW, absolutized freedom is against humanity.

  16. May 25th, 2011 at 10:21 | #16

    @Lime

    This popular perception is the root of the problem. I’m not saying that the Chinese government should necessarily be seen this way, but if your purpose with this article is to address popular opinion in the “west” (wherever that may be for you), and you agree with my assessment, the question is why should the current Chinese government’s right to govern be seen as more legitimate than, say, the Saudi Arabian or Libyan ones?

    I say forget comparing to Saudi Arabia or Libya. Let’s compare to the U.S., the grand daddy of the comparison you want to make:

    1. Look at the PEW poll result of the Chinese population with respect to their satisfaction with their government vs. the U.S.’s?

    2. Is illegally invading foreign countries ‘legitimate?’ Do you know how many innocent Iraqis and Afghanis have been killed?

    3. Who is bombing Libya out of pretext to ‘protect civilians?”

    4. Look at the run-away national debt crisis in America.

    5. Who brought hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty?

    6. Look at the gridlock and dysfunction in the American political culture right now. Is that ‘legitimate?’

    So, you tell me, what is your definition of legitimacy?

  17. May 25th, 2011 at 10:34 | #17

    @Wahaha
    I understand your point. Those using the rhetoric of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ as a pretext in meddling in others society to topple or to weaken foreign governments (not that I think they can China’s) is for their own gain. Not that people don’t necessarily want real freedom or aspects of real democracy. It is just that the bully will bully you more if you become weaker.

  18. Charles Liu
    May 25th, 2011 at 10:35 | #18

    Um, are administrative detention laws in US legitmate? For example Guantanomo, material witness detention, extraordinary rendition.

    More importantly by who’s standard? One would say legitmacy of US law is based on US sovereignty alone. But this doesn’t apply to China, of course.

  19. raventhorn2000
    May 25th, 2011 at 13:49 | #19

    The “Legitimacy” argument is only demonstrative of resurgent Western Imperialism.

    Only a classic self-righteous Imperialism mentality would proclaim such judgment as “legitimacy” of other sovereign governments.

    Afterall, what standard of “legitimacy” existed for such judgment?

    China certainly has more a legitimate government than many of US’s allies in the Middle East.

    And what does it say about the “legitimacy” of Western governments when they deal with so many friendly dictators?

    There a word in English for that, and it rhymes with “door”.

  20. Lime
    May 25th, 2011 at 16:49 | #20

    I see I’ve thoroughly failed to make myself understood. Alright, apologies for intruding on your blog here and whatever offence I may have caused.

  21. May 25th, 2011 at 19:18 | #21

    @Lime
    Look, take your time if you care to elaborate.

    So far, it sounds to me you are hung on this ‘legitimacy’ narrative. On one hand you want us to accept this premise that there are those in the ‘West’ thinks the Chinese government is illegitimate. Fine.

    Then it seems you are not interested in discussing what ‘legitimacy’ is.

    Is this boiling down to ‘one party evil’ and ‘two or more parties good’ type of argument? Do you see how that path is not going to work?

  22. Lime
    May 25th, 2011 at 22:48 | #22

    @YinYang
    I get the impression that you have been have the same argument with the same kind of people for far too long. In spite of what you and Raventhorn assume, my intent was not to to argue in a round about way that “one party is evil and two or more are good”. Obviously you’re a huge fan of the current Chinese government, and even if what I actually believed was that it was evil, I doubt I would be capable of changing your mind.

    The fact that you wrote this post, especially because it’s in English, implies that you’re interested in discussing the opinions portrayed in the “western” media. For my part, I’m not interested in discussing what legitimacy is. I think it’s already quite obvious; legitimacy is nothing more than a matter of opinion. There’s no concrete way to measure or compare legitimacy and to try to do so is just to invite a yelling match. What’s interesting to me is why certain people hold different opinions or definitions of legitimacy in regards to the Chinese government and to Ai Weiwei’s arrest/detention in particular, and how these may or may not changeable.

    What I took from your article is that in addition to thinking that the writers of British and American newspapers, at least those who write on topics pertaining to China, are by and large malicious liars, you also think that the Ai Weiwei case has been misrepresented because of a lack of sufficient understanding of the Chinese judicial system. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    What I tried to suggest was that the problem went deeper than that. I’m arguing that the outrage over the detention of Ai Weiwei in Britain and America and elsewhere was not a result of a lack of appreciation of the Chinese judicial system, but because of a common perception that the whole judicial system in China is an illegitimate system because the Chinese government tends to be lumped in with other undemocratic governments in the minds of the readers of western newspapers. When the North Korean judicial system sends convicted criminals to reeducation camps or the Saudi Arabian one orders their execution, the media rarely bothers with a close examination of the penal codes of those countries. With China, it ain’t much different.

    Now it’s very important that I’m not saying I personally believe Ai Weiwei’s detention is wrong or illegitimate, or that the Chinese government is bad or illegitimate, or even that the Saudi Arabian and North Korean governments are bad or illegitimate. I want to stress that I had no intention of just coming here to insult your obvious affection for the Chinese government are argue against your equally obvious hatred of the American one. However, basically I’m assuming that you do care about the opinions portrayed in the newspapers and magazines published in Britain and America that you cite, even if you don’t agree with them. So, simply 1) Do you agree with my proposal that reaction against Ai Weiwei’s arrest/detention was a result of a common perception among people in the “west” that non-democratic states are illegitimate and there laws are therefore not worthy of respect? 2) Is this changing? 3) Can the Chinese government do anything itself to change this perception of one party/person dictatorships in general? 4) Or is there some way it can separate itself from other non-democratic states in the perception of popular opinion in the west (for example, would it ever be possible for an individual or newspaper to accept the detention of Ai Weiwei as legitimate and right but still abhor the reeducation camps in North Korea or the killing of protesters by the Syrian government?).

    I think that is as clear as I can make my response to your article. Once again, I’m not trying to say the Chinese government is evil, or the American government is awesome. It does not boil down to “one party is evil and two or more is good”. So please put your suspicions and your impressive arsenal of reasons why you dislike the American government to rest.

  23. May 25th, 2011 at 23:35 | #23

    @Lime #22,

    Thanks for a well articulated comment. (I do have to say that in reading your previous comments, your position seemed less measured than #22).

    My personal opinion:

    1. I think a large part of reaction against Ai Weiwei is in part due to a disrespect of PRC government. But it goes further, it’s not just a disrespect out of ignorance. It’s a disrespect out of a sense of cultural supremacy. If it’s not our way, it’s barbaric. Further it’s communist, so it must be barbaric. As a final proof, it’s not democratic – so it is barbaric.

    2. No. It’s not changing. The problem is not the people – it’s the media. I personally don’t think we should subscribe so much of the world’s problem to media, but unfortunately I must. Assange leaked his docs through the media because the media is the one non-gov’t institution with the resources and capability to dig – yet it does not dig (as our recent post on Assange or earlier one touched on). A faith in democracy unfortunately is only a faith in media and a probing public – neither of which exist – and hence the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in.

    3. I will write post on legitimacy later that will address this issue more. In short, yes – throough good governance. Legitimacy of gov’t is based on good governance and deliverance of justice. Democratic multi-party system can deliver good governance and justice, but so can dictatorship. Neither guarantees it however.

    4. Yes – if we can see through our ideological biases touched on above.

  24. May 26th, 2011 at 00:58 | #24

    @Lime
    I’d add:

    1. I agree with you there is a huge segment of the West with that perception. No conviction though.

    Why do you think they have that?

    2. I think this perception is changing for the following reasons:

    a. China is dramatically improving and a large segment of the West recognize that the Chinese government is making smart policy decisions.

    b. Westerners are visiting China and in increasing numbers. They see with their own eyes of China’s progress.

    c. A stagnation in the West financially has stirred up discussions about a possible China ‘model,’ and though some may not like the Chinese government, they are wondering why China is run better.

    If the West is poor like China was 30 years ago, then the Chinese people would simply laugh at the West over this perception. That’d be the end of it.

    Whenever an Indian national trash-talks China over ‘democracy,’ the typical reaction is of the ‘look at your democratic slums.’ The point I am making is one about human nature. You question others ‘legitimacy’ when they are ‘beneath’ you.

    China overtaking Japan as the #2 economy had a huge impact on this perception.

    China overtaking the U.S. in PPP terms will be another shocker to that perception.

    Do you think the perception is changing?

    3. I completely agree with Allen. Through good governance.

    4. Besides focusing on good governance?

    a. Like Russia Today, China is dramatically expanding her English and other language programming through CCTV, etc.. It won’t just be CNN and BBC out there anymore. China will offer her narrative and project her values.

    b. Through efforts like the S&ED where Obama is pushing for 100,000 Americans studying in China in the next 5 years. These fosters understanding and bring the two peoples together.

    c. Continuing normalizing relations with her neighbors and the world. The China-ASEA FTA went into effect in 2010 and is already yielding tremendous results. I expect a China-South Korea-Japan FTA to be in the near future.

    These points are really results of good governance.

    Also, culturally, the Chinese market for movies is expanding leaps and bounds by the virtue of her growing affluence. As China is able to pump more money into that industry, she will gradually have more movies the world over wants to watch. That will change many other perceptions which in turn make this ‘non-democratic is evil’ perception less prominent.

  25. raventhorn2000
    May 26th, 2011 at 05:57 | #25

    Lime,

    “I’m arguing that the outrage over the detention of Ai Weiwei in Britain and America and elsewhere was not a result of a lack of appreciation of the Chinese judicial system, but because of a common perception that the whole judicial system in China is an illegitimate system because the Chinese government tends to be lumped in with other undemocratic governments in the minds of the readers of western newspapers.”

    Your argument may be correct, but again, I think your argument about what Cohen said was a stretch.

    If you wish to discuss the “common perception” in the West, that is an entirely different issue than what Cohen was talking about. (perhaps related, but I don’t see how Cohen’s statement on “legality” led to your discussion of “legitimacy”).

    I would welcome a discussion of “legitimacy” common perception in the West. But again, I think your lead into the topic was a logical stretch.

    Don’t mean to make you feel like you are being stomped on.

  26. raventhorn2000
    May 26th, 2011 at 06:20 | #26

    On the issue of legitimacy, I think it is yet another indication of the new kind of Moral Imperialism/Chauvinism coming out of the 1st world nations.

    The very perception concept of “illegitimacy” of another form of government is based upon intolerance, and a false and nationalistic assumption that one’s moral value system based government system is superior to all others.

    Boiled down, the “illegitimacy” argument is simply that, your system is inferior, and so no matter what you actually do, and what results you actually obtain, you are inferior and “illegitimate”. (It’s a circular logic by nature, starting and ending with the same assumption).

    The same logic was used during the colonial era, and on minority races, and on women.

    The US Supreme Court once wrote in an ruling, (by a liberal Justice Harlan), that Chinese in America were, “unfamiliar with our institutions, and apparently incapable of assimilating with our people.” (United States v. Wong Kim Ark, where Wong Kim Ark, a naturally born US citizen of Chinese immigrant parents, was stripped of his citizenship and shipped to China, under the Chinese Exclusion Act).

    Justice Harlan was a notable justice who had a record of opinions in favor of equal rights for African Americans, and yet his opinions also showed strong animosity toward Chinese Americans.

    Why so?

    His statement above showed the distinction he saw, like “common perception”, that the Chinese immigrants, unlike descendants of African slaves, were not “assimilating” to the American Culture.

    “Legitimacy”, it seemed, required more than submission to the local laws, but also total brainwashing.

    *In parallel, the same mentality is being applied by “liberal Democracies” around the world, a foreign government cannot simply have laws, but must also have been “assimilated” to some unknown standard, or appear to be weak enough to be receptive to “assimilation”.

  27. gregorylent
    June 7th, 2011 at 00:46 | #27

    so much ego in the nationalism mind … amazing how otherwise intelligent people are blind to their emotional biases

  28. raventhorn2000
    June 7th, 2011 at 06:39 | #28

    @gregorylent

    Yes, “Liberal Democracies” are very Nationalistic. It’s amazing how such supposedly intelligent liberal people are blinded by their own “we are #1” mentality.

    Sigh…

  29. raventhorn2000
    June 7th, 2011 at 08:15 | #29

    I think in terms of laws, new social media present new problems over the extent of free speech issue.

    It is an universally acknowledged principle of law that it is a crime for someone to yell fire (when there is no fire) in a crowded theater, because it would cause a stampede.

    Then now the question is, can someone, who is at home, Tweet a message of “fire in theater” to a crowd in a theater?

    The answer is likely also no, because that Tweet would also likely cause a stampede.

    Take it further, can someone, who is in US, Tweet a message of “revolution” to people in China?

    Some would argue that the message of “revolution” is a call to gather, not a indication of a threat (such as a fire).

    But the counter argument would be, the message of “revolution” indicates a threat of chaos when there isn’t one (ie. a fake bomb threat).

    Take it further, can someone in China, tweet a message of fake “Terrorist bombing tomorrow in NY” to people in US?

    How about “Homeless National Revolution day in NY”?

    There is a fine line between a call for gathering, vs. an annonymous scream of “fire” in a darkened theater, and a public movement vs. a chaotic stampede.

    *
    To the reporters who eagerly gather to cover the potential “revolution” in China, are you waiting for a stampede or a real gathering?

    And as reporters, do you go into a darkened theater, and yell “HAS Anyone heard of the bomb in this theater that is supposed to go off today?!” (As similar to how you went around in Beijing asking people, “have you heard of the Jasmine Revolution in China?”)

    If you asked such a question in a theater in US, the US police may be looking for you.

    If you asked the 2nd question in China, you are lucky that China is being polite.

  30. Peter Arthur
    June 14th, 2011 at 09:00 | #30

    You can write until the cows come home in defense of the the actions of the Chinese police and procuratorial organs and employ all the sophist arguments at your disposal to defend their legitimacy – but what’s the point? The fact is that in the case of Ai Weiwei – and anyone else the CPC perceives as a threat, however small, to its hold on power – there will be no justice, only retribution on the Party’s terms. In late October of last year I interviewed Zhao Lianhai’s lawyer, Li Fangping, while they were awaiting a verdict in Zhao’s trial on charges of ‘inciting social disorder’. I spoke to lawyer Li minutes after he had appeared before the judge in Daxing District People’s court to ask, for the umpteenth time, when a verdict could be expected (at this stage the defendant had been waiting for a decision for almost EIGHT months). The judge told Mr Li, as he had on several previous occasions, that he did not know because… wait for it…he was still AWAITING INSTRUCTIONS FROM SUPERIORS IN THE PARTY before announcing a verdict and sentence! Two weeks later this shining example of China’s independent and incorruptible judiciary obviously received his orders from the Party because, as we know, Zhao Lianhai was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on November 10th 2010. Case closed – for everyone unfortunate enough to tangle with China’s criminal ‘justice’ system.

  31. raventhorn2000
    June 14th, 2011 at 11:32 | #31

    “I spoke to lawyer Li minutes after he had appeared before the judge in Daxing District People’s court to ask, for the umpteenth time, when a verdict could be expected (at this stage the defendant had been waiting for a decision for almost EIGHT months). The judge told Mr Li, as he had on several previous occasions, that he did not know because… wait for it…he was still AWAITING INSTRUCTIONS FROM SUPERIORS IN THE PARTY before announcing a verdict and sentence! Two weeks later this shining example of China’s independent and incorruptible judiciary obviously received his orders from the Party because, as we know, Zhao Lianhai was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on November 10th 2010. ”

    His case was handed to the prosecutor in Early 2010. Only 11 months for a verdict? “umpteenth time”? Please.

    And a Chinese judge telling a lawyer who then tells you that he was waiting for “instructions from superiors in the party”?! Please, propaganda can hardly expected to be that dumb, to actually admit it openly in court.

    And yes, “two weeks later” after that dumb hearsay, he gets a verdict? That’s convenient.

    *Of course, Not that I doubt your version of the story, but you heard it from a guilty man’s lawyer. (Of course, according to Johnnie Cochran, OJ Simpson was completely framed by the system.)

    For what’s it worth coming from lawyers’ (I’m myself a lawyer), I think you are stretching what Lawyer Li told you.

    He might have said the judge was waiting instructions from his “superiors”. But he meant waiting for an opinion of law from higher court judges, instead of his superiors in the “party”. Because it is common practice for lower court judges to issue a request for opinion of laws from higher courts in China (it is done quite often, similarly in German and French court systems).

    I mean seriously, the prosecutor is more likely to ask for instructions from the “party” on whether to prosecute the case, and how harshly.

    Some in the West have criticized that the Chinese courts are nothing but rubber stamps of the party, in which case, if the prosecutor has already been told by the Party to prosecute Zhao severely, why would the judges “wait for instructions”?!

    Your story simply doesn’t hold logical water. If the charges are trumped up, the prosecutor has already trumped them up, and there is little reason for the judges to “wait for instructions”. Why wait months?

    Somehow, according to your story, the prosecutor got the Party’s instructions, trumped up the charges and the evidence, and then the judge seemed unable to take a hint from the prosecutor’s files, and had to ask for more instructions.

    Seriously, your imaginary Party controlled justice system is horribly inefficient in its crackdown. (Sounds more like the US government to me, where you can’t get any straight answers from any government branches).

  32. Peter Arthur
    June 23rd, 2011 at 10:34 | #32

    Excuse the delay in replying – I have been incommunicado.

    “His case was handed to the prosecutor in Early 2010. Only 11 months for a verdict? “umpteenth time”? Please.”

    Please what? We are not talking about 11 months of gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, building up a case (and according to the verdict the evidence was so clear cut, it was an open and shut case). All that was over by March – as I clearly stated. The court then retired to consider its verdict – and spent EIGHT months doing so – this under a judicial system in a country where cases as complicated as embezzlement or even murder can go from arrest of suspect to death sentence AND execution within months – when it suits of course. Umpteenth time was my colloquial paraphrasing of lawyer Li’s words; he said several times. Please.

    “And a Chinese judge telling a lawyer who then tells you that he was waiting for “instructions from superiors in the party”?! Please, propaganda can hardly expected to be that dumb, to actually admit it openly in court.

    As regards the dumbness of propaganda, I’m not sure what you mean. This was not propaganda, it was simply what Lawyer Li told me the judge said to him. I didn’t say he said it in open court; neither did lawyer Li. He simply said he had another ‘conversation’ with the judge – whether it was in open court (which I doubt) or in the judge’s chambers/office I don’t know. Li didn’t specify, you did.

    “And yes, “two weeks later” after that dumb hearsay, he gets a verdict? That’s convenient.”

    Convenient or not, it’s what happened. I guess they had to hand down a verdict at some stage, it was getting a little embarrassing. As Lawyer Li ha several meetings over the eight months with the court (the “umpteen” you take exception to) it’s simply logic that a verdict was going to be announced relatively shortly after one of them.

    “*Of course, Not that I doubt your version of the story, but you heard it from a guilty man’s lawyer. (Of course, according to Johnnie Cochran, OJ Simpson was completely framed by the system.)”

    Am glad you don’t doubt my version. Thank you.
    1. I didn’t hear it from a guilty man’s lawyer – at the time Zhao Lianhai had not been found guilty. You (despite being a lawyer and presumably acutely aware of the difference) jump to the same conclusion that many of my Chinese media colleagues do when they refer to anyone arrested by the police as a “criminal”. Of course under a system where conviction rates are so astoundingly high the mistake is understandable.
    2. It seems you are obliquely accusing lawyer Li of being untrustworthy simply because he is the lawyer of a man you consider guilty – guilt by association? You are implying that every Chinese lawyer who has defended a suspect later found to be guilty is a liar. As for the specious Cochran comparison (radically different system, TV coverage of trial, murder charge, racial undertones, celebrity…) please!

    “For what’s it worth coming from lawyers’ (I’m myself a lawyer), I think you are stretching what Lawyer Li told you. He might have said the judge was waiting instructions from his “superiors”. But he meant waiting for an opinion of law from higher court judges, instead of his superiors in the “party”. Because it is common practice for lower court judges to issue a request for opinion of laws from higher courts in China (it is done quite often, similarly in German and French court systems).”

    I have stretched nothing – I have simply reported honestly what Lawyer Li told me. As you are a lawyer, I will leave it up to you to decide on how much your peers can be trusted, i make no judgment. Regarding what the judge said, you are quite correct. According to lawyer Li he did say he was waiting for instructions from his “superiors” (上面的). However being a pedantic interviewer and not at all clear what “superiors” meant I asked him to clarify. He said, “He’s a party cadre, from his bosses in the party of course”. And to be clear, these were instructions, not opinions. I know because I asked incredulously, “you mean a judge is waiting to be told what to say by the Party??” Li said, “Of course, what do you expect he’s a party cadre”.

    “Some in the West have criticized that the Chinese courts are nothing but rubber stamps of the party, in which case, if the prosecutor has already been told by the Party to prosecute Zhao severely, why would the judges “wait for instructions”?!”

    You tell me – change in ‘policy’; fears over public opinion (this was one of the few such cases where the laobaixing were definitely NOT on the party’s side). Let’s take a more recent case and search for the logic there; why detain Ai Weiwei, hold him incommunicado for two months, announce his confession and guilt through Xinhua but fail to arrest, indict or charge him (remember he’s ‘confessed’ – shouldn’t be too difficult), and then humiliatingly release him under the face saving 取保候审? Somebody went too far without permission ? Infighting between party cliques? Favors bartered and sold? My guanxi’s bigger than your guanxi? Come on, we’re not there, the party is opaque. Your guess is as good as mine.

    “Your story simply doesn’t hold logical water. If the charges are trumped up, the prosecutor has already trumped them up, and there is little reason for the judges to “wait for instructions”. Why wait months?”

    Idem.

    “Somehow, according to your story, the prosecutor got the Party’s instructions, trumped up the charges and the evidence, and then the judge seemed unable to take a hint from the prosecutor’s files, and had to ask for more instructions.”

    Idem.

    “Seriously, your imaginary Party controlled justice system is horribly inefficient in its crackdown. (Sounds more like the US government to me, where you can’t get any straight answers from any government branches).”

    Yes.

    Listen, if you seriously believe the CPC does not regularly exercise its power to interfere in the Chinese judicial system at any and every stage – instructions to security organs to arrest; decisions on whether to prosecute and on what charges or simply intimidate and/or rough up; decide on guilt or innocence (not often the latter unless someone’s really screwed up); dictate sentence to be imposed – then you are living in cloud cuckoo land. It may not ALWAYS do it – but in cases where it perceives any threat the Party comes first and the law comes a distant second – and woe betide anyone who gets in the way. Whether it does this consistently, efficiently and logically is another question.

  33. raventhorn2000
    June 23rd, 2011 at 12:34 | #33

    “All that was over by March – as I clearly stated.”

    You said nothing of the kind, and I don’t know where you get “March” from.

    You are citing nothing to back up any of your assertions.

  34. raventhorn2000
    June 23rd, 2011 at 16:03 | #34

    “why detain Ai Weiwei, hold him incommunicado for two months, announce his confession and guilt through Xinhua but fail to arrest, indict or charge him (remember he’s ‘confessed’ – shouldn’t be too difficult), and then humiliatingly release him under the face saving 取保候审? Somebody went too far without permission ? Infighting between party cliques? Favors bartered and sold? My guanxi’s bigger than your guanxi? Come on, we’re not there, the party is opaque. Your guess is as good as mine.”

    You finally admit, you are speculating. (Why? Why not? Justice system move slowly, and not by your schedule. Ai is on bail, BAIL means there is pending charge! Prosecutor can always decide to not prosecute or drop the case. AGAIN, prosecutor’s call, NOT the judges.)

    Judge was a party cadre? Yeah, I’m sure your Chinese lawyer can spot a party Cadre by telepathy. I frankly can’t tell which Chinese government official is a cadre (and many are not).

    If you know, please tell, what’s the percentage of party cadres among Chinese judges.

    Is there a list somewhere? I don’t think the CCP advertise their membership list.

    *And not “guilty by association”. Merely that Defense lawyers, like journalists, tend to stretch and spin the story, in their “advocacy”.

    *Policy change? more speculation from you.

  35. June 23rd, 2011 at 20:33 | #35

    @Peter Arthur

    You would be infinitely more credible if you tell us information from the prosecution side of it. So far, you are typical of so many of the so called ‘journalist’ seemingly content on just one side of the story and drawing conclusions.

    You can write all these he said she said from one side til the cows come home back at you.

  36. June 28th, 2011 at 05:51 | #36

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304314404576413361843745844.html

    Chinese authorities have demanded $2 Million in back taxes and fine from Ai Weiwei.

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