Friday, 27 February 2009

The death of capital punishment . . .

. . .a long way off in mainland China, but getting closer in Taiwan. I spoke to Saul Lehrfreund after a talk he gave at Sussex last night on working for commonwealth prisoners on death row. Here's the low-down:

1) Mainland China has been opening up to human rights lawyers at least a bit in the past few years, allowing him to give talks in Beijing Normal and Renmin Universities. This might not seem like much, but when you remember how human rights activists in other fields have been treated, it is quite surprising to find a foreign human rights lawyer being allowed to speak to Chinese academics.

2) No executions have occured in Taiwan since 2005, nor does it seem likely that any will occur under the present government. This still leaves 31 people on death row as of October last year, but there is only so long that people can be held on death row before it becomes possible for their death sentence to be challenged as unusually cruel. Whilst the US has allowed people to spend as long as 33 years on death row without this becoming "cruel and unsual" under the US constitution, it is quite possible for other courts to rule differently, as indeed the Privy Council did with Carribean prisoners held on death row for more than 5 years.


Obviously the both sides of the Taiwan strait follow the civil law tradition, so French, German, and other mainland European lawyers are perhaps better placed to aid the campaign to end the death penalty - especially once it becomes possible to directly aid lawyers representing prisoners on death row, but it is encouraging to see British lawyers lending a hand as well.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

A view from the recession . . .

"Basically, everything we’ve dreamed of and been promised by our advisers/professors is no longer available."


A final year law school student on Andrew Sullivan's blog who can't find a job. Tell me about it.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Internet scammers - is there no escaping them?

The FOARP is currently hunting around for employment for after he graduates in June (that's right, the FOARP now thinks of himself in the third person), and of course online searching is as good a way as any. One website seemed somehow to have exactly the kind of work I was looking for - but unfortunately it was a fee-paying site. "No problem" thought I, "Harrison Barnes has to put food on the table the same way everyone else does". But then I did a little searching, and behind reams and reams of articles apparently written by the same person, I found this article. A little more searching turned up a few more such articles. I have no way of verifying what they say, but it rings true given the clear self-promotion and obvious search engine optimalisation without any positive 3rd party reviewing. The effect is somewhat similar to visiting a country in which everyone praises the Dear Leader and his Glorious Regime - the instant you hear it you know to expect torture chambers and gulags.

Thoughts? Firstly, websites on which people report apparent rip-offs are an important resource (but watch out for ones hi-jacked by scammers). And second? Don't believe a damned thing you read on the internet.

Monday, 23 February 2009

NEWS FLASH: Chris Devonshire Ellis resigns!



It's official, less than a week after publishing an allegedly fake interview with the Chairman of the Chinese Banking and Regulatory Commission, CDE is history. Take home message? Same as the one Mrs Albion taught me in primary school - lies are bound to catch up with you sooner or later, best not to tell big ones!

Chris Devonshire Ellis really was a relic of the nineties. Yes, there was a time when foreigners could show up in China with zero qualifications, pose as experts, and be believed by people who had zero knowledge of the country. Foreign experts are still favoured by many over locals due to cultural/social issues (and possibly closet racism), and foreign experts are still necessary due to the added insight and expertise they bring, but fake experts can no longer expect to prosper for long. If you lie, and try to maintain those lies in an environment like the internet, eventually you're going to get burned.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Ma Yingjiu interview - check it out

I have to admit that lately I have not been following Taiwanese affairs as closely as I used to, but on a recent perusal through the Taipei Times I came across this extremely interesting interview with Taiwanese President Ma Yingjiu, money quote:

Taipei Times: Do you think Taiwan is a normal country?

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九): The Taiwanese people elect their own president and legislature and govern themselves. Do you think that is normal or not normal?


You see, to my mind a lot of the doom and gloom about Ma Yingjiu being ready to sell Taiwan out to the mainland has never made much sense. Even on the cynical interpretation of Ma's actions - why would he plot to give away the powers which he enjoys as president?

Why Afghanistan is not Taiwan . .

. . . and no, it's not because Afghanistan doesn't have much in the way of 'Betel-Nut Beauties'. I left a comment on a thread on David Rothkopf's blog on America's worst enemies explaining why the KMT's China was, in my opinion, the worst friend America ever had. A commenter then asked why Taiwan under the KMT had managed to succeed where mainland China had failed, I gave my best shot at an answer - which another commenter called J Thomas then compared to Afghanistan as it is today in a way that was totally on the money:

1) Unlike mainland China, the Japanese, although ruthless in beating down opposition to colonial rule, had built an efficient civil service,

Efficient civil service.

2) decent infrastructure

Decent infrastructure.

3) and education,

Education.

4) and the beginnings of a strong national industry.

National industry.

5) Throw in the much greater ease of managing an island without having to juggle regional warlords who only obeyed central government when it suited them,

No regional warlords.

6) as well as substantial US/Japanese aid post-war,

Substantial US aid.

7) and you have the tiger economy that still largely exists on Taiwan.

So, what does Afghanistan have going for it?



(my comments in italics)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

I believe this is called "self-pwnage" : Chris Devonshire-Ellis interview with CBRC Chairman "pure fabrication"

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I have had my run-ins with a certain Mr. Christopher Devonshire-Ellis. Not only has he demonstrably lied about his qualifications but he also used the Mumbai terrorist attacks as a prop for corporate publicity and has threatened bloggers who link to these articles with having their websites/businesses shut down by his government 'friends'. Bloggers he has threatened include Ryan of Lost Laowai, Dan Harris at China Law Blog, and Chinese blogger Wang Jian Shuo.

Now, I personally always half suspected that Chris wasn't nearly so well-connected with the Chinese government as his website made him out to be. Imagine my surprise therefore, when I read this interview with Liu Mingkang, Chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission written by Chris Devonshire-Ellis, which included this tidbit:

Devonshire-Ellis
You know I’m going to ask this, and I suspect I know the answer you’re going to give – will there be any movement in the RMB position this year?

Liu
You always ask me this question! We have studied the RMB position at length, and remember it is tied not just to the U.S. dollar but to a basket of currencies specifically to give it balance. We are satisfied it has reached its correct valuation. Politicians, especially from the United States always seem to argue our position, whichever way it goes. But it is in the global markets benefit for us to maintain a balanced currency and to manage it in a responsible manner. This year, as we face a decline in exports and unemployment in China rises, the RMB may weaken. But longer term, our economy is growing and it is inevitable our currency will gain in strength. We have explained our position at great length recently to the G7 and they understand where we’re coming from. In fact we have taken great steps to ensure we are providing our own economy with stimulating domestic demand, and to maintain at least some growth in a global market that elsewhere is shrinking, or has moved into negative territory. A stable and globally balanced RMB is what is needed to manage the current situation, and that is what we have achieved.


Why was I surprised? Well firstly, as I said, I hadn't actually believed that Chris was as well-connected as all that, and secondly, because for a Chinese official to say that the RMB "may weaken" would actually be quite big news. Indeed, it was widely reported.

Unfortunately for Chris, the CBRC deny that Liu made such a statement, in fact they deny that the interview even took place:

The website CHINA-BRIEFING published an article on Feb 18, 2009 with CBRC Chairman’s photo and opinions. The CBRC hereby makes the statement that no CBRC officials have been interviewed by this media or by the author of this article. This news is a pure fabrication.


(my emphasis)

Chris has said that the report was due to "an error in transcript and translation" it is hard to see how a translation error could result in an interview a page long in which Chris has a friendly back-and-forth with a Chinese official at his own offices. Furthermore, why does Chris, who claims to be fluent in Mandarin, need translation?

[Update]

Chris has taken the interview down, but Chris, baby, it's far too late for that - not now that this fraud has been reported far and wide. Now where was that 'case file' that you were threatening to 'action'?

[Update #2]

China Law Blog thinks anyone who lost money on this may have cause of action against the person who fabricated the report - check it out here.

[Update #3]

Following on twitter, CDE has taken down all of his ministerial 'interviews' going right back to 2007 - were they 'fabrication' also?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The more things change . . . .

"We did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be."

“We had no reason ... to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports.”


Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, protesting threats made by the Obama government that they would cease intelligence sharing should the court make public evidence of the use of torture to extract information, in today's ruling on the case of Binyam Mohammed.

[Update]

Yes, the Obama administration most definitely did reiterate the original threat:

The threat has sparked an angry reaction in London after Lord Justice John Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones told the court lawyers for Mr Miliband had made clear the threat represented too great a risk to national security to be ignored.

The court was also told that Mr Mohamed's lawyers had tested the new administration of President Barack Obama and that the warning stood.

British newspapers highlighted the hypocrisy of the statement, particularly as it emerged just 24 hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made much of the "special relationship" between the two countries.


[Update #2]

Andrew Sullivan's comment on this is also pertinent:

[The US government's warnings are] . . a threat to hurt the security of a very close ally unless the British government intervenes into a court process to suppress evidence of US torture. In a critical test of the Obama administration, the demand that such evidence be suppressed was reiterated. (I don't know by whom. Panetta isn't in place yet. Brennan? Clinton?) And that's how illegal torture spreads throughout a legal and military system to undermine alliances as well as the rule of law. The poison of Cheney is still in the system. And it will be for a long time.