Explainer: Hong Kong Government’s Request for NPCSC Interpretation of National Security Law in Jimmy Lai Case

Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and media tycoon, has been indicted on four national security charges and was scheduled to stand trial on Thursday. (The government has asked the court to postpone the trial in light of the development discussed below.) He is being accused of violating Hong Kong’s seditious publications law and of conspiring to “collude with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security” under the Law on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR (NSL) [香港特别行政区维护国家安全法].

Recently, Lai retained Timothy Owen, an experienced British barrister, to lead his defense team. Owen, as one Hong Kong court recognized, is a “renowned specialist in criminal, public and human rights law, with substantial experience in cases concerning national security and freedom of speech.” He has appeared before Hong Kong courts in the past but is not admitted to the Hong Kong bar. Over the Hong Kong government’s objection, the Court of First Instance allowed Owen to represent Lai on an ad hoc basis. After having suffered a streak of losses on appeal, the government on Monday decided to seek help from the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), which has the ultimate authority to interpret the NSL. Below, we will discuss the legal battle fought in Hong Kong courts, the government’s request for NPCSC intervention, and what to expect next.

Continue reading “Explainer: Hong Kong Government’s Request for NPCSC Interpretation of National Security Law in Jimmy Lai Case”

Constitutional Review in Lawmaking and Emergency Legislation: A First Look at Draft Amendments to China’s Legislation Law

Cover of a hard copy of the Legislation Law

Last month, China’s national legislature, the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC), reviewed draft amendments to the Legislation Law [立法法] (Draft), an important statute with semi-constitutional status. The Law, in sum, has three functions: it demarcates the authority of various law/rule-making bodies; regulates (to varying extent) their legislative procedures (in particular those of the national legislature); and prescribes a hierarchy of legal norms, along with attendant rules on how to apply conflicting norms and mechanisms for resolving such conflicts (the so-called “recording and review” [备案审查] process). Today, to engage with China’s legal developments—whether as part of research, commentary, reporting, advocacy, or doing business—it is increasingly crucial to understand the type of legislative power a governmental body has and the process whereby it issues binding rules.

The Draft would bring about changes in all three areas: authority, procedure, and hierarchy. Some of the changes are technical, some are substantive but not ground-breaking, others are confusing and require clarification, while a few do deserve attention now, especially from those interested in submitting comments (the comments period closes on November 29). Below we highlight two that fall in the last category. As the Draft may undergo moderate to substantial revisions, we will publish a more thorough summary after its second review, expected in December. A final review by the full NPC is expected next March.

Continue reading “Constitutional Review in Lawmaking and Emergency Legislation: A First Look at Draft Amendments to China’s Legislation Law”

NPCSC Session Watch: Women’s Rights, Accessibility, Administrative & Lawmaking Reforms, Military Reservists & More

Photo by Jakub Pabis on Unsplash

The Council of Chairpersons decided on Thursday, October 13 to convene the 37th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from October 26 to 30, shortly after the Communist Party’s upcoming 20th National Congress (to open on October 16) closes. Seven bills are on the tentative agenda, which we preview below.

Continue reading “NPCSC Session Watch: Women’s Rights, Accessibility, Administrative & Lawmaking Reforms, Military Reservists & More”

Recording & Review: Ensuring Single Women’s Equal Access to Maternity Insurance (Updated)

UPDATE (Nov. 8, 2022): We have posted a full English translation of Prof. Liang’s request for review.

Image by xiongwu from freepick

Maternity insurance [生育保险] is one of the five programs that make up China’s social insurance system. Funded by employer contributions, maternity insurance reimburses women for pregnancy- and childbirth-related medical expenses and offers them a source of income during maternity leave. In all provinces except Guangdong, however, single women have been ineligible for maternity insurance benefits. Local legislation requires claimants to provide their marriage license or some other government-issued document available only to married couples, in effect barring single women from obtaining the benefits. In a legal battle that spanned four years, Zou Xiaoqi, a single mother from Shanghai, repeatedly challenged the city’s discriminatory policy in court but ultimately to no avail. (In late 2020, Shanghai suddenly dropped the marriage requirement, but reversed course just a few months later.)

Continue reading “Recording & Review: Ensuring Single Women’s Equal Access to Maternity Insurance (Updated)”

Legislation Summary: China’s New Law to Fight Telecom and Internet Fraud

Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

Telecom and online fraud has grown rampant in China in the past decade. According to the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), scammers have defrauded victims of more than 35 billion RMB (~5 billion USD) in 2020 alone. In 2021, public security organs nationwide cracked over 394,000 cases of telecom and online fraud and arrested over 630,000 suspects. Meanwhile, the crime of aiding criminal activities on information networks (including telecom and online fraud) has become the third most-prosecuted crime in China, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) recently disclosed.

At the same time, fraudsters continue to upgrade their tactics and operations. They take advantage of new technologies to reach more potential victims and to evade prosecution. Relying on leaked or stolen sensitive personal information, they also target susceptible victims with precision by impersonating police officers and other government officials or by exploiting the victim’s personal circumstances. As domestic crackdown intensifies, many scammers have moved their operations overseas to regions such as northern Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. According to the SPC, as of mid-2021, more than 60% of telecom- and online-fraud cases now originate from overseas “hotspots.”

Since 2020, national criminal justice authorities, telecom regulator, and the central bank have launched multiple joint operations to crack down on the illegal trade in SIM cards as well as bank cards and other payment accounts. The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) has also worked with immigration authorities to break up rings that smuggle people overseas to become scammers. In addition, the SPC, SPP, and MPS have released two joint opinions to clarify the application of related crimes and criminal procedural rules in telecom- and online-fraud cases.

The new Law Against Telecom and Online Fraud [反电信网络诈骗法], adopted by the NPC Standing Committee on September 2, is the latest official action to tackle such crimes. It supplements criminal statutes by prescribing administrative punishments for those who organize or otherwise directly participate in less serious cases of telecom and online fraud (art. 38, para. 2). The bulk of its provisions, however, focus on preventing such fraud from occurring in the first place. Below we take a close look at this new law.

Continue reading “Legislation Summary: China’s New Law to Fight Telecom and Internet Fraud”