Human rights in a frenzied time

Otto Malmgren LL.M, Senior Program Officer, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (University of Oslo) and guest researcher at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Law (Beijing) ((


Since before China was awarded the 29th Olympic Games in 2001 ‘human rights’ has been a focus point for all cooperation with China, at least on the political arena. No foreign politician could travel to China and come away with not pressing the regime on a number of issues ranging from torture, suspected extreme death penalty numbers and denial of justice, to persecution of dissidents and blatant discrimination of minority peoples and religious groups. However, after China won the bid, this attention only got stronger. The Chinese response towards the outside has been a paradoxical combination of indignant outrage and apologetic developmental argumentation, making both true claims of fantastic developments in living standards for a large portion of the Chinese people. And while perhaps less true claims of effective protection of forty-odd constitutional rights and freedoms are made, some critical discourse on human rights issues within its borders has been steadily developing. However, in the months running up to the Beijing Games this discourse seems to have dwindled to nothing. Well, almost anyway.

After the farmer activist Yang Chunlin was detained in February of his open letter titled “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics”,[1] Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yang Jiechi, responded to international criticism with the following statement; “No one will get arrested because he said that human rights are more important than the Olympics. This is impossible. Ask 10 people from the street to face public security officers and ask them to say ‘human rights are more important than the Olympics’ 10 times or even 100 times, and I will see which security officer would put him in jail.” This seemed to close the door on the official human rights discussions in China, at least until the middle of July when the government felt compelled to ensure that there has been “[n]o ‘dissident’ arrested for [the sake of] Games’ security,” stating that such accusations are untrue and groundless.[2] Others seem to disagree.

Yang Chunlin was eventually sentenced to five years in prison in March for “inciting subversion of state power”, and the detention, harassment and persecution of a large number of activist, lawyers and organizations continue to be reported from within China.[3] Although the message seems to have come through and the domestic critical discourse on the issue has been effectively silenced, and subsequent debates have been careful at least not to formulate themselves within a human rights vocabulary, the official distrust towards proponents of human rights related issues such as HIV/AIDS, environmental activism, minority autonomy, rights defenders continues. All this seems to be, as Amnesty puts it, “occurring not in spite of the Olympics, but actually because of the Olympics.”[4] However, the conclusion often heard from Chinese lawyers and activists on the quick paced regression on rights guarantees in China, is largely limited to an international audience, and is not a part of a larger public debate within China.

The issue of human rights is obviously of such a sensitive nature that even positive developments are passed over in relative silence. The Chinese government’s willingness to shoulder further international obligations through the recent ratifications of both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the latter would seem most natural considering China hosting the 13th Paralympic Games in September – have unfortunately only seen fleeting domestic mention (not counting English language press), and even less in the way of international attention (despite the informative attempts by the Chinese government). Furthermore, ample evidence – although sometimes anecdotal – reveal several initiatives and measures in recent months to place difficult issues on the agenda, such as the abolishment of the Reeducation through Labor system, reemergence of the Supreme People’s Court’s death penalty review procedures, and stabs at increasing intra-Party pluralism. Yet, the overshadowing concerns for harmony and stability seem to even reduce these issues to headlines and little more. National and international conferences on human rights issues has been cancelled or postponed indefinitely, and the publication of human rights related materials not directly sanctioned by the government is strongly discouraged. Perhaps the failure of the February government White Paper on rule of law to make the standard observations on the future ratification of the UN Covenant of Civil and Political Rights could be considered a suitable illustration of the political temperature in the country, at least at the time some Chinese scholars were in private finding this a telling development.

Of course, any human rights discourse would have had to compete with a perfect storm of all-consuming events over the last few months. Starting and ending with natural catastrophes, Chinese society, media, ‘blogosphere’ and everyday life has been torn between frenzied nationalism and feverish despair, eventually leaving little room for a discussion about little else, not the least human rights. The dissatisfied grumbling over the governments handling of the snow and ice disaster during the Chinese New Years’ celebration was eventually taken over by the reemerging questioning of foreign concern for Chinese engagement in the Sudan, eventually drawing little response from the Chinese community. Any concern was sharply broken off by the 15 March riots in Lhasa and the following repercussions in and around traditionally Tibetan areas. The official response was largely formulated in a disbelieving anger over petulant minority criminals led by foreign forces, and any attempts within China to negotiate a more careful evaluation of the March riots were met with the wrath of the Chinese ‘netizens’. These events blended ominously with the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay, which ended in a public relations mayhem for French public security authorities and contributed to stoking the fires in the increasingly vociferous Chinese national pride. And when Chinese students in Seoul started mixing up freedom of speech with violence, the government had no other choice but to express meek support for the students’ acts – anything else would have been unpatriotic.

In the meantime, foreign media supplied government media and internet nationalists with sufficient ammunition for rather strong arguments of anti-China sentiments. By conflating the Chinese engagement – or lack thereof – in the Sudan (Darfur) conflict, Tibetan independence and the violent response to the Lhasa riots, political boycott
of the opening ceremony, and the general concerns for human rights issues in China leading up to the Olympic Games, it created a situation so complex and – for Chinese – so threatening that it brought frustration and indignation even to usual system critics. When CNN commentator Jack Cafferty made his “goons and thugs” comment, showing a certain lack of fingerspitzgefühl, it was just added as another general statement of foreign perception of China further confirming the sentiments represented at – a website set up by a 23 year old student “to expose the lies and distortions in the western media.” Any further qualification of Cafferty’s statement was discredited as an attempt to foment discord between the government and the people of China. The public response in China was overwhelmingly supportive of the government, and the continued perceived international criticism of China and the Chinese eventually reawakened a long-time “human rights tiredness” among many, turning any human rights questions into a negative. As was observed to a Norwegian newspaper recently in response to the last few months’ China bashing media frenzy; “Human rights are bullshit.” Whether or not the criticisms of China are deserved or not remains for the time being beyond the domestic discourse, despite attempts by domestic liberal media to point out inconsistencies in the Chinese patriotic response. This self-righteous nationalism will probably remain the legacy of the events during the spring of 2008.

Just when things were quieting down, the torch had completed its difficult international tour and started its far more harmonious domestic tour, and the final preparations for the Games could commence – nature struck. The devastating 8.0 Richter scale earthquake in Sichuan left China in shock and in the hands of the largest humanitarian disaster China has faced since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. While the Chinese people rediscovered a national solidarity among the rubble of the many collapsed schools, the disaster also left the government open for a new round of critical remarks. Shoddy construction and lack of funds left thousands of children dead under the rubble, and the grieving parents search for closure put the local governments on the spot. Accusations of corruption, ineffective governance and abuse of powers shamed the government into action with new instructions to pay more attention to the grievances of the people, but the focus on stability over all other concerns ahead of the Olympic games has put limits on the tolerance for complaints, and reporting and investigations into contributing factors to the magnitude of the Sichuan disaster was quickly banned, leaving many without answers or closure. The persistent questioning by the survivors is increasingly met with vilification, just as other prior and subsequent protests are either disregarded as actions of mal-contents subject to administrative sanctions or even subjected to criminal proceedings.

Concerns for nationalism, anti-terrorism, territorial integrity and a successful Beijing Games are thought to warrant all and any limitations on individual rights for the time being, and largely overshadow any rights discourse in China. The key being social stability and harmony, however, these goals are quite out of tune with the often draconian measures employed to achieve them. Next year China’s human rights situation will be placed under the scrutiny of the UN Human Rights Council through the mandatory universal periodic review. One can only expect increased focus on human rights in China, and only hope that the Chinese authorities will respond with tolerance and openness to domestic concerns.

[1] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “Activist Yang Chunlin Tried for Demanding Human Rights Prior to the Olympics”, 2008.02.19[2] The Telegraph, “China denies arrests over Beijing Olympics”, 2008.02.29,, last accessed 2008.07.17[3] See e.g. Chinese Human Rights Defenders web pages for details on individual cases ([4] Amnesty International, “People’s Republic of China The Olympics countdown – crackdown on activists threatens Olympics legacy”, ASA 17/050/2008, 2008.04.01

Norsk-kinesisk menneskerettighetsdialog: mer enn diplomati og formelle møter?

Cecilie Figenschou Bakke Director, China Programme, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo ((


Hva er bakgrunnen for at Kina valgte å innlede bilaterale dialoger om menneskerettigheter med land som Norge, Canada og Australia på midten av 1990 tallet? Innlegget presenterer de tre nivå som kjennetegner den norsk-kinesiske dialogen og gir en kort presentasjon av akademisk samarbeid om menneskerettigheter mellom Norge og Kina. Hovedformålet med samarbeidet er å bygge opp forsknings- og undervisningskompetanse om menneskerettigheter blant kinesiske forskere og ved kinesiske universitet. Dette fordi flere sentrale akademiske miljøer i Kina spiller en viktig rolle i forhold til det pågående reformarbeidet. For flere av prosjektene på menneskerettighetsutdanning er det inngått et tett samarbeid med institusjoner i Sverige og Danmark.

På begynnelsen av 1990 tallet var Kina utsatt for sterk kritikk i FNs menneskerettighetskommisjon (som nå er erstattet av menneskerettighetsrådet). I 1996-1998 foretok derfor kinesiske myndigheter nye strategiske grep for å komme kritikerne i møte. De signerte to av FNs hovedkonvensjoner på menneskerettområdet (1) konvensjonen om økonomiske, sosiale og kulturelle rettigheter i 1996 og (2) konvensjonen om sivile og politiske rettigheter i 1998. I tillegg inviterte de til dialog om menneskerettigheter med noen få utvalgte land, deriblant Norge, Canada og Australia. Kritikken stilnet men til gjengjeld fikk dialoglandene mulighet til å diskutere menneskerettigheter mer dyptgående med kinesisk side. Det er mange kritiske innvendinger mot dialogene, deriblant at den viktige debatten om menneskerettigheter i Kina føres med enkeltland i stedet for i åpne bilaterale prosesser i FN. Dialogprosessene er også relativt lukket og lite informasjon når offentligheten.[1] Det er viktig med et sterkt og kritisk søkelys på dialogmetoden, men, når dialogene diskuteres fokuseres det mest på de årlige møtene som er av mer offisiell karakter. Det som ikke har kommet like godt frem er det langsiktige prosjektsamarbeid mellom utenlandske og kinesiske partnere som har sprunget ut av dialogene. Dette er konkrete og praktiske prosjekt som har bidratt til å bygge kompetanse og kunnskap om menneskerettigheter blant viktige samfunnsaktører i Kina.

“Store problemer med menneskerettighetene i kombinasjon med et forbedringspotensial gjennom dialog og kontakt” var den formelle grunnen til at Norge i 1997 ønsket å etablere en formell dialog om menneskerettigheter med Kina.[2] Den norsk-kinesiske dialogen defineres som bredere enn de årlige møtene, og kan sies å foregå på tre nivå. På nivå én finner det sted årlige politiske konsultasjoner på viseministernivå, og disse foregår bak lukkede dører. Men, i forbindelse med konsultasjonene arrangeres det også større rundebordsmøter. De første årene var deltakerne ved disse møtene i hovedsak representanter fra de to lands departementer, men etter hvert har et stadig større antall institusjoner og organisasjoner fra det sivile samfunn blitt invitert med (deriblant flere forskningsinstitusjoner, advokat- og legeforeninger, Amnesty og Den norske Helsingforskomite). Rundebordsmøtene kan sees som nivå to og fungerer som en viktig møteplass for norske og kinesiske aktører. De større åpnings- og avslutningssesjonene foregår i plenum, hvor også pressen har deltatt siden 2006. I tillegg er det etablert mindre tematiske arbeidsgrupper, hvor mer konkrete diskusjoner finner sted. Fra norsk side har det vært et uttalt ønske om å ha tematisk kontinuitet slik at man kan diskutere mer i dybden og over lengre tid. Siden 2003 har fokus vært på fangers og arrestanters rettigheter samt arbeidstakerrettigheter. I 2006 ble det også etablert en egen arbeidsgruppe på minoriteters rettigheter, med eget feltbesøk til Xinjiang provinsen i forbindelse med Beijing-møtet i juni. De ulike arbeidsgruppen kommer frem til egne sluttrapporter som presenteres til plenum under avslutningssesjonen.

De årlige dialogmøtene støtter de opp om nivå tre i dialogen som består av en rekke konkrete samarbeidsprosjekt som utvikles mellom aktørene og gjennomføres gjennom hele året. Kinaprogrammet ved Senter for Menneskerettigheter (SMR) kom til som et resultat av dialogen i 1997 og har etablert samarbeid om menneskerettigheter med et stort antall kinesiske akademiske institusjoner. For flere av prosjektene, deriblant menneskerettighetsutdanning av jurister, har det vært et tett nordisk samarbeid med Dansk Institutt for Menneskerettigheter (DIHR) og Raoul Wallenberg Instituttet (RWI) i Sverige. Andre sentrale aktører i Norge, som Næringslivets Hovedorganisasjon (NHO) og fagforeningen LO, har nært samarbeid med sine respektive partnere i det kinesiske arbeidsliv. Prosjekter på bedriftenes samfunnsansvar (CSR), kollektive forhandliger og trepartssystemet har foregått over flere år. Også flere andre norske aktører, som Den norske Legeforening, Sivilombudsmannen og Den Norske Advokatforening har, med økonomisk støtte fra utenriksdepartementet og rådgivning fra SMR, etablert direkte samarbeid med sine kinesiske partnere i forlengelsen av dialogmøtene.

Det er store begrensninger på ytringsfriheten, spesielt for kinesiske grupper og enkeltindivider som opptrer “aktivistisk” eller tar opp spørsmål og som utfordrer kommunistpartiets legitimitet eller sosial stabilitet i Kina. I forberedelsene til OL kan det se ut som om det har blitt strammet inn på hva som aksepteres av debatt og ytringer. Dette for å sikre at ingen skader Kinas image eller gjennomføringen av et vellykket sportsarrangement. Flere institusjoner og organisasjoner har blitt bedt om å ikke engasjere seg i menneskerettighetsprosjekter i 2008 “i hvert fall ikke før etter OL”. Flere internasjonale konferanser og møter har blitt avlyst, og det er også en merkbart større skepsis til utenlandske prosjekt i Kina. [3]

Men under normale omstendigheter gis sentrale akademiske miljøer i Kina rom for å delta i debatter om viktige spørsmål angående menneskerettighetene. Dette gjelder blant annet diskusjoner om tortur, rettsikkerhet, diskriminering, og rettighetsbeskyttelse for svake grupper i samfunnet. Ett eksempel er den nye loven om kontrakter i arbeidslivet som ble iverksatt fra 1. januar 2008. Forberedelsene til loven inkluderte en bred offentlig høringsrunde initiert av myndighetene, og åpen diskusjon i fagmiljøer og kinesisk presse. Utenlandsk samarbeid med akademikere er viktig fordi det kan bidra til å øke deres kunnskap om sentrale menneskerettighetsstandarder, noe som igjen kan spille inn på pågående reformarbeid. Med utgangspunkt i de internasjonalt vedtatte menneskerettighetsnormene samarbeider Kinaprogrammet derfor med akademiske institusjoner og forskere i Kina om temaer som fri rettshjelp, kvinners rettigheter, ikke-diskriminering i arbeidslivet, religionsfrihet og sist men ikke minst utdanning i internasjonale menneskerettigheter og produksjon av lærebokmateriale og fagbøker til utdanning og forskning.

Spørsmålet er selvsagt om slikt prosjektarbeid kan gi result
ater i et større perspektiv. Det å måle forbedring av menneskelige rettigheter på nasjonalt nivå er mildt sagt en metodisk utfordring. Det er et stort antall internasjonale aktører som arbeider med menneskerettigheter og rettsreformer i Kina, og det er vanskelig å peke på at det er spesielle enkeltprosjekter som helt konkret har vært de som har bidratt til endring. Men, om man skal oppsummere mer enn 10 års samarbeid med Kina, er det muligvis ett område med små, men viktige fremskritt, hvor den norske og nordiske innsatsen kan sies å ha hatt en effekt.

Gitt at det var lite kunnskap om menneskerettigheter internt i Kina på slutten av 1990-tallet ble menneskerettighetsutdanning tidlig et prioritert område fra norsk side. Og for å undervise trenger man bøker. I 2002 kom den aller første læreboka (på kinesisk) om internasjonale menneskerettigheter ut i Kina. Boka var støttet av Kinaprogrammet ved SMR , og resultat av et flere års samarbeid med China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) og Foreign Affairs College i Beijing. En stor del av opplaget på 3000 ble distribuert gratis til universiteter og bibliotek omkring i landet og boka er fortsatt i bruk ved universitet i Kina. De senere år har det skjedd en svært positiv utvikling ved at nye kinesiske tekstbøker, initiert av kinesiske forskere, kommer ut på markedet og tas i bruk ved kinesiske læresteder.

Kurs og seminarer om menneskerettigheter har vært et naturlig satsningsområde for Kinaprogrammet, og flere av aktivitetene har blitt gjennomført i samarbeid med DIHR og RWI i tillegg til lokale kinesiske partnere. Menneskerettighetsundervisning var i begynnelsen svært følsomt for kineserne og det første nordiske treukers intensivkurs for jurister, arrangert i Jilin i 2001, ble i sin helhet filmet av myndighetene, og stemningen var anspent. Et definitivt gjennombrudd for menneskerettighetsundervisning skjedde senere samme år da det kinesiske utdanningsdepartementet ga tillatelse til å starte universitetskurs i menneskerettigheter. For våre kinesiske samarbeidspartnere ble det dermed lettere å få tillatelse til å kjøre kurs med kinesiske og utenlandske forelesere. Siden 2001 har man, gjennom den nordiske innsatsen og sammen med kinesiske universitetspartnere, gitt intensivkurs i internasjonale menneskerettigheter (på 2-3 uker) til over 200 kinesiske jurister. Mange av disse er involvert i undervisningen ved de mer enn 20 universitetene hvor man i dag kan studere internasjonale menneskerettigheter i Kina. Det er ved disse kinesiske juridiske fakultet at neste generasjon dommere, advokater og jurister skal utdannes. I tillegg finnes det i dag kunnskap om menneskerettigheter ved partiskoler og fagforeningscollege omkring i Kina. Siden 2005 har også Kinaprogrammet satt opp separate kurs for universitetslærere fra de mer fattige vestlige provinsene i Kina. Kursene kjøres på kinesisk og gir mulighet til å inkludere flere deltakere fra områder som Tibet, Xinjiang og indre Mongolia. Mange av deltakerne ønsker nå å starte opp undervisning ved sine hjemmeuniversitet, og forhåpentligvis vil man kunne se mye av den samme positive utviklingen som ved de større universitetene i Øst-Kina.

Det kreves balansekunst å drive dialog og samarbeid med et land som er så stort og komplekst som Kina. Landet har oppnådd enormt mye siden reformene startet i 1978, blant annet en sterk økonomisk vekst og betydelig fattigdomsreduksjon. Men, det er fortsatt enorme utfordringer å ta tak i, økonomisk, sosialt og ikke minst politisk. Flere viktige reformer og debatter er satt litt i bakgrunnen gitt vårens dramatiske hendelser i Tibet og det forestående OL i Beijing (ratifisering av FNs konvensjon for sivile og politiske rettigheter (SP) og forholdet mellom SP og nasjonale lover, RETL reform etc.). Men, flere nye lover som regulerer arbeidslivet, (f.eks. Contract Law og Employment Promotion Law og Labour Arbitration Law effektive fra våren 2008), er eksempler på at noe av reformarbeidet har kunnet ferdigstilles samtidig med forberedelsen til OL. Dette til tross for økende forsiktighet og mindre åpen debatt internt i Kina.

Det er vanskelig å forutse hva som vil være den videre utvikling etter at OL og Paralympics avsluttes. Vårens hendelser har helt klart vist at Kina har opparbeidet seg større selvsikkerhet vis a vis det internasjonale samfunn når det gjelder å forvare nasjonal politikk og interne anliggende; spesielt om rettighetskrav anses å utfordre kinesisk stabilitet og nasjonal sikkerhet. En dialogtretthet kan også merkes fra kinesisk side, og dialog kan vise seg å bli et mindre effektivt virkemiddel for å fremme internasjonale standarder i årene fremover. Verken Norge eller de nordiske land kan løse Kinas menneskerettighetsproblemer, dét kan bare kineserne selv gjøre. Det er derfor viktig å opprettholde et trykk utenifra og krav om overholdelse av internasjonale standarder på de områder hvor kinesiske myndigheter har forpliktet seg. Håpet er at lovende reformer innefor ulike rettighetsområder blir videreført i Kina og at utenlandsk samarbeid med kinesiske aktører i det politiske, administrative og akademiske system fortsetter, uavhengig av hva som skjer i forbindelse med OL.

* Cand Polit (statsvitenskap) med hovedoppgave om forholdet mellom Kina og Vietnam. Cand. Mag (sosialantropologi, statsvitenskap og kulturforståelse). Bloginnlegget tar utgangspunkt i en kronikk skrevet for Norsk Dagblad i samarbeid med Koen Wellens. De norske prosjektene som nevnes her er de som er direkte støttet av det norske utenriksdepartement som den del av dialogen med Kina. Det finnes et stort antall norske bistandsprosjekter i Kina (direkte støttet av den norske bistandsorganisasjonen NORAD) som ikke nevnes her.

[1] For et kritisk blikk på dialogarbeidet se f.eks: S. Woodman og C. Samdup (2005) Canada’s bilateral human rights dialogue with China:considerations for a policy review. Briefing paper for Rights and Democracy, S. Woodman (2004) Bilateral aid to improve human rights. Donors need to adopt a more coherent and thoughtful strategy. In Perspectives Chinoises 51, 28-49.[2] Se mer om dialog på hjemmesiden til det norske utenriksdepartement:[3] Samtaler med forskere i akademiske miljøer og ulike organisasjoner i Kina og Hong Kong, feltbesøk oktober 2007 og april 2008.

Promoting the human rights essence of CSR in China

Mads Holst Jensen Adviser, Ph.D., The Human Rights & Business Project, The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) (

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By the mid 1990s, the CSR wave hit China and its introduction can be seen as a process. Initially, CSR was conceived of almost entirely as demands placed on Chinese companies by Western business associates. This conception has certainly survived to the present day, but from the early 21st century on we have seen a rapid increase in CSR projects based on multi-stakeholder engagement and partnerships that aim at step-by-step progress to pave the way from Chinese realities to CSR ideals. Increasing Chinese ownership for CSR is the basic thrust of this process and it yields promising results. However, the essence of CSR should remain intact throughout the process and therefore we need a common language to guide it.

The first and second principles of the UN Global Compact manifestly establish the key role of human rights for business. Human rights laws have proved their practical and theoretical worth and combining reliability and flexibility human rights laws offer an adequate framework for a common language for standards that stay the same in essence despite fluctuations in business practices and contexts.

Promoting human rights and business in China does at times seem like fighting an up-hill battle with two fronts. One front results from the fact that addressing human rights issues is still controversial in China. The other front is resulting from the fact that concern for responsibility and sustainability in a broader perspective all too rarely matches up with concern for short term survival in an environment of relentless competition. This problem is part of reality for all companies around the world and it becomes no less real in China often playing a key role in “a race to the bottom” with other countries of similar status in the global value chains. At the same time, China’s integration and gradual ascend in these value chains result in emerging acknowledgement of the fact that compliance with international standards is the most viable way forward.

In this short blog-posting I will sketch our work on China at the Human Rights & Business Project of the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR)

Setting the scene

To some extent, the conventional Chinese saying, “take Chinese learning as the essence and Western learning for its utility” (zhongti xiyong ????) epitomizes the Chinese reception of CSR. Part of the process of translating CSR into the Chinese context consists in comparing the concept to what is considered essentially Chinese. The Chinese tradition of business ethics is often highlighted as a predecessor of CSR. This argument implies sheer generalizations about CSR as well as the Chinese past, but still, Chinese business ethics scholars have developed and expounded it for more than a decade now. Representatives of Chinese business also share the notion that CSR does correspond to Chinese realities, past and present.

The Chinese government expresses commitment to promote common prosperity and equity under the concept of “Harmonious Society” and in this context it comes close to expressing endorsement of human rights. For instance, the declaration of The 2005 GoTone-Nanchang International Forum of Constructing Harmonious Society and Corporate Social Responsibility of October 2005, which is commonly recognized to be among the very first CSR forums organized at the government level in China, brings signals to that effect:

“[..] those basic conceptions in terms of human rights, employee, environment, anti-corruption, etc in the Global Compact sponsored by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan are basically the same as those endorsed by the human-entered strategies of the Chinese government”

However, the fact that there are overlaps between Western CSR and Chinese preconceptions does not imply full assimilation of the former into the latter. In effect, this would lead to a kind of one-way communication in which the essence of CSR is getting lost in translation, so to speak. In stead, it is important that Western and Chinese actors meet half-way to create a common language for CSR. This leads to the introduction of human rights and business. DIHR employs the partnership approach as the basis.

The partnership approach of DIHR

International human rights organizations play an important role in pointing to and documenting violations of human rights by the Chinese government, while the approach of DIHR is to support the development of viable institutions and enhance the human rights capacity of stakeholders within the country. The two methods supplement each other and are part of the same struggle.

The partnership approach adopted by DIHR for our work in China has as its underlying motive and guiding parameter mutual understanding and respect between the partner and DIHR as well as the partner’s self-determination, professional integrity and ability to promote human rights in a politically sensitive environment. DIHR defines partnership as a form of cooperation based on joint planning, commonly agreed objectives and shared values for the promotion and protection of human rights, rule of law and the fundamental human rights values. Based on the partnership approach we are in the process of conducting the following four key projects concerning China.

Developing the China-specific HRCA Quick Check

The HRCA Quick Check is a diagnostic tool designed to help companies detect human rights issues with regard to their business operations, associates and all other stakeholders. It is based on a 6-year process of research and consultation involving representatives from over 100 companies, human rights organizations and international specialists and researchers.

The Human Rights & Business Project website offers free access to an interactive, computerized version of the tool (, as well as PDF versions translated into several languages, including Chinese (

Launched at the UN Global Compact Summit in Shanghai in 2005, the HRCA Quick Check is at the forefront of the human rights and business approach in China. To ensure optimal Chinese participation and ownership, we have produced a Chinese translation of the standard version of the tool. Currently, we are developing a China-specific version that targets the issues most relevant and challenging in the Chinese context and offers advice on how to tackle these issues.

Developing China-specific CSR training

Developing material and methodologies for CSR training that adequately appeals to a Chinese audience is the key objective of the project. Moreover, the project is based on a train-the-trainers format, which ensures enhanced impact of the project’s capacity building approach. The China-specific CSR training has the following features:

– Draws on a range of experiences with CSR training in China, including consultation with
a selection of organizations in China specialized in CSR training.

– Conducted by Chinese-speaking trainers

– Addresses staff as well as management

– Enhances CSR performance for all kinds of businesses in China; Chinese associates and suppliers constitute a key target group

– Based on systematic training material specially developed to fit the Chinese context and appeal to Chinese training participants

– Communication between staff and management to enhance CSR performance is a key priority of the training; there will be a focus on capacity building for staff representatives

Launching the updated China Country Risk Assessment (China CRA)

Originally published in 2005 the China CRA has been comprehensively updated to reflect the dynamic nature of Chinese law and practice. The full CRA, totalling nearly 200 pages, compiles detailed information on Chinese law, common labour practices, international regulations, risk proximity to company operations and management recommendations. The full China CRA includes nine Focal Areas summarizing the most urgent human rights issues for companies to confront as they manage Chinese operations or supply networks. Moreover, a Background Sheet is included with relevant information on Chinese economy, demographics, history, government, human rights challenges and recent developments. All of these sections have been significantly updated from the original version.

To reflect the ongoing risks faced by migrant workers, a Focal Area has been added with additional background and risk information on the specific challenges of applying human rights to China’s nearly 160 million ‘floating’ workers. Moreover, a special section of the Background Sheet is summarizing the major developments in legislation, including the recently implemented Labour Contract Law, Property Law and Employment Promotion Law. These developments are described in detail in the relevant sections of the full China CRA. The sections on freedom of association and trade unions have been reformulated to reflect the rapidly changing context in Chinese law and common practice and a new section addresses internet privacy that has emerged as major area of concern in recent years.

Rights of Migrant Workers in China – A DIHR Human Rights Programme

It is the overall aim of this three-year programme to achieve increased respect, formally and substantially, for the rights of migrants in China and compliance with existing human rights standards. In particular the focus is on enabling the partners to improve relevant labour laws affecting the situation of migrant workers as well as to contribute to a practical improvement of their conditions including an improved access to dispute resolution mechanisms and improved working conditions. The immediate objective of the programme is to contribute to the access of migrant workers in Beijing and in the Western part of China in particular to strengthened mechanisms of labour dispute prevention and resolution both formally and in practice.

One key element of the programme is aimed at the private sector. Training and other activities will be carried out to inspire an operational understanding of and commitment to the protection of the rights of migrants into participating companies.

Chinese Internet: The Sixth Chinese Internet Research Conference in Hong Kong

Jesper Schlaeger Master of Political Science, Copenhagen University (

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Guangzhou, 16 June

The sixth Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC convened on 13-14 June 2008 in Hong Kong, China. This year’s theme was: “Myth and Reality”. Maybe not a very innovative conference title, yet nonetheless it still seems to be necessary to weed out misunderstandings and exaggerated accounts of the hypothesized effects of the internet as a harbinger of social and political change in China.

The conference revealed a reserach community still struggling with the methodological and methodical challenges of moving to ‘cyber-soil’. Several survey studies had been conducted but they face serious challenges as far as validity is concerned.

A need for more critical approaches was espoused by Bu Wei. She had conducted a very impressive litterature review in order to find out, which methodologies and which research objects the previous research on Chinese internet applies. Among the important conclusions were that studies of accessibility (for handicapped people), gender etc. were underprioritized. Methodically there was an overweight of pre-scientific ‘guestimations’, yet as Bu’s study also showed there were several positive tendencies, as the later part of the sample included more studies based on sound social science methodology.

Exciting grounded theory based research was presented by Peter Marolt, whose PhD dissertation on geographical aspects of blogging will be forthcoming in about half a year.

A study of broad interest is Jens Damm’s analysis of the Chinese diaspora – an analysis of centuries of identity creation among Chinese emigrants of which the paper presented at the conference is only one of the chapters.

Jiang Min presented a paper on ‘authoritarian deliberation’ which resounded the discussions of ‘consultative authoritarianism’ this time moved into cyberspace. Definitely an interesting contribution to the discussion of public spaces, and a useful pointing out, that the internet enables a higher degree of public participation in political and social matters in China.

A lot of research attention is given to the ‘blogosphere’ where assertions of political dissent are quite widespread even though always downplaying direct critique and instead using more subtle ways of communicating disagreement. A number of prominent Chinese bloggers and internet media people participated in the panels which gave rise to a good debate and mutual learning between scholars and practitioners. For people interested in the Chinese blogosphere – but not proficient in Chinese – Roland Soong’s blog is a good place to get up-to-date (

The papers and presentation slides should be available on the conference website

Corruption control and remedies against administrative acts: Meritocratic civil service and reforms of administrative law

Karin Buhmann Associate Professor of legal science at the Institute of Food and Resource Economics at the University of Copenhagen (


This article gives an overview of law and governance in China focussing on the tradition of meritocratic governance which is having a renaissance with law-based recruitment reforms in the legal sector and parts of the public administration, as well as reforms of administrative law undertaken since 1989 which provide Chinese citizens with increased remedies against official abuse of power.

The tradition – a source and a constraint

It is well known that gunpowder, porcelain and (possibly thanks to Marco Polo) maybe even such a West-ish dish as pasta originate from China. It is less well-known that China has a more than two thousand year old legal system and a tradition of governance based on ‘good men’, set up to control against corruption and other forms of official abuse of power. Understanding of this system may make it easier to appreciate China’s course of reform and that human rights and rule of law may not be as foreign to China as the violations taking place during the second half of the 20th century, particularly during the legal nihilism of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) and the 1989 Tienanmen events may lead us to think. Even though Chinese leaders and academics are often reluctant to talk about China’s philophical and normative past based i.a. on the teachings of Confucius and applied during the imperial dynasties, as external observers we may do well to remind ourselves that China has a rich cultural, philosophical and even legal tradition. The latter comprised, i.a., a set of Codes dealing with criminal, administrative and civil law. Originating even before but refined during the Tang dynasty (618-907) when the Nordic countries were still in the late Iron Age, this code became a model for laws of later dynasties until the latter years of the final one, the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) when China set on a course of modernising its legal system based on Japan’s modern law which was itself inspired by the German and French legal systems of the late 19th century.

The meritocratic governance system was intended to ensure that the vast country which China was already then was ruled by bright and uncorrupt civil servants. Civil servants were trained in academies where they studied the teachings of Confucius. These teachings included a strong focus on morals according to which the ruler and his bureaucracy must apply their power to the benefit of all and not to that of themselves. As often observed in contemporary societies, corruption and other forms of official abuse of power almost invariably lead to violations of the population’s enjoyment of rights that we today consider human rights. Law-based administrative and criminal codes ensured that civil servants were not to be appointed to positions in provinces where they had personal or other interests, and that those who did not adhere to the Confucian moral code where punished. Punishments ranged from mere demotions to banishment to far-away provinces. Conversely, the system allowed those who observed the Confucian and legal codes and demonstrated the Confucian version of ‘good governance’ were promoted.

In principle, the academies and the civil service were open to all (males only, though), simply based on their merits. In practice, however, just like studies prove to be the case in many contemporary societies, the son of the learned man stood a better chance of acceptance into the academy, and thus of grounding a career as a civil servant, than the son of peasant. Entry to the civil service was based on exams to demonstrate the knowledge of the candidate.

A special corps of travelling civil servants (‘the censorate’) was charged with supervision of the civil service. The censors investigated on their own and were allowed to receive and handle complaints of abuse of power and bad governance.

Governance in China was based on this meritocratic system since its establishment 2500 years ago until the fall of the last imperial dynasty in 1911. Although it was not perfect and sometimes not observed, it demonstrates that tendencies to favour particular political allegiances and towards abuse of official power, tendencies that outside observers often associate with contemporary China, are not necessarily the Chinese way. Indeed, in later years reforms have been introduced to ease requirements of membership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for many government posts as well as in the legal system. Entry exams and educational requirements have been introduced for example for judges and prosecutors.

Perhaps even more of a surprising to many, the Chinese meritocratic system may have inspired meritocratic practices in Europe. The German legal and social scientist Max Weber (1864-1920) studied the Chinese system during the latter years of the final imperial dynastic times. He was impressed by the system and recommended its use. Several centuries prior to Weber, Christian missionaries had noted the system which built on a way of thinking which was alien to Europe prior to the human rights and democracy inspired movements of the late 18th century and onwards.

China’s legal and normative tradition is not only a picture of beauty. The Confucian moral codes were highly status based in other ways, and parallel with the Confucian governance codes existed a legal tradition, ‘The Legalist School’, which held that power was for the use of the ruler to preserve his position, and that severe punishments was the way to make individuals behave, civil servants as well as ordinary subjects.

Post-1989 Law Reforms

It may seem a paradox that a country known by many as one which during the Cultural Revolution abolished almost all laws and legal institutions and in which severe human rights violations have been reported by various sources should be one of a meritocratic and legal tradition of significance today. Even so, there are signs that reforms undertaken in later years are not only inspired by other legal systems but also build on the tradition which was interrupted with the fall of the Qing dynasties in 1911. In addition to the reintroduction of meritocratic entry exams, reforms since 1989 of the administrative system and particularly the laws governing its procedures show features that may not only be inspired by other countries but also build on China’s own tradition.

China lacks an actual administrative code. However, six statutes promulgated since 1989 have supplemented basic guarantees in the Civil Code and considerably strengthened citizens’, companies’ and organisations’ legal certainty and rights to administrative due process in a number of areas. Procedural rules have been introduced to govern the issuance of administrative licences (e.g. permits to set up an import business) or penalties (such a fines or the revocation of a licence). Rules to prevent and punish corruption and other forms of abuse of power form a significant portion of the statutes. Compensation paid by the state is provided for for a number of types of administrative acts violating the law. A statute on supervision of administrative organs’ handling of their tasks and power supplements supervisory mechanisms found within the Party system. Perhaps as a legacy of the Legalis
t school’s ideas on deterrence through threats of punishment, provisions for punishment of civil servants who abuse their power or otherwise break the law are about as numerous as those establishing procedures for proper handling of the administration’s tasks.

While both constraints on the use of administrative detention and rights to compensation for certain form of abuse of administrative power remain insufficient from a human rights point of view, the new rules provide for rights to make complaints about administrative decisions on a number of grounds including illegality and use of powers for other purposes than those for which they were granted. The system provides for administrative reconsideration as well as judicial review of concrete administrative acts. The rights to complain are not just granted in formality, but actually used.

The Chinese statutes on administrative law and its procedures do not apply human rights terminology. In this, however, it is like the administrative law of most other countries.

Other recent law reforms are significant too in terms of human rights: The Legislation Law, promulgated in 2000, allows for public consultations on bills for new laws. The substance of the Labour Contract Law which took effect on 1 January this year was influenced by comments from individuals and corporate organisations, including the European and American Chambers of Commerce. As further described in this blog’s article by Jonas Grimheden, laws have introduced merit requirements and entry exams for the legal profession. China’a entry to the WTO which resulted in a number of reforms to increase transparency of commercially relevant law and to strengthen legal remedies for administrative acts pertaining to companies has played a part too, and may have contributed to a greater awareness of the legal system as an institution to deal with complaints. Unintended but not insignificant, the impact of China’s WTO membership may be quite considerable in terms of spill-over on institutions benefiting human rights and the rule of law.


There are indications that China is experiencing a return to certain values of its tradition, particularly certain Confucian ideas. Much of Confucianism was devoted to ensuring a society based on harmonious relations. Part of that harmony in society of 2500 years ago was brought about by people having sufficient food, shelter and security. In this too, pre-modern China did not differ from the needs or ideals of many other pre-modern societies. Other parts of that harmony was brought about, and indeed preserved, by having a government of the best and least corrupt minds to ensure, precisely, that food and other resources were not diverted to the coffers of greedy officials.

President Hu has announced a policy of creating a harmonious society. Part of this policy is about decreasing the considerable differences in access to food, shelter, education and health services between urban and rural areas, and between Eastern and Western China. While access to food, shelter, education and health services does not automatically render a country human rights compliant, just like economic growth does not automatically lead to human rights, they are nevertheless significant elements in the entire range of human rights. When assessing China critically, external observers may do well to remind ourselves that other large countries (including in the West, the United States) also employ the death penalty, and that China’s reforms over the past 30 years have had not only to address civil and political rights but also severe poverty, itself recognised as a violation of human rights, for a large proportion of the population.

It may not be realistic to expect that a country with a rich cultural, legal and governance tradition dating back more than 2500 years which moreover represents one fifth of the world’s population today should modernise and reform exactly the way countries elsewhere have done. Given its point of departure at the on-set of reforms 30 years ago, even if China did introduce reforms of law and governance like Europe, we should not in fairness expect to see things at current Europe levels until China has had as many years to implement reforms – which means allowing 200 years, give or take … In fact and as also demonstrated by other articles available on this thematic blog, China seems to be modernising and reforming in its own way and much faster, drawing on a selection of sources of influence from the international society, specific other countries, and its own traditions.


A case violating the rights of migrant workers

Hatla Thelle Senior research fellow, Research department, Master of Arts Ph.D, Danish Institute for Human Rights (


Farmers in China have traditionally had a lower social status than urban people; their ‘quality’ is not considered as high as the one of the better educated city folks. To this vestige of imperial times has been added the communist household registration constraints, where urban status has become an unattainable dream for village people. To make matters worse the opening up of mobility opportunities during the reform period has added to the general disrespect of farmers, as they are allowed to enter the cities mostly to do dirty and heavy jobs on a temporary basis and then go away again. They are generally regarded as dirty, uncivilized and responsible for rising crime rates in the cities. As the following analyses will show most of the problems of migrant workers stem not from their household registration status but from poor implementation and poor design of various laws and regulations, notably those pertaining to labor relations. But their social background makes the migrants unable to effectively claim their rights as they are not part of a labor market culture, and thus among other handicaps are unfamiliar with relevant laws and regulations. So their social and cultural background is an obstacle more than their legal status as holders of a rural household registration.

One case will be discussed below with a view to identify the channels farmers can use to protest against violations of their rights and to evaluate the quality of the solutions offered by the relevant organizations, institutions or individuals.

Delayed payment case

Guo is a farmer from Hebei province. In October 2001 a construction company from Hebei (in the following called A) is looking for workers in the villages around Guo’s birthplace through an agent called Qu. Inquiring about the conditions of the employment Guo learns that Qu, who is hiring the new workers, in fact is contracting the job of building a storehouse in Beijing for a company based in a Beijing district (in the following called B) as an individual. Because the law[1] forbids individuals to enter into construction contracts Qu uses the name of company A, but in reality A has nothing to do with the job and the workers will work for Qu. He is what is normally called a ‘baogongtou’ (???)[2] or in English a hiring agent. Qu can promise Guo 40 yuan a day in salary and a small amount to cover living expenses. Guo discuss with his fellow villagers and 67 of them want to go. They arrive in Beijing and begin to work in 2001. The first thing they do is to ask Qu to sign a contract but he finds various excuses not to do so.

They start to work anyway. The conditions are very bad, no work safety measures and no insurance against occupational injury. The living expenses they were promised are not paid and after one month the work stops because materials are missing. They decide to quit and ask Qu to settle the accounts and pay them 33.000 yuan for the work they had done during the time they had been there. Qu answers that they cannot get their salary before the end of the year when the work has been completed, and they all return to their village with the oral agreement that they will get their salary before New Year.

Next year when no payment still has been made and Qu has made no attempt to contact them, Guo returns to Beijing and reports the matter to the Labor Bureau, but the officer there decides that the conflict is not a labor dispute (????) but a civil conflict about fees for labor services (???). The reason is that they have not been hired by company B, but by an individual, Qu. The Labour Bureau official says they have to go to court and sue Mr Qu. Guo goes to court, but the court clerk says it is a labor dispute and he shall go back to the Labor Bureau and ask for arbitration. Guo gets confused and decides to confront Qu directly again, but the latter keeps saying that he has got no money from company B yet. He promises that when the whole project is finished after one year he can settle his accounts with Guo. After one year Guo is again sent away with some bad excuse. Finally in December 2003 Guo in anger returns to Beijing with the other farmers. He has a white scarf bound around his forehead saying “Qu shall pay” and he finds Qu in a construction site. As soon as the farmers enter, they are rounded up and beaten by a gang of men. Guo calls the police; three police officers arrive and stop the fighting, but they state that quarrels over salary are not a matter for the police; the farmers shall go to the Labor Bureau.

Accidentally the workers get into contact with a migrant workers legal aid center in Beijing. The lawyer here helps them to contact the Labor Inspection Team (??????) under the Labor Bureau. But the official there turns them away again, now on the grounds that the first employment was made in the name of company A, which is not registered in Beijing. After the lawyer threatens with suing the bureau for non-action they agree to take the case and contact Qu, who after some days answer that he will settle accounts with Guo and the other farmers. The court agrees to handle the case but it will be as 68 individual cases, requiring each of the farmers to pay 50 yuan in court fee. They can be exempted for the fee if they can get a ‘poverty card’ from their community on an individual basis. The case ends here in June 2005 as the amount they can win gets smaller and smaller in relation to what they already have spent in time and money and furthermore will have to spend to go through a trial.[3]


This case is long in time and complex. It lasts almost four years and there is really no good solution to it, so it can only break down the trust in the fairness of the system among the claimants, if there ever were any trust. Along the way the farmers get into contact with the different organs and mechanisms, which are in place to solve labor conflicts: Notably the district Labor Bureau – which supervises the Labor Arbitration Committee – and the Labor Inspection Team which sorts directly under the local government. Inspection/supervision and arbitration are two different mechanisms, based in two different institutional systems and on two different sets of regulations[4]. Labor inspection teams are independent organs that have the mandate to supervise the implementation of labor laws, while labor arbitration belongs to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security pillar. Labor Arbitration Committees at all levels are associated with the specific labor contracts and has the function of negotiating a solution in case of disagreement between the employer and the employee on terms of the contract (Dong Baohua
2007: 693-694). The complainant shall choose which of the two systems to use as one of them will normally not accept a case which has been treated in the other. In this case the Labor Bureau is first contacted but they reject the case on the grounds of it not being covered by the Labor Law, as the employer is not an enterprise but an individual. As a consequence the Labor Bureau sees the complaint as a conflict between individuals and it has to be treated as a civil case in court. However the court deems that as the subject matter is salary it should first go to labor arbitration, and if arbitration fails the court can take up the case. A labor case has to go through the labor arbitration committee before it can be brought to court. But the farmer Guo does not go to court and the case stops there for a while until the legal aid lawyer enters the scene. He decides to try the labor inspection system and the officer there first tries to turn them away. Faced with a threat to sue the Labor Bureau he tries to mediate, but when that fails he declares that they shall go to court and sue the Labor Bureau in an administrative case. The court accepts the case, but demands too high a fee from each, which make the workers give up the whole project.

The stumbling blocks in the case are that they are hired illegally and they do not have a contract by which to prove that a labor relationship existed between them and the company B, which they actually worked for. This confused structure enables the hiring agent, Qu, as well as the company B to get away with not paying 68 workers for one month’s work.


The solution of problems encountered by migrants coming to work in the cities are hampered by several factors, even though some legislation and administrative circulars are in the place and increasing attention from official circles have been devoted to the issue in recent years. Effective solutions are more often prevented by lack of money and lack of time than by lack of relevant regulation. Naturally migrant workers are poor people. Else they would not be moving from the countryside to the cities with the intensity and in the numbers they do. Poor people do not have time to wait for decisions to drag on and on; they need immediate solutions to problems of daily livelihood. So the system should be designed to move quickly and arrange for immediate remedies. Just as naturally poor people do not have money to pay for public services supporting claims for payment of withheld salary, for example. But the possibilities for getting legal aid for free are quite restricted. The legal organs responsible usually do not accept cases where there is no written evidence. They can do it without breaking the law, but they tend to rely heavily on documentary proof like contracts as has been shown in the case above. The above case furthermore reveals a strong desire on part of the relevant authorities to find bureaucratic reasons for not accepting a migrant labor case as can be seen from the fact that the complainants often are sent back and forth many times between the same organs.

It is obvious that informal discussions and negotiations play a major role in dispute resolution, like anywhere in the world. And this is no problem as long as the solutions reached at really compensate for the losses incurred, not only to the satisfaction of the individual but fulfilling more general demands for justice.

Hatla Thelle, Danish Institute for Human Rights, Copenhagen


Dong Baohua and Dong Runqing (2007), ???????????Case Analysis on Latest PRC Labor Contract Law. Chinese-English. Beijing: Law Press China.

Collection of cases from a migrant group in a Beijing suburb (on file with author), March 2006.

Interview, Dongfang Impact Litigation Law Firm, 10 November 2005.

???????????????????? Who Infringe Their Rights?

Beijing: Law Press, 2006.

Woo, Margaret Y.K., Christopher Day and Joel Hugenberger (2006?) “Migrant Access to Civil Justice in Beijing”. Loyola University Chicago International Law Review, vol. 4, no. 2: 101-146.

Ye Jingzhong, James Murray and Wang Yihuan (2005), Left-behind Children in Rural China. Impact Study of Rural Labor Migration on Left-behind Children in Mid-West China. Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press.

[1] The Labor Law sets up certain qualifications which should be met in order for a labor relationship to be legal, and thus to be covered by the law. Article 2 stipulates that only the following units can be counted as legal employers: Enterprises, economic organizations, state organs, public institutions and social organizations. (Dong Baohua 2007: 305).[2] They can also be called ‘small employer’ (???) and there can be many layers of middlemen between a group of workers and the company who are financing the project (Woo 2006: 141).[3] The case is described and analyzed in Who Infringe Their Rights?, p. 31-49.[4] ?????? (Labor Inspection Rules) of 2003 and ??????????? (Labor Arbitration Regulations) of 1993. (TJEK: også SPC interpretration fra 2006)

Domare i Kina – inte bara sportdomare

Jonas Grimheden Senior Researcher and Deputy Head of the Department of Research and Academic Education at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Lund University (


Att nämna Kina detta år leder tankarna till OS. I de 35 grenarna som de tävlande kommer att slås om medaljer kommer ett ofantligt stort antal domare att vara centrala och i många gånger fälla avgörande beslut. Kinas domare, som dömer i domstolar runt om i landet har också en viktig roll i Kina och detta i allt ökande grad. Även om OS skulle vara intressant att reflektera kring, kommer dessa sidor att fokusera på de kinesiska domstolarna.

Den dömande makten har också genomgått två omgångar av omfattade reformer, 1999-2003, och 2005-2009. Den första syftade framförallt till att stärka rollen för domarna i själva målet och minska den för cheferna för att få en mera rättvis process. Liksom den första betonade även den andra reformplanen en effektivisering av dömandet. Den andra betonade också behovet av att göra överklagandeprocessen mera distinkt och självständig. Reformplanen återgav också det slutliga dömandet i mål med dödsstraff till högsta domstolen. Tidigare hade detta delegerats till domstolarna på provinsnivå men kvalitén där ansågs inte tillräcklig, bland annat efter flera avslöjanden i media där mördade visade sig leva och oskyldiga hade dömts.

En viktig komponent i reformstegen har varit domarnas utbildningsnivå. Många har argumenterat mot en ökad självständighet med motivering att domarna helt enkelt håller för låg nivå. Domarlagen från 1995 syftade delvis till att skapa en starkare profilering av domarna från andra roller inom rättsapparaten och även till att höja kunskapsnivån och professionalismen. Strax efter domarlagen antogs också en advokatlag som bland annat tillät att advokater praktiserade privat och inte enkom i statlig tjänst som tidigare varit fallet. Lagen införde också ett system av ‘barexam’ som slog mycket väl ut. Provet utvidgades genom lagändringar 2001 till att omfatta även åklagare och domare så att nu alla tre yrkesgrupper får genomgå samma prov. Detta har fått till följd att alla yrkena har fått ökad status. Naturligtvis är det många som lockas av attraktiva löner i advokatbranschen men den höjda prestigen inom dömande och åklagande verksamhet har också en attraktionskraft. Ett problem som man ännu inte har kommit runt är att domstolar i de fattigare provinserna i framförallt västra Kina har haft väldigt svårt att rekrytera domare. Dessa provinser erbjuder dåliga arbetssituationer och låga löner. Dessutom har det nationella provet medfört att väldigt få av de jurister från provinsen som gjort provet har klarat det. Kraven har sänkts, först några poäng och sedan som kvot för att överhuvudtaget få något nytillskott på domarbänken i de värst drabbade områdena.

2001 antog Kinas högsta domstol också en uppförandekod i domsetik för domarna. I första kapitlet betonas oberoende och opartiskhet som grundläggande. Koden går in på detaljer, som att exempelvis inte ens med kroppsspråk antyda i vilken riktning dom kan förväntas innan den faktiskt fallit. Vidare tas andra frågor upp som kanske i viss mån visar på problem som förekommer: att domarna skall vara renliga och klä sig enligt gällande norm. Länge hade domarna en dräkt som i mycket liknade en militäruniform. Sedan några år tillbaka har domarna, liksom advokater och åklagare, västerländskt inspirerad yrkesspecifika klädslar som gjort sitt intrång genom Hong Kong. Koden tar också upp mera fundamentala problem. Domarna skall rapportera om sina privata finansiella situationer till sina domstolar. Även möjliga sysslor vid sidan av dömandet regleras – allt uppenbarligen för att stävja korruption och säkerställa bästa möjliga förutsättningar för opartiskhet.

Koden betonar den individuella domarens självständighet och oberoende, inte bara domstolens, vilket är fallet i lagtexten i Kina – lag så väl som grundlag. Det går att uttyda en klar linje från tidigt 50-tal då en kollektiv syn på oberoendet formulerades, med domstolarna och inte domarna som det självständiga. Denna formulering levde kvar i lagtexterna som skrevs i slutet av 70- och början av 80-talen men även i exempelvis domarlagen från 1995. Den sistnämnda strävar som sagt dock efter en separation från framförallt åklagarna genom att skapa olika rubriceringar av hierarkier och positioner som inte motsvarar de i byråkratin. Från mitten av 90-talet byttes språkbruket från “dömandepersonen” till “domare”. Den friare skrivningen från 50-talet om oberoende har också kompletterats genom att lista vilka aktörer som inte får inskränka oberoendet. Tolkning är möjlig som gör att politiska partier utesluts från denna listning och det är uppenbarligen då ett problem med det kinesiska kommunistpartiet. Kodens skrivning visar igen på försök att förtydliga att oberoendet är absolut i betydelsen att ingen får inskränka oavhängigheten.

Skillnaderna inom landet är stora vad gäller ekonomisk utveckling men även exempelvis utbildning. Sedan några år tillbaka driver centralregeringen program för att jämna ut skillnaderna men det är ingen lätt process med en tillväxt och expansion i kustområdena som slår alla rekord. Det förbättrade rättssystemet leder till ökat förtroende för domstolarna och allt fler ärenden hamnar i domstol. En mera genomgripande prövning vid överklagan leder till att fler fall överklagas. Även om processerna effektiviseras så blir ändå den totala arbetsbördan enorm för enskilda domare.

Många av problemen lever också kvar från tidigare. Finansieringen kommer i stort från den lokalregering på nivån domstolen befinner sig. Lokalprotektionism och marknadsekonomiska krav gör att dessa regeringar ställer krav som illa stämmer överens med centralmaktens försök till mera enhetlighet. Kommunistpartiet lägger sig i allt färre fall men samtidigt verkar de kontrollera de fall som är mest känsliga för regimens fortlevnad desto hårdare. Parlamenten på motsvarande nivå som domstolarna utnämner formellt domarna och har även makt att avsätta dem vilket fortfarande emellanåt leder till intrikata problem. Domstolarna lyckas dock i allt högre grad införa en rad tekniska kontroller som gör att de själva rekryterar och befordrar domare på objektiva grunder och förpassar parlamenten till en minimal, formell roll.

Högre domstolar har en tradition av att övervaka lägre och det inte bara i de generella frågorna utan även i enskilda ärenden på ett byråkratiskt sätt. Detta leder förstås till en rad problem och man har med reformförsöken kommit en bit på väg med att göra instanserna mera åtskiljda. Även inom domstolarna har den byråkratiska naturen lett till problem där domare som inte deltagit i den faktiska förhandlingen haft sista avgörandet. Dels gäller det chefer på olika nivåer men även ett “domsråd” med seniora domare som är tillsatt i alla domstolar för att säkerställa att svåra och viktiga mål bedöms “korrekt”. Reformerna har försökt att på olika sätt minska inflytandet från andra än de som faktiskt har suttit med i målet.

Domstolshierarkin består av fyra egentliga nivåer. En högsta domstol, 31 höga domstola
r på provinsnivå, cirka 300 mellandomstolar på distriktsnivå och ungefär 3 000 förstainstansdomstolar på kommunnivå. Till detta kommer avdelningar till de sistnämnda som formellt utgör delar och inte underavdelningar, som betecknas tribunaler. Några 10 000-tal sådana finns runtom i landet. Lägg till detta en domarkår på närmare 200 000 och totalt anställda på närmare 300 000 så har men en ganska stor organisation. Utöver yrkesdomare finns också ett nämndemannasystem (folkets assessorer). Oftast används dessa dock i praktiken för att få expertkunskap till domstolens bistånd.

Den dömande makten är alltså en omfattande apparat som det krävs enorma insatser för att kunna förändra. Reformer som introducerats och som nämnts ovan kommer att ta tid innan de till fullo har fått effekt. Ytterligare reformer har inletts och större och mera genomgående förändringar kommer som sagt att behövas. I de 3 000 förstainstansdomstolarna som naturligtvis behandlar de allra flesta av målen, där har man infört en maxålder för tillsättningar av domstolschefer om 35 år. Med de nya formerna av juristutbildning, de nationella proven, och den generellt mycket mera liberala inställning som de yngre i Kina har, kan denna reform ha mycket stora effekter i framtiden.

Finansieringen av domstolar som alltså nästan uteslutande kommer från samma nivå som domstolen leder till konflikter mellan centrala och regionala fokus. I en strävan att skapa en starkare lojalitet till centralmakten och även få upp de fattigaste områdena till en acceptabel nivå försöker man få finansiering – i vart fall kompletterande – från en högre nivå i hierarkin och slutligen förstås från högsta domstolen. En ändring av de finansiella strukturerna skulle givetvis radikalt påverka möjligheterna av att implementera vidare reformer.

Systemet som nämnts ovan med slutlig granskning av dödsstraff är mycket intressant. Inte bara försöker man säkerställa en högre nivå av rättssäkerhet utan man stärker också den centrala strukturen. Ett stort problem har varit och är att domsagorna sammanfaller med de administrativa regionerna och detta har ofta lett till olika former av intressekonflikter och partiskhet. Olika lösningar har föreslagits och även i viss mån testats för att råda bot på problemet men inget har slagit igenom till fullo. Centraliseringen av dödsstraffsmålen har medfört att tre underavdelningar till högsta domstolen inrättats. Möjligen är dessa tre en nationell testballong för att se hur ett centralt finansierat domstolsväsende som ett lock på ett mera lokalt finansierat kan fungera. Det är också ett sätt att pröva hur domsagor skiljda från de administrativa områdena fungerar.

Under 30 år har mycket åstadkommits vad gäller återuppbyggnaden av ett rättssystem och det i en geografiskt gigantisk enpartistat. Självklart måste man hålla i minnet att mycket kvarstår att göra. Den långa rättsliga traditionen innan kollapsen av det dynastiska Kina bidrar säkerligen till förutsättningarna. Lyckligtvis har inte perioden av kommunistisk och Maoistisk galenskap raderat ut allt som under årtusenden byggts upp. Mer kunde säkert göras för att förankra nutida reformer i det imponerande historiska arvet. Istället lånar man in “lösningar” från andra rättssystem men det är i vart fall bättre än status quo. Reformideal har genom kompromisslösningar med mindre reformvilliga delar av regimen minskats i omfång men har ändå fått relativt stort genomslag. Det finns mycket i denna process som man kan imponeras av och rent utav lära sig av – från detaljer till mera principiella frågor.

Generellt slås man av Kinas villighet att se bortom landets gränser i deras strävanden att hitta lösningar på problem. Man begränsar sig inte till grannländer eller länder “med liknande kultur” eller historia utan är öppen för alla idéer. Reformviljan är mycket stor och domarkåren med sin relativt höga utbildningsnivå driver många av de centrala frågorna, dock inte alltid med en progressiv utgång.

Reformerna som gjorts är långtgående men inte tillräckligt omvälvande för att lyckas nå en självständighet i alla typer av mål. Många menar dock att reformerna har gått för fort framåt och att man nu låter verkligheten komma ifatt idealen man satt upp. Det stämmer säkerligen. Men mycket går fort i Kina och säkerligen kommer reformprocessen snart att fortgå med än högre tempo. Många av problemen man har sökt lösa kvarstår till viss del. Nya problem har tillstött.

När Kina blev medlem av WTO 2001 föregicks och följdes denna händelse av en rad argument inom det rättsliga fältet för ökad reform och liberalisering. WTO-medlemsskapet krävde en rad saker, menade dessa liberala krafter i Kina, långt utöver vad som faktiskt krävdes. Medlemskapet användes på så sätt som en hävstång för att åstadkomma maximal effekt. OS 2008 har på ett något liknande sätt använts för att främja reform och utveckling i Kina – både av interna och externa aktörer. Samtidigt har den ökande liberaliseringen och inte minst utvecklingen under våren 2008 i Tibet och den brutala responsen från Peking lett till ett hårdare klimat för reformivrare. Reformisterna kommer med all sannolikhet ändock gå segrande ur striden. När sommarens tävlingar beskådas kan man reflektera över att juristdomare – liksom OS-domare – har en central roll också i Kina.

* FK (Asienstudier och kinesiska), JK, LLM, Jur Dr, forskare vid Raoul Wallenberg institutet (RWI) i Lund. En längre version av denna text har publicerats i Tidskrift för Sveriges domareförbund, 2/2008, red. Lennart Johansson.