20 December 2022

A Nail in the Coffin of Hong Kong’s Rule of Law

Media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai has been the continued target of prosecution by the Hong Kong government. In a recent judgment, he has been convicted of fraud and handed a prison sentence of almost six years. As a result, another worrying development in a National Security Law (NSL) case against Lai, in which he is accused of inter alia conspiring to ‘collude with a foreign country or external elements’, has received significantly less attention. This concerns a 13 December ruling by the High Court of Hong Kong to adjourn the NSL trial until September 2023, in order for the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) to give an interpretation on whether foreign barristers are allowed to represent clients in NSL cases. In this blog post, I will use the NSL case against Jimmy Lai to examine some of the consequences of the NSL for the rule of law and the rights of defendants in Hong Kong.

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02 November 2022

Foreign Agents, Diplomatic Skirmishes and the Law on Diplomatic and Consular Relations

In September 2022, the Madrid-based NGO ‘Safeguard Defenders’ published a report entitled ‘110 Overseas – Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild’, in which it documented the existence of at least 54 extraterritorial and undeclared Chinese police stations in more than 30 countries, many of them European Union Member States, such as Germany, Ireland, or the Netherlands. These police facilities, operated under the guise of ‘service centres’ supposedly providing diplomatic and consular services such as extending driving licences for Chinese nationals, have hence been located in cities such as Dublin, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt.

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25 October 2022

Hamburger Hafenrundfahrt im Regierungsviertel

Der jüngste Streit um die geplante Beteiligung der chinesischen Reederei COSCO an einem Terminal im Hamburger Hafen hat die Investitionskontrolle in den Mittelpunkt der öffentlichen Aufmerksamkeit gerückt. Während die Gegner der Beteiligung einen Ausverkauf kritischer Infrastruktur an China als systemischen Rivalen in der immer schärferen geoökonomischen Auseinandersetzung um die Vorherrschaft in der Welt sehen, betonen die Befürworter die Gefahr eines Bedeutungsverlusts des Hamburger Hafens. Wer immer sich durchsetzt – das geltende Investitionskontrollrecht gibt hierfür die notwendigen Spielräume. Käme es zu einer Untersagung, so wäre auch kaum damit zu rechnen, dass diese erfolgreich auf dem Verwaltungsrechtsweg angegriffen werden könnten.

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18 October 2022
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Is Taiwan a State?

Taiwan just celebrated its national day on 10 October 2022. In her speech, President Tsai Ing-wen traced the Republic of China’s resettling in Taiwan in 1949, to its democratization in the 1980s and 1990s, the latter of which transformed it into the Republic of China (Taiwan). Tsai also cautioned the People’s Republic of Chinas (the PRC) “attempts to erase the sovereignty of the Republic of China (Taiwan) have threatened the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region.” In contrast, in its “White Paper on Taiwan Question and the Unification of China in a New Era,” the PRC reiterated its longstanding position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, and cited United Nations (UN) Resolution 2758 to advance its so-called “One China Principle” internationally.

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11 March 2022

Repression by Law

China did not need 9/11 to further restrict civil and political rights, but it jumped onto the bandwagon in using the legitimizing force of counterterrorism to intensify its repressive policies. China’s so-called “People’s War on Terror” has had a stifling impact on the ability to practice Islam in China (and especially in Xinjiang) and is, when discussed in the context of counterterrorism and human rights, therefore best be characterized as a significant encroachment of religious freedoms, bringing China’s human rights record to a new low point in the 21th century.

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18 February 2022

Die neue Abschottung Chinas

In der Berichterstattung zur Eröffnung der Olympischen Spiele gerieten die sportlichen Ergebnisse in den Hintergrund. Vorherrschendes Thema waren und sind die radikalen Maßnahmen, mit denen die Organisatoren Chinas Null-Covid-Strategie auch angesichts des Zustroms von zehntausenden von Athlet:innen, Journalist:innen und Funktionär:innen aufrechterhalten wollen. Und wenn der Olympia-Tross nach dem 20. Februar die Heimreise antritt, wird sich deutlich zeigen, dass die Olympische Blase nur ein Indiz für ein viel grundlegendes Problem ist: die neue Abschottung Chinas.

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02 February 2022

Verfassungsstreitigkeiten jenseits von Chinas Regulierung terroristischer Online-Äußerungen

Die Unterdrückung der Meinungsäußerung im Internet durch die chinesische Regierung ist fast schon legendär. Sie bildet einen uneinnehmbaren Eckpfeiler dessen, was der Oxford-Professor Stein Ringen die "perfekte Diktatur" des Parteistaates nannte. Chinas Herangehensweise an terroristische Äußerungen muss im Gesamtbild von Chinas sich entwickelnder Agenda zur Zähmung von Äußerungen im Internet verstanden werden.

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Constitutional Battles beyond China’s Regulation of Online Terrorist Speech

The Chinese government’s suppression of Internet speech is almost legendary. It forms an impregnable cornerstone of what Oxford professor Stein Ringen dubbed the Party-state’s “perfect dictatorship”. China's approach to terrorist speech must me understood within the entire picture of China’s developing agenda of taming speech online.

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08 December 2021

Legalising Anti-Corruption Efforts in China

In 2018, the Chinese central government professed its determination to combat ‘corruption’ at a new level by promulgating the Supervision Law (SL). Supervisory commissions (SCs) from the national level down to the county level were systematically set up and became the sole supervisory organ, which has largely modified the constitutional division of powers. I argue that the SC shares much in common with the hybrid type of ombudsman but lacks adequate external constraint mechanisms.

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28 May 2021

Masks, vaccines, and investment promises

When the WHO declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the spread of the virus was already under control in China. Ever since Beijing has been engaging in widespread health diplomacy. China aims to promote the image of China as a “responsible great power” and of Western states in as powers in decline that are unable to provide solutions for complex international affairs.

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04 May 2021

The State Advances, the People Retreat

It is widely agreed that Wuhan, China is the origin of this pandemic. China has also been criticized for its initial mishandling of the outbreak, including local officials’ cover-up, the incompetence of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control (CDC), and the repression of whistle-blowers. In light of what had happened in other countries, however, China’s subsequent responses were nothing short of miraculous. From its lockdown in Wuhan, to the nationwide joint prevention and control system, from border sealing to mass testing and contact tracing, China’s measures were more intense than almost anywhere else in the world.

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25 April 2021

Sanctioning the Treatment of Uighurs in China

China has been accused by various states of committing genocide against the Uighurs and other Muslim communities in recent months. Against this background, in March 2021, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada announced sanctions against the Asian hegemon. Qualifying individual targeted sanctions remains a challenge for international lawyers due to the lack of clear demarcation between sanctions framework and the country-specific restrictive measures. Nevertheless, individual sanctions remain a viable option to pressure violators but alone might not be strong enough to deliver justice to victims.

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13 April 2021

Political System Transformation in Hong Kong

China’s National People’s Congress and Standing Committee of the NPC decided in March 2021 to transform Hong Kong’s political system. Within a couple of months, the Hong Kong government will pass local laws to enable elections for a reconfigured Election Committee and Legislative Council to be held, respectively, in September and December 2021, ahead of the Chief Executive election in March 2022. Are the political reforms justified? In examining this question, I consider the aims of the reforms, their implications, and whether they are necessary and reasonable. Overall, I have doubts whether all the reforms are necessary and proportionate to achieving their intended aims.

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19 January 2021

Being Naïve or Putting Business First?

The European Union would like to believe that it is acting robustly and cohesively to promote human rights and democracy globally. This (self-)perception as a force of good in terms of responsible business conduct and human rights protection might however be less accurate than many within the EU think. Some details about the recent EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) seem to spoil this rosy picture.

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08 November 2020

Control through Intervention

In October 2020, the director of the Musée d’Histoire de Nantes announced the postponement of an upcoming exhibition on Mongol history and culture. The exhibition was supposed to be the result of a collaboration between the Nantes museum and the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot, China. The decision of postponement came amidst an accusation of interference from the Chinese Bureau of Cultural Heritage. According to the director, The Chinese Bureau requested unprecedented control over the exhibition’s organization, including eliminating references to the Mongol Empire and Genghis Khan. The director of the Nantes Museum stated that the breakdown in the collaboration was caused by the Chinese Bureau’s attempt to ‘rewrite history and erase Mongol culture’; an effort the museum could not abide by.

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29 July 2020

The Counter-Enlightenment Strikes Back

How does one make sense of the piece of legislation known as the “Constitution” in a political context where there are no effective mechanisms for its enforcement, and where constitutional text and political reality diverge dramatically? For the longest part of the post-1989 era, the majority of Chinese jurists approached this predicament with an avowedly reformist attitude. Using the familiar language of Enlightenment universalism, they called for the gradual overcoming, through an empowered judiciary, of the rift separating political reality from normative ideal: China, it was said, was “marching toward an age of rights”.

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15 July 2020

The Chinese threat we forgot about: Huawei and ISDS

During the era of coronavirus emergency, the words China and threat tend to suggest the origin of our common affliction. The world to emerge from coronavirus however will face both new challenges and the echo of old ones. An old problem is what to do about Chinese involvement in 5G infrastructure development. In light of the recent ban for Huawei equipment by the UK this post addresses the question of whether the Chinese multinational Huawei would have an investment claim against the German government were they to prohibit its participation in 5G deployment.

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01 June 2020

Five Reasons to Question the Legality of a National Security Law for Hong Kong

On 28 May 2020, the National People’s Congress (NPC) resolved to authorize its Standing Committee (NPCSC) to enact a piece of national security law for Hong Kong. Would this decision be in contravention of the Basic Law? Some people may say that this is a stupid question. Maybe it is. But if the Central Government still claims to be abide by the rule of law, and if the NPC is not above the law, then whether its decision would contravene the Basic Law is a serious question about the rule of law.

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29 May 2020

Terrible Order

On Hong Kong, Kompetenz-Kompetenz and the necessity of taking sides.

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