Chinese detention of Australian blogger Yang Hengjun

Jerome A. Cohen

The Chinese government has confirmed it has detained Yang Hengjun, a naturalized Australian who is a famous blogger in China, in “residential surveillance.”

The PRC’s actions in this case—including failure to inform the Australian embassy within three days of his detention and the reason for detention, and failure to provide consular access—are in plain violation of the required consular protections under the China-Australian consular agreement.

“Residential surveillance” sounds comforting but the version now so much in vogue in the PRC is not the original residential surveillance that might be considered similar to “house arrest” in other countries but “the designated location” version (RSDL) that Ai Weiwei’s illustration of his personal experience has done so much to expose. It is absurd to call it “house arrest” or claim it is similar to “home detention”, as Australia’s Defense Minister recently said mistakenly. Actually, Ai Weiwei’s theater and art show a tough, endless regimen that is nevertheless milder than that to which too many others have been subjected. RSDL frequently constitutes impermissible torture that violates both Chinese and international law.

If we go to China in the current circumstances, those of us critical of certain PRC actions now risk six months of RSDL for “investigation” of charges of possibly violating China’s “national security”. So far, as we have just seen in the PRC’s latest reaction to the Canadian-American Meng Wanzhou case, foreign critics of PRC “hostage justice” have only been attacked for “interfering with China’s sovereignty”. If we now dare to visit China, will we, like hapless blogger Yang, be detained for possibly “interfering with China’s national security”?

Canada-China legal war

By Jerome A. Cohen

Some observers think the US-PRC trade war is a good thing since it stimulates some reforms in the PRC economic system. It may be that the Canada-PRC legal war will prove a good thing if it stimulates some reforms in the PRC legal system.

At least it is stimulating world attention to China’s legal system. Until now most of that attention has been bad for Beijing’s image. The PRC is seen to be interfering in Canada’s domestic legal system in absolute contravention of Beijing’s constant proclamations of its own sovereign rights when it is confronted with cases involving foreigners. Moreover, its own legal system is also seen to be dreadful and grossly unfair when the PRC itself handles cases involving foreigners — vague charges against apparently fine people who can be held for many months incommunicado without access to lawyers, family and friends and subject to coercion of various kinds that leaves no marks but stimulates public TV confessions.

The invitation of PRC propagandists for foreign journalists to attend court proceedings in Dalian against alleged Canadian drug smuggler is designed to counteract this situation. Here it shows that not all Canadians are fine people and that their violations of Chinese law can amount to more than minor visa violations, and indeed involve drug smuggling, which has always raised grave concerns today and in the past in both societies. And this case, held in open trial, will try to show that Chinese justice operates in a respectable way that treats Canadians fairly in terms of international human rights standards. It will also, presumably, present the justification for what could be a very long sentence that may not be immediately announced, adding to Chinese pressures upon the Canadian Government, since even the death penalty could be in the offing.

What’s going on with Huawei, China, Canada and the US?

I’ve been following the intriguing story about the US effort to extradite from Canada Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of Huawei’s founder. The case raises many Interesting questions, including why the US Government chose Canada, why it chose to initiate the action at this time, what coordination actually occurred within the USG, how did the Canadian government analyze the situation before acting and what actions will the PRC take other than those already reported.

On the coordination on China policy within the US Government, it remains unclear whether this move is part of a well-thought out, overall carrot/stick policy, a move by hardliners trying to torpedo any possible agreement with the PRC or a move by Justice, Homeland Security and State (and Treasury??) simply to pursue an independent track relating to law enforcement despite its impact on the trade negotiations.

There may well have been poor and thoughtless USG coordination in this case, but at least one report indicated that John Bolton knew this was coming (while another report has said no one who attended the Trump-Xi dinner knew before that occasion). One cannot eliminate at this point the suspicion of mischievous interference with the Sino-American effort to resolve the trade dispute.

Canada’s willingness to make the arrest is also notable and must have been the product of extensive negotiations within the Government and with the U.S. Yet whoever did the final calculations on the Canadian side may now regret that decision because of the increasingly severe damage to Ottawa’s relations with Beijing, although Canada has on a number of occasions stood up against the PRC on international law matters.

What the independent Canadian courts are likely to do with the extradition request may be another matter. Without detailed knowledge of the case presented, prediction is always hazardous but it is unlikely that the request will fail, although some able Canadian lawyers may argue that the matter is “political” rather than legal and therefore inappropriate for extradition. I felt confident that bail would be granted with restrictions on Ms. Meng’s activities since bail was granted to Mr. Lai Changxing of China after he illegally fled to Canada to avoid, at least for many years, being prosecuted in China for being allegedly the greatest smuggler in Chinese history!

What I find attractive in the Canadian Huawei case is the attention it has directed not only to the extraterritorial application of criminal law but also to extradition treaties and relevant domestic legislation, procedures and court adjudication as well as related problems of rendition, deportation, repatriation and ad hoc interstate negotiations that increasingly confront China, the U.S. and others. Hong Kong and Taiwan also struggle with these issues in relation to Beijing.

Of course, the USG might have sought Meng’s extradition from China itself, even in the absence of a US-PRC extradition treaty. It is not necessary for two countries to have a bilateral extradition treaty in order to achieve extradition or a similar result such as through deportation. Informal negotiations often accomplish extradition or the equivalent goal. The US does have an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, where Ms. Meng undoubtedly spends a lot of time, but Beijing would plainly have ordered the Hong Kong Government to deny cooperation, as it did not long ago in a less important case, for the first time in the twenty-year history of  the US-HK agreement.

It is laughable that Global Times should call this lawful, official international process “hooliganism”. The PRC is notorious for real officially-authorized “hooliganism”. And now, in its retaliation against Canadian nationals in China, the PRC is again demonstrating its zest for abusing criminal justice!

Taiwan-Japanese Relations and a Rock!

By Jerome A. Cohen

Aerial view of Okinotorishima, Japan. (source:  国土交通省関東地方整備局 , Japan)

Aerial view of Okinotorishima, Japan. (source: 国土交通省関東地方整備局, Japan)

Taiwan and Japan, despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations, have just signed another agreement and four MoUs on commercial and various matters, in the context of closer ties since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in Taiwan in 2016. I wonder what is going on in the quiet negotiations between Taiwan and Japan over the more sensitive Japanese claim that Okinitorishima is entitled to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles and therefore Japan can restrict Taiwan fishermen from large and rich areas.

The 2016 Philippine arbitration award against China could be invoked by Taiwan in support of its opposition to the EEZ claim but it may be impolitic for Taiwan to do so in light of its need for Japan’s support in other matters (additionally, the arbitration award is not legally binding on Taiwan since Taiwan was not allowed to be a party to the arbitration proceeding, and Taiwan has therefore rejected the arbitration award).

Japan and Taiwan will probably try to work out a compromise on this issue before the 2020 presidential election in Taiwan in light of a possible KMT return to power that would oust Tsai’s DPP administration. The KMT administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (2008-16) was openly hostile to Japan on this fishing rights issue. The EEZ claim, giving Japan control over the resources of a huge sea area, has implications that go far beyond fish and is based on tiny islands not much larger than a king-size bed!

My Sept. 12 talk at Yale on “Law and Power in China and its Foreign Relations”

Jerome A. Cohen

I gave a talk last month at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center [link here]. It’s about an hour long, and tries to contrast the differences between PRC theory and practice regarding domestic and international law. It also started with a protest against what the PRC is doing against Muslims in Xinjiang.

Jerome A. Cohen ’55, a professor at NYU School of Law and founding director of its U.S.- Asia Law Institute, discussed China and foreign relations on September 12, 2018. The event was hosted by the Paul Tsai China Center.

China, Vatican and Taiwan

By Jerome A. Cohen

The Vatican is reportedly discussing an agreement with China on the status of China's Catholic Church and appointment of bishops. If an agreement is concluded, would that indicate the Vatican’s severance of its diplomatic ties with Taiwan?

Every one of Taiwan’s remaining formal diplomatic relationships has its distinctive features, but the Vatican’s is the most special, of course. I assume that ROC diplomats are working hard to separate a Vatican-PRC agreement on “only religion” from other matters.

The ROC on Taiwan, of course, has a huge amount of experience on how a government, by necessity, often has to make agreements on “cultural and economic” matters with governments with which it does not maintain formal diplomatic relations, and how such agreements can often be used as a cover for political, legal and other contacts as well. We should not forget that the PRC, for the first three decades of its existence until “normalization” of its relations with the U.S. in 1979 and especially in the ‘70s, broadened and strengthened its relations with some other governments despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations. Perhaps the Vatican’s second step beyond the current one will be to establish a special type of “liaison office” (lianluo chu) in Beijing, adopting a religious variation of the American office established in Beijing in 1973, six years before “normalization”! International law is rich in flexible examples, and the Vatican has made many unusual arrangements with various states.

I got a kick out of the ROC representative in Rome’s saying that it maintains a “smooth flow of information” with the Vatican. Was this supposed to be illustrated by the Vatican representative in Taiwan’s refusal to comment when asked questions by the local media?

Questions for Taiwan and the world at the decline of formal diplomatic relations

By Jerome Cohen

Last week Taiwan lost diplomatic relations with El Salvador, a long-time diplomatic ally of the Republic of China. Here is an interesting report on the statement of the President’s spokesperson in Taiwan openly recognizing that the end of the ROC’s formal diplomatic relations may be approaching. 

This will be an enormous challenge not only to the ROC but also to all those countries that wish to continue to have de facto relations with it, starting, of course, with the United States. Will more of their current policies and practices—for example, continuing resort to the embassy-like American Institute in Taiwan—suffice? How many countries will be willing to maintain this substitute for normal diplomatic relations once Beijing starts to apply the kinds of pressures on them that it has been applying on Taiwan, its remaining diplomatic allies and even the airlines and hotels that acknowledged Taiwan’s independent existence?

What imaginative strategies and tactics can the ROC employ to improve its situation and maintain and even strengthen its ties to the world in multilateral and bilateral contexts? Will it be possible to further develop the role of “unofficial” de facto diplomatic missions?

Are we on the brink of witnessing some attempted modification of the existing international system? Will some dangerous new formula emerge that may precipitate the cross-strait crisis that has long been postponed but that is gradually developing? An open establishment of a “Republic of Taiwan” might lead to war and might fizzle if not recognized by important states. What if Taiwan seeks to become a UN trusteeship or a U.S. territory, courses that have always been regarded as beyond the pale? Beijing may be stimulating radical thoughts on the part of those concerned to preserve what is usually referred to as “Taiwan’s vibrant democracy”.

The urgent need for stronger foreign opposition to China’s human rights violations

By Jerome Cohen

The essay by Rian Thum and Jeffrey WasserstromThe Dark Side of the Chinese Dream, deserves the widest attention. The problem of how to alert the world to gross violations of human rights while coping with the broader political actions of the perpetrating state is not a new one, of course, in regard to China and other dictatorships. We have long faced a similar challenge regarding North Korea.

It also reminds me of the late 1930s when growing international concern over the foreign political actions of Hitler helped to obscure the domestic horrors he was increasingly committing and to diminish the foreign reactions to those horrors that might have otherwise been expected.

With respect to China’s continuing atrocities, it is time to consider how to heighten the awareness and willingness to protest of the foreign governments and businesses that interact with Beijing. Much greater pressure has to be applied to the national politicians who influence the actions of their  governments. Social protests and boycotts against the multinational corporations that court the PRC and yield to its demands may be necessary to get their attention. Popular condemnations even at athletic events may be desirable. Of course, it behooves the United States Government and the American people to cure our own human rights abuses. “Do as I say, not as I do” is never an attractive or effective posture.

'Easier to die than live': #LiuXia, widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, cries out for help in phone call

George Staunton, W. A. P. Martin and the transmission of foreign law

By Jerome A. Cohen  

Here is a good NYT interview with historian Stephen R. Platt about his new book, “Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age.” It highlights the sad end to George Staunton’s remarkable career relating to China. That career began early with Staunton’s participation in the historic Macartney voyage to Peking in 1793 at age 13 when he reportedly impressed the Emperor with his newly-acquired Chinese language skills.

The high point of Staunton’s career, at least for those of us interested in the Chinese legal system and its interaction with the West, came with his 1813 publication of the first English translation of The Great Ch’ing Code. Having tried wine and women, if not song, to pass the time during the boring off-season in Macao while waiting for trade with the Mainland to reopen, Staunton made good use of the assistance of Chinese colleagues to produce this monumental work. It was stimulated by the recognition that successful business with foreigners requires familiarity with their legal system.

Staunton’s precedent was cited by missionary W. A. P. Martin (丁韙良) in the early 1860s in his campaign to persuade the authorities in Peking to translate Wheaton’s then leading Western text on public international law into ChineseMartin believed that it would not only lead the heathen to Christ but, more practically, also help the Chinese cope with overzealous Western diplomats and traders whose demands were often couched in terms of international law. Some of the foreign diplomats living in China opposed the project for this reason. As Immanuel Hsu’s excellent book on the topic pointed out, the Chinese Government indeed successfully invoked the law of the sea principles recorded by Wheaton against Prussia even before the translation was published.

Israel’s Ties with China

By Jerome A. Cohen

Here is a very useful update on the complex Israel-China relationship, What’s Behind Israel’s Growing Ties With China?. It makes me recall the period 1979-81 when, long before the establishment of diplomatic relations between them, Israel was already secretly providing arms to China. Many of us who then inhabited the Peking Hotel knew what the lonely Israeli arms merchant, Shaul Eisenberg, who so often ate alone in the hotel restaurant, was up to.

 I was told at the time that Israel had enacted a special law exempting Eisenberg (or his company) from income tax on his China profits. His cooperation with Beijing undoubtedly laid the groundwork for gradually increasing Israeli-PRC contacts that led to the preparation for diplomatic relations. My awareness of this process crystallized when in the early ‘80s Peking University asked me to find it a Hebrew teacher and the money to support the teacher. Most of the small group of first students ended up working for Xinhua in Israel or in other relevant pursuits of the Israeli-PRC normalization (Xinhua is the New China News Agency, often used as a forerunner of formal diplomatic relations).

China’s seizure of underwater US drone and implications

China has returned the U.S. underwater drone (“unmanned underwater vehicle” or UUV) that it seized in the South China Sea last week. Plenty has been said about the illegality of China’s seizure, such as Julian Ku’s analysis here and that of James Kraska and Pete Pedrozo here. The PRC’s feeble and vague attempt to justify its action legally and the immediate move to return the drone certainly reflect its awareness of its poor legal position.

Politically China is using this incident to make the broader point of seeking to halt U.S. surveillance closer to China in what is plainly China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), whether or not the PRC’s minority legal position prohibiting EEZ surveillance is acknowledged. The UUV incident is undoubtedly an effort to remind us of PRC objections to what is really “close in” surveillance.

Obviously, the attitude of the Trump administration will be crucial in determining whether the U.S. and China are headed toward military conflict. The U.S. government should devise plans for a more vigorous effort to negotiate detailed understandings about UUV and other surveillance activities. The PRC is likely to continue its resistance to such efforts unless it decides to follow Russia’s example by belatedly acceding to the majority rule permitting EEZ surveillance. Such a change in principle is unlikely in the foreseeable future because of the immediate importance to the PRC of insulating from American scrutiny the movements of its submarines in the South China Sea and because the tides there seem to be moving in China’s favor at the moment.

There is also the broader and even more dangerous problem America faces of continuing to protect Taiwan’s security as tensions mount in the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwan and South China Sea issues are related since they both involve the major question of the extent of the U.S. government’s continuing involvement in East Asia. Will there be any possibility of serious negotiations with Beijing on these matters in the near term? First, the U.S. government will have to prepare a strategy, one that will have the backing of a divided American people long tired of foreign wars but aware of East Asia’s importance to our security, of our accomplishments in the post-WW II era and of our values.

Peter Dutton's commentary on the significance of China’s response to the South China Sea arbitration award

Here is a brief comment worth reading on the PRC's response to the recent UNCLOS arbitration award. As Peter makes clear, the significance of China's response goes far beyond the specific dispute and raises the question of the reliability of any PRC international legal commitment including its economic pledges relating to One Belt One Road and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

One hopes that the PRC will begin to recover from its major blunder through the quiet discussions that have begun with the Philippines. Previous PRC leaders have shown the capacity to modify unwise attitudes toward international law. Whether the current leadership is up to the task is probably doubtful but may depend on the extent to which other influential nations seek to demonstrate the undesirable consequences of Beijing's stance.

One important topic that has not received enough attention is where Taiwan fits into the equation. Unlike the PRC, the ROC was eager to take part in the Philippine arbitration proceedings. The UNCLOS tribunal, well aware that its decision on the merits of the many sensitive issues at stake would infuriate Beijing, went out of its way to avoid further offending the PRC in its handling of Taiwan's efforts to be heard. Taiwan could not take part in the proceedings, and the tribunal even refused to allow Taiwan observer status at the hearings, which had been granted to several interested Southeast Asian states. Moreover, the tribunal's opinion referred to Taiwan in a way that would not offend Beijing (but was sure to offend Taiwan). To its credit, and perhaps in order to please Beijing, the tribunal, while not formally accepting the strong "friend of the court" brief submitted by Taiwan's leading NGO - the Chinese (Taiwan) Society of International Law, on whether Taiping island (Itu Aba), the largest of the Spratlys and the only one occupied by Taiwan, is entitled to an Economic Exclusive Zone, did make the brief available to the parties and surely considered it before disagreeing with Taiwan's (and Beijing's) position. Taiwan's new government is now struggling with the dilemmas of how to respond to the tribunal's decision, which offended it not only in substance but also in procedure.

Why So Many Journalists Thought the Permanent Court of Arbitration Made the Philippines-China Decision

The South China Sea arbitration ruling was made by an arbitration tribunal set up in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, when discussing the arbitration case, many news reports made the mistake of saying that it was the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that issued the ruling. Indeed, the context of the PCA’s actions and its very name as a ”Court of Arbitration” obviously throw newcomers and journalists off the track. Its Press Release, however, makes it status and role clear to the wary.

On page 3, the section on the PCA’s Background explains its origin long before the UN and its many contemporary functions as a site for and agent of various types of international dispute resolution arrangements. The PCA is a facilitator. It provides a splendid place for hearings and excellent administration that relieves the tribunal of endless burdens that come with every arbitration and that the arbitrators themselves cannot deal with. It even has a public relations office that captures public attention in the same way that its palatial hearing room does. Plainly, the PCA does not minimize its role.

Commercial arbitrators have to avail themselves of similar facilities and facilitating agencies, but usually the arrangements are less misleading. Some years ago, for example, I had to preside over a 12-day arbitration hearing in London in an investment dispute between a South Korean company and a Saudi Arabian company that had, per the contract, to take place under the arbitration rules of the International Chamber of Commerce. I asked a UK organization to handle all the host arrangements, which relieved me and the ICC headquarters in Paris of many tasks. But there was never any confusion over whether our tribunal’s decision was that of ICC arbitrators or of the facilitating organization.

Future UNCLOS arbitrations should make sure that such confusion does not arise if they again choose to benefit from the assistance of the PCA, as they undoubtedly will. 

South China Sea Ruling and Defamation

The press conference of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) following the South China Sea arbitration award was surely one of the lowest of many low points in China’s response to the arbitration Tribunal. Here is what’s reported, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on July 13, 2016:

“Q: Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told the press this morning that the then Philippine government gave bribes to judges of the Arbitral Tribunal, but did not go into details. Does the Chinese side believe that the bribes from the Philippines would make the judges rule in favor of them?

A: As we said before, the establishment of the Arbitral Tribunal has no legitimacy. It is illegal, and what it has done over the past couple of years was questionable. What Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said this morning was that the Arbitral Tribunal was not an international tribunal and had nothing to do with the UN-affiliated International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. Judges of the ICJ and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea are paid by the UN to ensure their independence and impartiality. As for the five judges in this case, they made money, they were paid by the Philippines. I figure it necessary to make that clear.”

Of course, what constitutes libel or slander in one jurisdiction may not qualify in another (especially in China, where the source of the judges’ compensation guarantees their lack of independence!!). This MOFA reaction is based on so many distortions of the truth that the mind boggles but its implication certainly amounts to defamation in my eyes.

It would be good if the arbitrators, and even the Permanent Court of Arbitration that facilitated administration of the case, would file law suits against the PRC and its spokespersons in China and in some democratic countries where the defamation had effect, preferably including at least one Anglo-American country and one Continental European country in order to perfect this imaginative research experiment in comparative law!  

Tsai Ing-wen’s Response to the South China Sea Arbitration Award on Itu Aba

President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday addresses dignitaries and the crew of the frigate Dyi-huah at Zuoying naval base in Kaohsiung. Photo: ROC Ministry of National Defense

President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday addresses dignitaries and the crew of the frigate Dyi-huah at Zuoying naval base in Kaohsiung. Photo: ROC Ministry of National Defense

I think Tsai’s immediate response was disappointing. Why send a military vessel to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty over Itu Aba (Taipingdao) when the decision had nothing to do with sovereignty? Such uncharacteristic bluster (so different from Tsai’s response to Japan’s interference with Taiwan fishing within the preposterous Okinotori Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claimed by Japan) may have played well at home but abroad it made Taiwan look like the PRC.

I think she should have announced her disappointment about the unfairness to Taiwan of having been excluded from an adequate hearing before the tribunal made its decision as well as about the decision on the merits (Although I liked the amicus brief submitted by the Chinese (Taiwan) Association of International Law, the tribunal’s arguments were more impressive, as I am about to publish in the Wall Street Journal today Beijing time.)  That would have made a better platform for then going on to say that, of course, Taiwan is prepared to take part in negotiations about how to resolve the problems in light of the new circumstances.

I don’t think the American people noticed Tsai’s actions at all. While the US Government can’t be happy with her initial response, the USG got what it wanted on this issue and surely understands Tsai’s felt need to deal with her public’s opinion.

The real challenge for Taiwan is whether to continue to press for an EEZ/Continental shelf for Itu Aba via some imaginative means. Being excluded from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the UN, options are limited. Note that Ma offered ten suggestions re how to deal with the Itu Aba problem internally, but not one dealt with trying to reverse the decision or even what to do next externally in any way. 

My Letter to the Editor, NY Times

To the Editor:

South China Sea and the Rule of Law” (editorial, July 13), about China and the South China Sea arbitration, lacks only one important point. Surprisingly, you don’t mention that the United States, while urging all Asian states to respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea dispute-resolution institutions, has itself shamefully failed to ratify Unclos, something China did 20 years ago.

This puts us in the position of “do as we say, not as we do,” insulating us from similar challenges and denying us the opportunity to begin similar challenges.

It’s like a swimming coach who exhorts the swimmers but dares not wet his own feet!


New York

The writer is a professor and director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute, New York University School of Law.

A Few Immediate Implications of the South China Sea Arbitration Ruling

I think this ruling will add significantly to Xi Jinping’s internal problems. It was a disastrous call to thumb China’s nose at United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) even while claiming to respect it, and the outcome gives many dissatisfied members of Beijing’s elite more fuel for the fire they are lighting under him. See my Sept 23, 2015 op-ed in the Wash Post the day he arrived in DC.

As to the dispute itself, I expect the PRC’s current threatening gestures to persist for a while but there will also be quiet attempts to make a face-saving deal with Duterte through economic incentives and even under the table influences. This may stimulate serious negotiations with other neighbors too.

Vietnam must be very happy, Indonesia too and perhaps Malaysia less obviously. I think Vietnam and Indonesia can credibly threaten to launch their own arbitrations unless Beijing gives assurances of better behavior and shows a genuine willingness to compromise. For Vietnam the problem is that China refuses even to have a bilateral negotiation over the Paracels, which matter at least as much as the Spratly group to Hanoi.

The decision may hearten Japan’s enthusiasm for arbitration or International Court of Justice (ICJ) adjudication over the Senkaku, and Tokyo may repeat its November 2012 pre-Abe offer by former Foreign Minister Gemba, who dared China to settle the dispute before the ICJ.

Photograph: Hearing in session, July 2015, Peace Palace, The Hague, Photo Credit:  The Permanent Court of Arbitration

Photograph: Hearing in session, July 2015, Peace Palace, The Hague, Photo Credit: The Permanent Court of Arbitration

The tribunal’s interpretation of Article 121.3 has the healthy effect of reducing the importance of all these islands by denying them exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and continental shelves, which will eventually make it easier to deal with these issues.

I hope the tribunal’s decision will encourage the US Senate finally to consent to UNCLOS ratification. The fuss over this arbitration leaves America with egg on its face!

Perhaps Taiwan is the most interesting place to watch as Tsai Ing-wen struggles to adjust to an uncomfortable situation. Today’s response openly rejecting the decision is a big mistake and different from what even Ma would have done. Tsai will be criticized at home for following Beijing’s lawless line at the same time that Beijing was responsible for excluding Taiwan from participation in the arbitration.

China’s Disregard for the International Rule of Law

Here’s William Nee’s first-rate essay on the insights into criminal “justice” in China offered by the Booksellers’ case.

Photo Credit: Flags of member nations flying at United Nations Headquarters ,   United Nations Photo , Flickr

Photo Credit: Flags of member nations flying at United Nations HeadquartersUnited Nations Photo, Flickr

I would only add: The Chinese Government can too often hide its disregard for international human rights standards as well as its own national laws. Yet we must continue to expose such violations as much as possible. For example, as John Kamm points out, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has once again condemned PRC criminal procedure abuses, on this occasion for the first time involving an American citizen.

This Tuesday’s decision by the UN arbitration tribunal in the Philippine maritime dispute with China will highlight another area in which the PRC has shown its contempt for the international rule of law. Unfortunately, in its defense, all too often the PRC is able to cite previous United States violations.

Chinese Think Tanks: Confidential Messengers and Idea Sources as Well as Spear Carriers for Their Government

Here is a noteworthy report by Isaac Stone Fish in Foreign Policy, Beijing Establishes a D.C. Think Tank, and No One Notices.

I would only add to this useful analysis the following: In their publications and public speeches, those who work at Chinese think tanks do indeed tend to be spear carriers for their government, with varying degrees of subtlety and effectiveness. Two opposing extremes were on view, for example, at the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington on April 2, where the South China Sea was discussed. Dr. (Ms.) HONG Nong made a gentle, respectable argument designed to elicit the attention, if not agreement, of the mostly American legal specialists present. The other Chinese speaker, injected into the panel as a result of pressure from the PRC government, proved a disaster who infuriated the crowd by his blatantly unfair efforts to attack the legitimacy of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea dispute resolution process. He reminded me of Molotov, the Hammer, in the good old days of Stalin.

What the thoughtful Foreign Policy article does not discuss is the valuable roles that Chinese think tanks play in conveying foreign information and ideas to PRC decision-makers and in quietly suggesting their own ideas for consideration. In the current Chinese political climate, the latter sometimes requires courage!