The Law versus what is Morality

November 14, 2017

The Chinese legal system may have been shattered during Mao’s Cultural Revolution but that didn’t last forever. After Mao died, China rose from the ashes like a phoenix and a lot has changed since then.

For instance, China became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on December 11, 2001. The admission of China to the WTO was preceded by a lengthy process of negotiations and required significant changes to China itself.

Many elements in China’s WTO accession agreement required improving the rule of law. When China joined the WTO, China agreed to ensure that its legal measures would be consistent with its WTO obligations and that led to China’s Rule of Law Reform.

In addition, China made a substantial number of other WTO commitments related to the rule of law in areas of transparency, judicial review, uniform enforcement of laws, and nondiscriminatory treatment.

China then reformed its judicial processes to ensure that they were compatible with its WTO commitments.

This transition from Chinese to western legalism hasn’t been as smooth as some critics wanted it to be, but it is taking place, and it’s clear that in the last few decades China has made an effort to fit into the community of nations while retaining its own identity.

That might be explained by the differences between Chinese legalism and Western legalism primarily related to morality. Western legalism defends the rule-of-law but argues against the morality of law. In contrast, Chinese legalism, especially in the early Pre-Qin era, did not separate morality from the law.

The fidelity to law in Chinese legalism was interpreted as the fidelity to the monarch in moral terms often as defined by Confucianism. In other words, morality in the United States and Europe is mostly based on the teachings of Christianity and many western philosophers while the morality of China is mostly based on Confucianism.

Understanding China’s history and the morality that’s part of its legal system is often ignored by many in the west, especially many Americans that judge China based on Western values and laws.

For instance, a conservative, born-again Christian, former friend of mine, once said to me that China needed a proper legal system. Since China already had a legal system, what did he mean by that?

I knew this individual for almost sixty-years, and I’m sure he meant that China should have a legal system like the one in the U.S. or the U.K. After all, he claimed scripture guided his life and the Christian Bible has been around for centuries proving it comes from God. To him, that meant there was no other choice. For his approval, China had to bend toward Christian scripture.

The problem with that logic is Confucius was around spreading his teaching for centuries before Jesus Christ was born, and the fact that the New Testament didn’t exist for centuries until after Christ died meant that what Confucius taught has been around longer. Was God behind that too?

The Chinese learned from Confucius while in the West we learned from the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. There were many other voices that influenced western thought, and Eternity in an Hour provides a list of famous western philosophers.  Do you think that too many voices often leads to confusion, and that might explain why Chinese civilization has been more stable over the millennia than the west has?

If China becomes the world’s super power in the next fifty to one-hundred years, will the Chinese judge the United States and Europe based on Confucian morality?

Discover The Return of Confucious To China

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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A Chinese Beat Cop in Action, and what are human rights

February 21, 2017

China is often criticized for human rights violations through the United Nations and the west’s media based on European and North American values.

For instance, my last trip to China was in 2008, and we heard about an incident from a friend, a witness to an event that involved the police and two Chinese citizens: a single man in his late forties, who lived in the same building our friend lived in, and one of his girlfriends.

The older 40-year-old man’s girlfriend was in her early twenties, and she called the police from his apartment and claimed she’d been raped. After police officers arrived on the scene of the alleged crime, she demanded, “Arrest and punish him!”

The original single family house in what was once the French sector in Shanghai was now shared by several families; each family had one or two rooms divided up between two floors in what was once a three-story house.  The bottom floor was occupied by a clothing shop.

The neighbors, including our Chinese friend, from the 2nd and 3rd floors, crowded the hall outside an open door to witness what was happening. The police officers, who had arrived on the scene, calmly heard both sides and everyone learned that there had been no actual forced rape. It turned out that the woman had discovered her boyfriend, who was more than twice her age, had two other girlfriends and one of them was twenty years older than he was.

“He asked me to strip,” she said. “He is corrupt.”

The officer studied her, and then the man. The woman was several inches taller and at least twenty pounds heavier. “You have legs. You could leave,” the officer said, “But you stripped. Is that correct?”

There was the sound of laughter from the hallway audience.

The soon-to-be former, much-younger, girlfriend nodded.

“No laws have been broken,” one of the police officers said. “He is a single man and can date anyone he likes, even more than one woman. You could have said no. If you feel that you have been abused, there’s a woman’s organization that will help you. Do you want the phone number?”

“I already went to them. They won’t punish him either.”

The officer shook his head. “You will never come to this apartment again,” the officer said, and he wrote his verdict in a notebook.

China’s police do not have to read a suspected criminal his or her Miranda rights. U.S. Miranda rights do not exist in China. Arguably, In China, the police have more power than police in the U.S. We often hear about China’s human rights violations, but how can they be human rights violations when there are no laws that define them; no human rights laws to enforce?

It might help to compare a few crime statistics between the United States and China.

Nation Master.com reports the murder rate per year per 100,000 people

  • China: 1.2 per 100,000
  • United States: 5 per 100,000

Number of Robberies recorded by police per 100,000 people

  • China: 24.5
  • U.S. 146.4

Prisons Population (reported by the BBC)

  • China: 1,548,498 or 118 per 100,000 people
  • United States: 2,193,798 or 737 per 100,000

What did Patrick Henry say on March 23, 1775? “Give me liberty or give me death.” I wonder what Patrick Henry would say today if he were still alive and saw these compared facts.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

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The Powerless Victims of Eminent Domain and Civil Forfeiture

May 3, 2016

Gillian Wong of the Associated Press reported on a lone, rural Chinese farmer that resisted selling his house to the local government so a new road could be completed.  The photo shows a house sitting in the middle of an almost finished road with pavement surrounding it.

If that had been in the United States, the house would have been gone long before the road was built—something Wong failed to mention is that this sort of thing happens in the U.S. all the time, and it seriously started during the decades when the roads and highways spread across the U.S. like spider webs.

In fact, local US governments do not need to wait for the owner of a house to agree to sell. It can force the owner to sell and then use the police/marshals to move him or her out using force if necessary.

I still remember reading about one incident in The Los Angeles Times that happened in Southern California during the craze to build freeways there.

The home owner was a combat veteran from World War II, Korea or Vietnam (I do not remember which war).  This vet refused to move out of his house even after the local government forced him to sell it.  He claimed he wasn’t being paid what he had invested in the house in improvements.

This American vet filled sandbags and stacked them against the walls of his house; he stocked up on canned foods, bullets, rifles and a gas mask along with a bullet-proof vest. No one was going to take his house away from him.

A swat team had to be called in, tear gas was used and the swat team broke into his house and swarmed him before he could shoot anyone. Then off to jail and court he went to be judged by a jury of his peers. I never did find out what the outcome of that trial was.

In the US, as states, cities and towns expand and improve roadways, sewer and power lines, communications and other system, local governments often secure or acquire access to private owned land. Without the government’s power to do so, the size and capability or public infrastructure would become inadequate to serve the needs of society (the people) and often in the U.S. the estimated value of a property does not match, because the government uses a different method to determine value not based on what the owner spent on the property but based on the average value of other properties that recently sold in the same community.  To the government, the value of the property is an estimated value. To the owner, it may be every penny he or she invested in the property.  – Find Law.com

In the U.S., this has been called legalized theft, and has been debated for decades. The law is called Eminent Domain, and it gives a government the power to buy private property for public use, usually with compensation to the owner.

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia says: “Government power to take private property for public use without the owner’s consent. Constitutional provisions in most countries, including the U.S. (in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution), require the payment of just compensation to the owner. As a power peculiar to sovereign authority and coupled with a duty to pay compensation, the concept was developed by such 17th-century natural-law jurists as Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf.”

After all, they happen all the time and are often ignored by the American media because they are so common. If you doubt what I say, watch the three-part PBS program embedded in this post. In addition, U.S. citizens are now becoming frequent victims of Civil Forfeiture. If you are a citizen in a country with Civil Forfeiture laws similar to those in the U.S., you probably don’t want to watch the following video and risk losing sleep.

My question is why was this incident in China was worthy of media attention in the U.S., and I wonder if China’s media ever reports on similar incidents in America?

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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What is the risk to Outspoken Nonconformists in China?

February 17, 2016

To find out what might really happen to outspoken nonconformists in China, let’s examine what happened with a few high profile cases in the recent past and ignore any headlines designed to paint China’s leaders as evil.

According to the record, none of China’s dissidents since 1976 have been executed, and only two have been given a life sentence in prison: Wang Bingzhang and Ilham Tohti.

What about a few of the thirty-three who have been arrested and served or are still serving time in a Chinese prison? Oh, 33 is 0.00000243% of China’s population of 1.357+  billion people.

  1. In 1989, Tan Baiqiao was arrested for spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda; inciting counterrevolutionary activities; defection to the enemy, and treason— but due to international pressure, Tan was released and reached the U.S. in 1992.
  2. In 2002, Cai Lujun, a businessman and writer was arrested for “incitement to subversion and eventually sought political asylum in Taiwan in 2007.
  3. In 1995, Wang Dan was sentenced to 11 years in prison but was released on medical parole to the US in 1998 and is currently living in Taiwan.
  4. In 1998, Wang Youcai was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion but was released and exiled to the United States in 2004.
  5. In 1979, Wei Jingsheng an electrician was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for passing military secretes.  He was released from prison for medical reasons and deported to the US in 1997.

What about other countries? There are laws in most countries that support what China does with its political dissidents.

For instance, in the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. & 2385, “Advocating overthrow of Government by force or violence”:

“Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

“Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

“Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

“Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.”

In addition, on May 4, 2012, the New York Times got it right with this headline, For China, a Dissident in Exile Is One Less Headache Back Home.

The NY Times said, “Based on past experience, China is often all too pleased to see its most nettlesome dissidents go into exile, where they almost invariably lose their ability to grab headlines in the West and to command widespread sympathy both in China and abroad.”

In fact, if you read the US law carefully, it sounds like it is also illegal to advocate the overthrow of another country’s government—just read the first paragraph in bold print above.

Moreover, fifty-two countries are led by authoritarian governments ruling over more than a third of humanity, so if you have to live under an authoritarian government, which kind is best?  After all, everyone cannot live in Hong Kong, which is considered the freest economy in the world.  Hong Kong (part of China) is followed by Singapore, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. The U.S. ranks tenth of more than 150 nations.  China is ranked 138. Sources: The Freest Nations on Earth and Heritage.org

And what country puts more of its citizens in prison—China or the United States? The answer might surprise you. The United States has 698 people locked up for every 100,000 compared to China’s 119 per 100,000. – prisonstudies.org

In addition, according to Foreign Policy magazine, Joshua E. Keating, “found that single-party states—think China and Vietnam—are the most responsive to citizens’ demands, providing a higher quality of governance … the Chinese Communist Party has not lasted through the use of force alone, but also by making popular investments in China’s infrastructure and social services,” which has reduced poverty from more than 80% in 1949 to less than 13% today and increased the average lifespan from 35 years of age in 1949 to more than 75 today.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Land Grabs and Murder

July 14, 2015

A friend and expatriate living in China sent me a link to a piece written by Gillian Wong for her New Witness accounts renew suspicions over Chinese village leader’s gruesome death.

Gillian Wong wrote, “The persisting suspicions about Qian’s death reflect a growing lack of trust in China’s government as rampant corruption and official abuse erode public confidence.”

The language Wong uses to place blame bothers me. What she writes assumes that China’s central government has total control over everything that happens in China, which it doesn’t. China is about the size of the United States with almost five times the population, and most police work and governing takes place at the local level as in the US.

In fact, China couldn’t have joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001 without having a legal system in place similar to most Western democracies, which means this issue of a rural village leader being murdered over a land grab has to be dealt with by China’s infant legal system guided by the laws of China and not the laws of another country like the United States.

And this means criminals often go free—for instance, like in the United States. If the evidence and witnesses do not exist, no one is punished. The old days of Chinese officials rounding up the accused and executing them without evidence and a proper trial are supposed to be over.

For example, in 1973, Al Pacino played the part of an honest real-life New York cop, Frank Serpico, who blew the whistle on corruption in the city police force only to have his comrades in police uniforms turn against him. Pacino’s film was based on a true story.

The US even has a witness protection program to protect the lives of innocent people from criminals that want to erase all evidence against them even if it means murdering witnesses

I’ve written about corruption in China before and what is being done about it. What the West considers corruption in China and all of Asia was a way of life for several thousand years. The old ways of doing things do not change instantly just because a foreign legal system and new laws are created.

To allow this new legal system to work, the slow wheels of justice must be allowed to turn and that doesn’t guarantee that justice will be served. If you believe China is doing nothing about crime and corruption, then I suggest you read What China’s Anti-Corruption Investigation Means For International Business from Forbes.

Another American movie, Walking Tall, was also based on the true story of honest Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, who almost single-handily cleaned up his small town of crime and corruption, but at a horrible price, and he nearly lost his life as Serpico did.

No, I refuse to blame that rural village leader’s death on China’s central government, and I cannot expect Beijing to send in the teenage Red Guard goon squad, which doesn’t exist anymore, as Mao would have done during the Cultural Revolution to punish everyone accused of a crime, even innocent people, without evidence as defined by China’s new legal system.

Gillian Wong also says, “Qian’s death is the latest violent incident to touch a nerve among the Chinese public, angry over official corruption and abuse of power, including unfair seizure of farmers’ land for development…”

Wong’s statements make it sound as if the land belongs to the farmers. It doesn’t.

In fact, the land the farmers work belongs to the collective and the government but not individuals. In fact, even the title to urban homes individuals buy in cities clearly says that all the land belongs to the government. It’s more of a long-term lease.

How do you measure fair compensation of land that never legally belonged to the farmers in the first place?

Before 1949, most rural land belonged to a small number of wealthy landowners. In fact, the ancestors of the peasant farmers working the land today were tenant farmers that paid rent to the real landowners, who often abused the peasants.

After winning the Chinese civil war, Mao allowed the peasants to punish many of the original landowners and almost one million were found guilty and executed.

Correct me if you have other “facts”, but most of China’s rural farmers have worked the land free for about sixty years with no rent, no mortgage and no property tax.

As for murder, with a Western style legal system and no witnesses willing to step forward, there is no case. The main character of My Splendid Concubine wrote in one of his journals that in China the innocent were often punished along with the guilty while in England the criminals often went free and there was no justice for the victims. What does that mean for China now that it’s developing a Western style (capitalist) legal system?

Then there is the law of eminent domain. “The power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The (United States) Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners.”  – Cornell University Law School

What about China? – An Analysis of the Conflict in Chinese Property Law: Eminent Domain Powers versus Real Property Rights

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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Stopping Illegal Drug Trafficking in China

April 21, 2015

The expansion of poppy growing in recent years has created problems around the globe.

Even at one of the most remote border inspection stations in the world, the frontier guards must be vigilant against drug traffickers.

For instance, one border post in Xinjiang province along the border of China and Pakistan is at an altitude of 5,100 meters (almost 17,000 feet). The oxygen at this altitude is less than half of sea level. This is where China’s Hongqilafu border station stands.

In the last few years, more drugs have been smuggled across the Sino-Pakistani border because of the expansion of poppy growing in Afghanistan.

In fact, United Nations statistics show that 87% of all illegal heroin in the world comes from Afghanistan.

Khunjerab Pass

Li Shengyu, commander of the Hongqilafu Border Inspection Station says, “They need buyers for the huge amount of drugs. As far as we know, the drug dealers are targeting China as a new market and plan to make their way into China across the border at Hongqilafu.”

Between 2006 and 2008, huge amounts of drugs were intercepted at border stations. The Chinese border guards must be vigilant to discover hidden drugs among the tourists coming into China.

The most common method of smuggling is to hide the opium from Afghanistan in the smuggler’s luggage. The smugglers will also use other tricks to fool the inspectors.

At the Hongqilafu Border Inspection Station, one team of inspectors checks the luggage inside the station while another team inspects the empty bus.

China’s border guards even go under the tourist busses and check the bottom.  Sniffer dogs were sent to the station but the dogs died due to lack of oxygen.

The conditions at the border station have been improved over the years. At one time, the guards lived in trailers.  Now, they live in a new, updated border station in a permanent building.

One officer, who has been at the station for more than a decade, said, “In the past, when it was extremely cold in late winter, we couldn’t sleep at night. Sometimes the temperature fell so low that when I got up in the morning, I found that part of my cap had been frozen to the wall of the camper van.”

Grenztor nach Pakistan am Khunjerab Pass (4730m)

Khunjerab Pass (elevation 4,693 meters or 15,397 feet)

The Khunjerab Pass on the border between China and Pakistan is open from May 1 to October 31. For the rest of the year when the area is covered in ice and snow, the pass is closed. Yet, the border guards must be stationed there during the six months of the off season, and it’s a tough assignment even with improved living conditions.

As China has opened up more to the outside world, the Hongqilafu Border crossing is open to other nationalities than just Pakistanis. Each year, more tourists visit China along this route.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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The growing epidemic of illegal Drug use in China

February 4, 2015

There is a price that comes with living in a so-called “free” world with human rights that extend to every citizen — even hard-core criminals.

Besides violent crime and human trafficking (slavery), one of those challenges is the illegal drug trade.

For instance, in the United States, The DEA reports that Mexican drug cartels are making a bigger push to organize their black market activities in the United States, Europe and neighboring Latin American countries.

In fact, the US Justice Department reported, “The illegal drug market in the United States is one of the most profitable in the world.”

What about China? Between 1950 – 1976, China had little crime and had eliminated illegal drug use.  Under Mao, the drug traffickers were executed and addicts either rehabilitated or shot. Those who survived fled to Hong Kong, Macao, Europe and the United States. But after Mao’s death, that started to change.

Until the 1970s, China’s economy was managed by the communist government and was kept closed from other economies. Together with political reforms, China in the early 1980’s began to open its economy and signed a number of regional trade agreements.

Eventually China joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001. This meant that China could only engage in trade with the world following rules the CCP did not make. After China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), the service sector was considerably liberalized and foreign investment was allowed; restrictions on retail, wholesale and distribution ended. Banking, financial services, insurance and telecommunications were also opened up to foreign investment.

That’s when the illegal business of trafficking in illegal drugs returned to China with a vengeance.

Since the early 1980’s, due to China’s economic boom to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty, some parts of the country now battle social problems, including soaring rates of drug addiction. One of the worst affected areas is China’s southern province of Yunnan, the entry point for most heroin.

Yunnan’s border is easy to cross from the infamous Golden Triangle. In Yunnan, a fix of heroin costs about the same as a US chocolate bar.

To deal with this challenge, Chinese authorities send heroin addicts to a drug rehabilitation center at the provincial capital of Yunnan province, which is where the largest drug rehabilitation center in the world is located.

The heroin addicts spend two years in a strict rehabilitation program to help kick the habit. However, once released, many return to addiction.

The Atlantic.com reports that “The country’s economy has exploded over the past quarter-century. … Only 25 years ago, narcotics and illicit drug use were nearly unheard of. Today, Chinese society and government authorities are increasingly grappling with the explosion in drug use and drug addicts, as well as how to respond to the phenomenon. With more relaxed borders, increased wealth, and greater individual freedoms, drug addiction and its consequences threaten to become a permanent fixture within Chinese society.”

In 1992, there were less than 180,000 registered drug abusers in China. By 2014, that number had climbed to about 2.5 million.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards

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