Jim McManis gives a lecture on trial practice to Chinese delegates to the 2014 IATL China Program. Photo credit: Ann Palmer Photography

Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm was a guest of honor at the International Academy of Trial Lawyers (IATL) China Program Welcoming Dinner in San Jose on May 18. In June, Kamm spoke with IATL China Program co-chair Jim McManis to better understand the program that has brought about 200 Chinese lawyers to the United States over the last 20 years.

Emphasis on Writing Laws

Unlike other legal exchanges with China, the IATL China Program emphasizes the drafting of laws. Its partner in China is the State Council Legislative Affairs Office (LAO). Chinese participants have been drawn from provincial legal affairs offices (in 2014 delegates hailed from offices in Anhui, Beijing, Hubei, and Tianjin), the National People’s Congress, Central Party School, Ministry of Justice, and legal divisions of the State Administrative Bureau of Industry and Commerce and State Forestry Administration.

In the summer preceding the annual May program, the LAO notifies subordinate offices and other eligible candidates that applications to join the program are being accepted. The LAO selects 25‒30 candidates based on their work experience and credentials.

Every October, McManis and co-chair Sara Wigh, who form a dynamic husband and wife team, travel to Beijing to interview shortlisted delegates. Over the course of one week, they interview about five delegates a day, spending 60‒90 minutes with each applicant. At the end of the week, they select 7‒15 delegates based on their program budget, which covers all of the delegates’ expenses.

At the end of the selection process, delegates gather for a group photo and remarks by LAO officials and the IATL China Program Adviser, currently Liu Chu. The delegates, whose average age is 32, then choose a group leader and the English names they will use during the program. Following the event, McManis and Wigh travel to China’s interior, visiting former delegates and publicizing the program.


After a week of orientation in San Jose, organized by the IATL China Program co-chairs, Chinese delegates fan out across the United States to spend two weeks in the homes and offices of IATL members. IATL membership is by invitation only and is limited to 500 criminal and civil lawyers under the age of 70. Chinese delegates learn how their American counterparts live and work by meeting and interacting with their families, law partners, and other members of legal communities. They gain hands-on experience with the American legal system and return to China to put what they’ve learned into practice.

In 2014, 12 Chinese delegates spent time with hosts in Colorado, North Carolina, Missouri, Oregon, Kansas, California, Minnesota, and Alabama.


“We don’t presume to know what’s best for China. We don’t preach,” McManis said. “We make available what we know, from practice, about the American legal system. We’re proud that we have made an impact on the drafting of Chinese laws, though it is difficult to quantify.”

McManis recalls an especially poignant discussion, in one of the early exchanges, regarding the presumption of innocence, a key feature of the American justice system. This concept is now enshrined in China’s Criminal Law. Contributions have also been made to the drafting of the Negotiable Instruments Law, Aviation Law, Securities Law, Commercial Banking Law, Contract Law, and Electronic Signature Law.

Praised by American and Chinese officials alike, the IATL China Program is one of the best examples of people-to-people exchanges in the field of law. It is a vivid illustration of how dialogue can achieve results and further mutual understanding outside the realm of bilateral governmental dialogues and exchanges.


Dui Hua recently received a response from the Chinese government regarding one of the earliest cases of endangering state security (ESS) in the country. ESS crimes went into force with the nation’s revised Criminal Law on October 1, 1997. Ye Huoxin (叶火新) and Cheng Tianhua (程天华) were formally arrested for inciting subversion on October 17 of that year.

Official sources did not specify what the men did, but the residents of Guangdong’s rural Fengkai County received severe sentences. The Zhaoqing Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Ye and Cheng to 10 and eight years’ imprisonment, respectively, on April 21, 1998. Under Article 105 of the Criminal Law, sentences of at least five years’ imprisonment are to be handed down to “ringleaders who organize, scheme for, or carry out subversion of state political power and overthrow of the socialist system.”

Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database has information on 21 individuals sentenced for inciting subversion between 1997 and 2000. Most were accused of distributing leaflets or posting online essays critical of the Chinese Communist Party. Some were members of China’s Democracy Party, an opposition group banned immediately after President Bill Clinton’s visit to China in 1998, and Zhonggong, one of the 14 “harmful qigong organizations” outlawed in 1999.

Ye’s 10-year sentence ended just one year shy of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo’s (刘晓波) sentencing. In December 2009, he received what remains the longest known sentence for inciting subversion for his work on the political manifesto Charter 08. Although Ye received his first 12-month sentence reduction four years after being convicted, Liu has yet to receive a sentence reduction after five years in prison. Ye’s sentence was further reduced a total of 17 months in 2003 and 2005 and was released early on March 30, 2005. Cheng was granted a 12-month sentence reduction two years after his conviction and was released on December 4, 2002, after receiving two additional reductions totaling 21 months in 2001 and 2002. Ye and Cheng served their sentences in Zhaoqing’s Huaiji Prison.


In late June, Dui Hua released a press statement on the decision of China’s Supreme People’s Court’s to overturn the death sentence of Li Yan (李彦, pictured right), a woman charged with the murder of her violent and abusive husband in November 2010. Multiple media outlets, including The New York TimesAssociated Press, and South China Morning Post interviewed and cited Dui Hua while reporting on this landmark ruling. Executive Director John Kamm told reporters that, “In the struggle for human rights—and women’s rights—in China, this decision will be remembered. The oppressor has been put on notice. No more violence with impunity.”

In May, Dui Hua released a press statement on Chinese criminal justice statistics that point to prosecutors reducing the use of endangering state security (ESS) crimes in cases against human rights activists. Didi Tang of the Associated Pressreported on how Chinese authorities are switching to common crimes like public order offenses in order to dodge international criticism. Citing Dui Hua’s analysis of official data, the article mentions that the number of people indicted for ESS crimes last year is the lowest since 2007, while public order charges have surged over the past nine years.

For links to more selected coverage, please visit our website at In the Media.


Prof. Cheng Lei of Renmin University presents his team’s research at Women in Prison: An International Symposium on the Bangkok Rules.

Featured Article: Research Report on the Treatment of Women Detainees in China—Using the Bangkok Rules as the Starting Point of Analysis (June 23)

In the second half of 2013, a team at Renmin University of China Law School, led by Professor Cheng Lei, conducted research on the conditions for women prisoners in two prisons and three detention centers in China. Their findings were first presented at Women in Prison: An International Symposium on the Bangkok Rules in February 2014, which featured presentations by 25 expert practitioners from nine countries. The research and final report, made possible through the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was summarized in Dialogue, Issue 54 (Winter 2014).

Annual Report (Chinese) (June 6)
Detained Actor Spotlights Custody and Education, Censors Intervene (June 10)
Outside Beijing: Official June Fourth Accounts (Part IV) (June 12)
China’s Supreme People’s Court Overturns Death Sentence of Domestic Violence Survivor (June 23)

Last month’s Digest: June 2014


To celebrate 15 years of human rights advocacy, we’ll be highlighting a key moment from this month in Dui Hua history.

In July 2007, Dui Hua researchers uncovered information that exposed Yahoo!’s role in the arrest of Chinese journalist Shi Tao (师涛) and led to a highly publicized congressional investigation.

Three years earlier, in April 2004, Shi logged on to his email and forwarded to an overseas website an internal government directive warning journalists not to report on the fifteenth anniversary of the June Fourth killings in Tiananmen Square. Using information obtained from Yahoo!, Chinese police identified Shi as the owner of the email account. Arrested in November 2004, Shi was sentenced in 2005 by a Hunan court to 10 years in prison for trafficking state secrets.

In February 2006, then Yahoo! Senior Vice President and General Counsel Michael Callahan testified to Congress that Yahoo! “had no information about the nature of the investigation” when the company complied with the Chinese government’s request for Shi Tao’s account record.

On July 25, 2007, Dui Hua researchers uncovered and released the search warrant issued to Yahoo! by the Beijing State Security Bureau in April 2004. The warrant specified that “evidence is being sought in a case of suspected ‘illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities,’” thus contradicting Callahan’s testimony. Five days later, Dui Hua released additional documents revealing Yahoo!’s role in providing information that was used as evidence to prosecute Chinese dissidents Wang Xiaoning (王小宁)Jiang Lijun (姜立军), and Li Zhi (李智) for subversion in connection with their writings.

Forground: Then Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang at congressional hearing on Shi Tao; background: Gao Qinsheng, mother of Shi Tao. Photo credit: Reuters

Soon after Dui Hua released these documents, Congressman Tom Lantos reconvened the investigation into Yahoo!’s role in these cases. Callahan and then Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang were summoned to testify in November 2007. Yang argued that Yahoo! had to comply with local laws in China, while Callahan said the company did not learn about the details of those documents until after he first testified and apologized for not alerting Congress at the time. Congressman Lantos told the two men to beg for the forgiveness of Shi Tao’s mother, who was seated directly behind them. When they turned around to bow to her, she cried. After the testimony, Yahoo! paid an undisclosed sum to settle a lawsuit brought by the families of the imprisoned dissidents.

The release of police documents by Dui Hua was a turning point in the Yahoo! Internet cases. Since our establishment 15 years ago, our research team has uncovered and disseminated numerous documents and articles pinpointing censorship and other human rights issues in China.

For more information on the Yahoo! Internet cases, please click here.