All posts by kkaufman

About kkaufman

Kenneth Aaron Kaufman comes to us from Boston, Massachusetts as the program assistant for IBJ’s China office in Beijing. Prior to working with IBJ, Kenneth worked as a research assistant at the Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management, after graduating from Maine’s Colby College in 2010. He has been in China for over a year, and is fluent in Mandarin and English. Preparing to become a lawyer, Kenneth has deferred his legal studies at Northeastern University to get more experience in a legal setting abroad. Kenneth spends his free time playing baseball, and loves to travel.

IBJ Hosts Diplomatic Roundtable on China’s New Criminal Procedure Law

This past Thursday, March 29, 2012, International Bridges to Justice
organized a roundtable event to discuss the impact and significance of
China’s new Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). The event was attended by top
Chinese and foreign scholars in the field, UN representative, and over a
dozen diplomats. Held in Ford Foundation’s China headquarters, the
purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the changes to the CPL, the
effects it would have on criminal procedure in China, and implementation
strategies.

The event lasted three hours, and was received with enthusiasm from the
attendees. The roundtable opened with an introduction to IBJ, followed by five
substantive presentations on the changes, including:  the new CPL’s effect on
trial investigations, adjudication, juvenile cases, investigative techniques,
cases involving defendants with mental illness, and the new anti-torture
provisions in the CPL. IBJ’s China Director Aurora Bewicke presented on the new
CPL’s impact on the work of defense attorneys in China. Presentations were
followed by a discussion period, on topics such as plea bargaining, judicial
independence, and implementation challenges.

Importantly, the new CPL incorporates many positive provisions designed
to protect the rights of the accused, including earlier access to
counsel, expanded Legal Aid, mechanisms to compel witnesses to testify
at trial, discovery procedures, additional protections for juveniles,
the right against self incrimination, and enhancement of the presumption
of innocence. The changes to the CPL will officially come into effect
on January 1, 2013.


			

The Road to Justice – IBJ Duty Lawyer Attorney Zhu Changjiang Fights For Juvenile’s Rights

This January, as China celebrated the Spring Festival and another new
beginning in the Year of the Dragon, Attorney Zhu Changjiang received a
phone call early one morning from a familiar voice. Pengpeng, Attorney
Zhu’s 17-year old former Legal Aid client, was calling to wish him a
Happy Spring Festival, continuing a friendship they both still consider
very important.

In 2010, Pengpeng, a local in Shaanxi’s Fufeng prefecture, was forced to
drop out of school due to financial instability after his father passed
away. Later that year, while working at a local car wash, Pengpeng and a
coworker came across a forgotten wallet in the backseat of the car they
were working on. In desperation, Pengpeng and his coworker split the
cash in the wallet, and discarded the evidence.

Months later, in early 2011, the owner of the car reported the missing
wallet, and investigators brought Pengpeng in for questioning.
Afterward, he was arrested and prosecuted on suspicion of theft by the
Xi’an People’s Court. Because Pengpeng was a minor at the time, the
city’s procuratorate assigned Attorney Zhu the case, as a Legal Aid
representative.

Using training received through IBJ’s Duty Lawyer Program, Attorney Zhu
took up the case immediately. He first attained all the case files from
the local procuratorate, then met directly with Pengpeng at the
detention center. Pengpeng admitted to the theft and wanted to
compensate the owner of the wallet. Attorney Zhu helped him to reconcile
with the victim and appeal to the procuratorate for prosecutorial
immunity.

Attorney Zhu advised Pengpeng to plead guilty, and promise restitution
to the owner of the wallet. Attorney Zhu then appealed to the
procuratorate review committee for immunity from criminal prosecution,
because it was Pengpeng’s first offense, and he had repented for his
actions.

The procuratorate agreed with Attorney Zhu’s appeal, and granted
Pengpeng immunity from criminal prosecution, giving him, instead, six
months of community service.

In the months that followed, Pengpeng realized how lucky he was to have
such a proactive lawyer. Instead of serving jail time, he was released
and could go back to work, providing for his family. Every week of his
community service, he and Attorney Zhu spoke on the phone, and at least
once a month they met in person. After the six months had come to a
close, Pengpeng returned to normal life. Since the end of the case,
though, attorney and client have remained in close contact, and Pengpeng
remains ever grateful for the help he received.

Attorney Zhu with Duty Lawyer Juvenile Client, Fei Pengpeng

Currently, Attorney Zhu and other IBJ Duty Lawyers continue to work on
Legal Aid cases, representing the less fortunate, and fighting for
justice.

Juvenile Justice – Beijing Lecture Series and Roundtable Discussion

This past weekend, beginning on Saturday, January 7, 2012, as some of
the winter season’s first snow fell, International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) held a juvenile defense training seminar in coordination with
China’s Democracy and Rule of Law Magazine at the Friendship Hotel in
Beijing. The event was part of both IBJ’s Defense Empowerment Corps.
(DEC) Program, as well as it’s Juvenile Justice Program. Sessions on
Saturday and Sunday were well attended, with 39 people participating;
including four DEC partners from Tianlan Law Firm, a representative of
IBJ’s Clinical Program, as well as lawyers, professors, judges, and
prosecutors representing several of the country’s top legal
institutions. Also in attendance were several lawyers from Beilin,
China, where IBJ is developing a new Juvenile Justice pilot project.

The program started on Saturday morning, with an informational lecture
about the upcoming criminal procedural law (CPL) amendments. Fan
Chongyi, an esteemed professor and doctoral tutor from the Chinese
Procedural Law Research Center, explained that the amendments to the CPL
will take into account international standards and developments, and
also must solve some of the present practical problems that China faces.
The afternoon session was highlighted by additional lectures discussing
further developments of juvenile law in China.

The next day, attendees participated in a roundtable discussion. The
roundtable was composed of two sessions: First, there was a discussion
on what effects China’s new procedural law will have on juvenile cases.
Professor Yao argued for a need to increase education, in coordination
with the developments in procedure. He believes that the “juvenile”
definition ought to be expanded to not only include children up to 18
years old, but also youths, such as those studying in university, as
well. In this way, “juvenile” criminal law can be combined to define
youth not only physically, but also socially and psychologically.
There was then a heated, but cordial, discussion about how China ought
to learn from the juvenile legal systems in the United States and Hong
Kong, both which recognize that juveniles differ from adults, and have
laws reflecting these differences.
The second part of the roundtable was a discussion on a specific case,
allowing participants to argue evidentiary issues. And, because the
defense attorney who actually argued the case in court was present at
the event, it made for an even more lively debate. Though there were no
conclusive findings for the case, participants were able to learn
strategies for arguing cases, and came away with several considerations
concerning juvenile law.
Follow IBJ China's activities using our Twitter handle, @IBJChina

			

December 4th China Legal Publication Day: Shanxi Province On-Site Legal Advice

In conjunction with several other activities relating to National Legal
Publication Day, China’s International Bridges to Justice program
cooperated with the Shanxi University of Finance and Economics to
develop an on-site legal advice forum and disseminate legal rights
brochures.

A collection that included more than fifty students from the Shanxi
University of Finance and Economics’ School of Law and communist youth
league committee, as well as three representatives from Peking
University, began by gathering to form a volunteer legal aid team in a
small community in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. The team then made
themselves available at a table set up on the community’s main road, and
took legal questions from residents, offering advice and consultation
for their legal problems.

A Forum For Participants in Shanxi

The legal aid team answered several questions, many of which were
related to the recent reform of the Marriage Act. The residents were
explained the changes that had been made, and given advice on how to
cope with the effects. Individuals also approached the students with
more personal legal problems. Citizens spoke out about injustices that
they noticed in their daily lives, and were shocked at some of the
information they heard. The legal aid team explained that a lot of the
time you do not need to endure unfair circumstances. Instead, you can
resort to using the law as a means to solve your problems.

The next part of the program concerned passing out legal rights
brochures to local citizenry. The volunteers were working with the goal
of increasing the legal knowledge of those in the community, and
addressing the marked lack of willingness to use the law among the
citizens.

While developing a China where citizens understand and aren’t afraid to
stand up for their rights is still a work in progress, it was clear from
the reaction of participants that they appreciate IBJ’s mission. We hope
that, in the future, everyone will be just as well informed.

			

Little Law Fighter – IBJ China’s December 4th Program in Jinan, Shandong Province

As part of International Bridges to Justice’s contribution to China’s December 4th National Legal Publication Day this year, IBJ partnered with the Legal Aid Association of Shandong University to organize a legal rights awareness event in the Songliu Primary Migrant Worker’s School, with the goal of promoting legal education among migrant school children.

Students Raising Their Hands to Participate in the Activities

The event attracted a large and diverse crowd, with more than 250 migrant students in attendance. Apart from the children, there were 25 law students, 20 volunteers, 20 community members, 10 journalists, and five government officials who participated in the event. The total number of attendees amounted to greater than 340 people. Among other information, IBJ passed out brochures to participants highlighting the basic legal rights of an individual. Attendees were then quizzed on their understanding of these rights as part of a prize-winning contest. One girl was well prepared for the contest, even giving a detailed answer to a question with the words,” According to the 46th Article of the Constitution…” Many children enthusiastically participated in the question and answer sessions. Later, a mock courtroom trial was held, and questions were posed to the various school teams. The winning teams received prizes at the end of the trial.

Volunteers Hand Out Pamphlets to the Students

Many of the participants personally expressed gratitude to those working and volunteering at the event. Some complimented the brochure, saying it has beautiful pictures and stories, while others commented on how the law is important to know, and use, and that the brochure was helpful in providing that knowledge.

The First Student Team Introduces Themselves for Question and Answer

Prior to the event, many of the school students had never been informed about their legal rights. Their school did not provide them with the opportunity to increase that awareness. In holding the event, IBJ was able to do its part in fulfilling a legal necessity of imparting that knowledge to the migrant student community. The students responded enthusiastically and passionately. The positive response by the students shows that the event was an overwhelming success, and that these types of events can create a strong impact on increasing legal awareness for communities that lack a legal support network in China.

Sanjeewa Liyanage at Beijing Normal University: Can We End Torture in the 21st Century? Yes We Can!

November 9, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China – After attending
the IBJ China staff retreat in Beijing, IBJ’s International Program
Director Sanjeewa Liyanage took his final evening in China to give a
lecture at the Beijing Normal University Criminal Law School. The
lecture was made possible by Professor Wang Xiu Mei, a leading
international criminal expert in China. Mr. Liyanage spoke to a room
filled with attentive Masters and PhD law students, highlighting the
need to end torture around the world, and in the criminal justice
system, in particular.

Sanjeewa Liyanage and Professor Wang Xiu Mei

Mr. Liyanage began by giving a comprehensive description of where
torture is brought up in international law, and eventually went on to
define torture, citing the UN Convention Against Torture. He explained
how the Convention prohibits investigative torture, detailing torture
clauses in various international treaties and statutes. He described how
freedom from torture is non-derogable, meaning there are no exceptional
circumstances whatsoever that may be invoked to justify torture,
including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public
emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, and any form of armed
conflict.

From there, bringing the argument back to the students in the room, Mr.
Liyanage highlighted that torture is prohibited in several countries in
Asia, including China, and in particular under Chinese criminal law and
criminal procedure law.

IBJ’s International Program Director Sanjeewa Liyanage and Beijing Normal University

Mr. Liyanage also spoke at lengths about the current global torture
situation. He mentioned where, when, and how torture is practiced, and
that torture still regularly occurs in countries where it is expressly
prohibited by law. He then posed the contradiction that there are
several organizations around the world that work on torture issues, but
they, for the most part, address the problem after the torture has
already occurred. Instead, Mr. Liyanage argues, the most effective way
to prevent torture from happening is to provide the accused with early
access to competent and committed counsel. That way, with the presence
of a lawyer at the time of arrest, a collaborative dialogue with
stakeholders in the justice sector, and public awareness of individuals’
rights, we can prevent torture before it begins. He backed this argument
by juxtaposing it with concrete examples of how IBJ programs have
contributed significantly to reducing torture as an investigative tool
in many countries and localities where IBJ lawyers are actively engaged
in safeguarding basic legal rights of ordinary people.

Finally, Mr. Liyanage concluded with an optimistic pronouncement that
the solution is before us, and that torture can, indeed, be ended during
the 21st century. He argued that, at one point, slavery and the
apartheid were viewed as something that could not be easily brought to
an end. But relentless and strategic efforts by social movements have
ended these practices. He explained that to end torture we need to have
the will to do so and a viable strategy, remarking that the strategy
employed by IBJ could be expanded to reach this goal.

Masters and PhD Law Students at Beijing Normal University

The lecture was very warmly received, and the students confidently posed
questions.  Many of the law students were so impressed, that they
wondered how they could get involved with IBJ efforts in China.

Me, Us, and Now: Community Building, Challenges, and Hope for IBJ, China

On November 7, International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) brought together
China’s three Defender Resource Centers in Beijing for a staff retreat.
Members of the Wuhan office, Xi’an office, and Beijing office joined
IBJ’s International Program Director Sanjeewa Liyanage for a two-day
program of community building and program development through reflection
on shared experiences and the collective values of IBJ. By bringing the
individual parts of China’s IBJ program together, the staff was able to
communicate, as a whole, the challenges, successes, and hopes we
confront at IBJ, and in China.

IBJ China Staff at the Beijing Office

The program began with an introduction meeting, where the staff was
first asked to give their individual stories (the “me”), how our
collective identities have come together at IBJ (the “us”), and,
finally, the challenges, risks, and hopes that our community faces when
dealing with the criminal justice system in China (the “now”). We found
that although we come from very different places in the world, our
experiences, values, goals, and fears are overwhelmingly similar. The
principals of empathy and volunteerism were expressed as underlying
morals we all share. We discussed how our collective dedication to human
dignity and upholding the rights of the accused are both values that
bring us together. Finally, the group summed up some of the challenges
and risks we face in China, which everyone agreed are both greatly
eclipsed by the hope IBJ has for the future of developing a fully
inclusive criminal justice system in China.

IBJ's China Staff Meets in Beijing

Mr. Liyanage concluded the session by offering his “me, us, and now”
story. His remarks solidified much of what had been discussed thus far
during the meeting.

On the second day of the retreat, staff members were introduced to the
city. We took a team-building trip to Jingshan Park, which rises above
the Forbidden City in central Beijing, and gives a panoramic view of the
entire city.

Climbing Beijing's Jingshan Park

The retreat was an overwhelming success, and, aside from highlighting
some important plans IBJ has for the future, helped to develop a sense
of community among China’s IBJ staff. Bonds were built, friendships were
formed, and our time together reminded us that while it may seem we work
in small offices located in cities around the world, IBJ is an
international support network that works as a team to achieve its goals.

Team Building at Beijing's Jingshan Park

IBJ eLearning Surveys Held for Lawyers and Students

As part of the first public event held in IBJ’s new Beijing office, the
National Defender Resource Center ran a survey last week to evaluate and
improve IBJ’s eLearning modules. As part of the process, five lawyers
from various law firms, as well as one law student from a local Beijing
University, came to the office to view a selection of modules, and then
reply to several survey questions developed by IBJ.

The lawyers started to trickle in around 10:30 in the morning, and were
put to work reviewing modules at 11. It took the participants around an
hour to finish the modules and written surveys. Afterwards, we all sat
down together to eat and share impressions. During the event, the
lawyers responded to questions, asked several of their own, as well as
posed their ideas, critiques, and recommendations for the eLearning
modules.

A Collection of Lawyers and IBJ Staff

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Though there is always room
for improvement, participants believed that the information on the
modules is both accessible and valuable for law students and lawyers,
alike. In addition, the modules are presented in an intuitive and
user-friendly manner, making it both entertaining and informative.

eLearning Survey Lunch Discussion

As the goal of the survey was to glean some new ideas to develop and
improve IBJ’s eLearning modules, it was an overwhelming success. The
lawyers had several valuable recommendations to both improve the modules
already on our website, as well as ideas pertaining to new topics for
future modules. We are already hard at work putting their good ideas to
use!
Over the week, IBJ held similar events in our Xi’an and Wuhan offices.

Important Developments in Defending the Disadvantaged – Legal Training Workshop in Shandong Province

On September 17, IBJ’s Southeast Defender Resource Center coordinated a
training with the Rizhao Legal Aid Center of Lanshan’s District Bureau
of Justice in Shandong Province. The goal of this training workshop was
to inform and train the members of Rizhao’s Legal Aid Center,
particularly focusing on the theories and practices of criminal defense
for the disadvantaged.

Of the 109 participants comprised at the training, there was a vast
collection of legal minds, including 45 legal aid lawyers, 52 private
lawyers, and one judge. They came from across four cities, in both
Shandong and Jiangsu Provinces. There were also eight government
officials in attendance, including the directors of each Bureau of
Justice from the Lanshan district of Rizhao, Ganyu District of Jiangsu,
Wunan District of Weifang, and the port city of Lianyungang.

The ceremony opened with addresses from the Directors of the Rizhao
Legal Aid Center and the Lanshan District Bureau of Justice. They both
expressed their appreciation for IBJ’s contribution to criminal justice
and their interest in further cooperation with IBJ for future
activities.

 

The morning session of the Rizaho Regional Criminal Defense Training Seminar

During the morning session, Wuhan University’s Professor Chen Lan made a
speech on theories of criminal defense for the disadvantaged. He talked
about the challenges generally faced by lawyers, and the problems of
Criminal Legal Aid in China. He then went on to introduce the changes
made to China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), before shifting to more
practical topics, including interview skills and how to defend the
accused, according to IBJ’s toolkit. 

As a part of the afternoon session, Shanquan law firm’s Wan Daqiang made
a second speech expanding on the practical skills for defending the
disadvantaged. He highlighted the importance of patience and enthusiasm
when acting as a defense attorney, as well as the need for comprehensive
knowledge of your client. Mr. Wan also went on to praise IBJ’s toolkit,
and thanked IBJ for making strides to disseminate the important
information necessary to defend the disadvantaged in China.

It was rewarding to see how both speakers referred with such praise to
IBJ’s toolkit, and even went on to express their own experiences of
working with the disadvantaged and using IBJ’s strategies. It was clear
that those in attendance were affected by the speeches, which led to
animated conversations and discussions regarding IBJ’s strategies and
their effect on criminal defense in China.

All attendees come together for a photo

As a result of the training workshop, a union called the Lu Su Lin Gang
Lawyers Union, made up of 12 law firms from four cities across two
provinces, came into existence. This union has agreed to work
cooperatively, and share the resources and information necessary to
protect the rights of the disadvantaged.

Those in attendance, as well as those here at IBJ, considered the event
a comprehensive success.