Recap: Asian Legal Information in English: Availability, Accessibility, and Quality Control

By Amy Flick

Because I frequently need to help students find primary authority of other countries, yet have no hope of finding materials published in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese, I was pleased to see a program on Asian Legal Information in English in the AALL Annual Meeting program. I was even more pleased to find the program interesting, useful, and supplemented with handouts.

Alex ZhangAlex Zhang was the coordinator, moderator, and introductory speaker. She started by stressing the importance of good, reliable translations, but noted that even “official” translations by government entities are still for informational purposes only. In presenting the portion of the program on finding primary law of China, she included:

  • The official site NPC (National People’s Congress) Database of Laws and Regulations. The search box is unreliable, so Alex recommended browsing by category, requiring some knowledge of the structure of Chinese law to find the appropriate category. She cautioned that the laws retrieved may not include the dates of coverage, making it unclear for the user if they have the most current version.
  • State Council Laws & Regulations
  • Commercial sources including Lawinfochina, Westlaw China, and Lexis China, all comparable, and expensive, but Alex is most familiar with Lawinfochina. She recommends it for comprehensive coverage and inclusion of the most recent laws, and for a citator link to amendments to laws.
  • Although case law is not considered primary authority in China, a Stanford Law School project is translating Chinese Guiding Cases.

Alex wrapped up by noting that good translation is hard: “the question in legal translation isn’t which one is right, but which one is less wrong.” She suggests comparing and contrasting multiple translations and asking experts for help.

 

Anne Cathrine Mostad-JensenAnne Mostad-Jensen presented on law of Hong Kong and Macau. For these jurisdictions, she stressed that it is particularly important to understand their histories. Because of Hong Kong’s history as a British colony, it has a hybrid system of common and civil law, and English is one of its official languages for legal publication. Sources for Hong Kong legal information in English include:

Macao as a former Portuguese colony has a civil law system. English translation is available for only select legislation and some indexes, not for caselaw, and the translations are not official. Sources include:

 

Juice LeeJootaek “Juice” Lee demonstrated resources on law of the Republic of Korea in English. Although South Korea has a civil law system, it has been influenced by U.S. common law. English translations are not official, but English is widely used, and there are English language versions of most government websites. However, terminology can be an issue because of differences in civil and common law. Most primary sources are available in English, and government publishers try to provide accurate translations. Juice warned that Korean law changes rapidly, and English translations may not keep up. There are also issues with understanding the differences between public, private, and social law. He recommended sources including:

 

Mike McArthurMike McArthur had the final presentation in the program on finding Japanese law in English. Japanese efforts to be more international led to a 2004 Japanese law requiring translation of Japanese laws. Laws are first made available in tentative translation before an “official” version is available. Of course, translations are still unofficial. Mike warned that the Japanese calendar has a different date system, so he provided a “cheat sheet” for Japanese dates.  Sources for Japanese law in English include:

  • The Ministry of Justice’s Japanese Law Translation The database of laws and regulations is searchable with multiple options (title, number, category), and it has a dictionary for finding Japanese legal terms.
  • The Supreme Court of Japan. Although Japan has a civil law system, Supreme Court decisions are relevant, and some are translated into English.
  • An additional resource for Japanese legal research is ministry reports and white papers, which are translated into English, and which include detailed statistics.

Mike reminded the audience, as did the other speakers, that a legal researcher working with foreign languages and translations can get in over their head quickly, and that they should reach out to a specialist for help.

 

All of the presentations in the program were outstanding, and I appreciate the hard work by the speakers in putting them together!

CAFLL-WestPac Recap: BIT by BIT: Researching Chinese Bilateral Investment Treaties

By: Barbara Swatt Engstrom

China Africa News

Introduction:

Seattle University Law Professor Won Kidane is originally from Ethiopia and has a strong background in China-Africa investment relations.  In 2012, he published China-Africa Dispute Settlement: The Law, Culture and Economics of Arbitration, which evaluated existing mechanisms of dispute resolution in China-Africa economic relations.  In subsequent years, he focused on a particular institution for international investment dispute resolution: the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).  In particular, he explored whether ICSID is an appropriate forum to handle the investment disputes stemming from an enormous increase in investment in Africa by China.  In analyzing the ICSID legitimacy debate, he created a framework to assess the suitability of ICSID arbitration for China–Africa investment dispute arbitration.  The outcome of this research project was his article: The China-Africa Factor in the Contemporary ICSID Legitimacy Debate.

As he was working on the project, Professor Kidane decided to delve more deeply into the bilateral treaties that provide the basis for the investment regime he was questioning.  He asked me to research and analyze all bilateral investment treaties (BITs) between China and African countries.

Background on Chinese BITs:

In order to do the analysis part of the project, I needed to get myself up to speed with BITs, generally, and Chinese BITs, in particular.  While BITs vary depending on the negotiating partners, countries use model BITs as starting points.  Historically, there are three generations of Chinese model BITs.  China’s first generation BITs (starting with its BIT with Sweden in 1982) are generally considered to be conservative.  They accord Most Favored Nation (MFN) status but not National Treatment (NT).  The availability of compensation for expropriation was recognized, but the legality of the expropriation was determined by local courts.  China’s second generation of BITs followed China’s accession to the ICSID convention in 1990.  In some of these BITs, the availability of investor access to ICSID arbitration was included but was often limited to the determination of the amount of compensation for expropriation.  The third and current model made both substantive and procedural changes. One of the most important substantive changes was the addition of National Treatment protection. The most important procedural change was unqualified access to international arbitration, including ICSID arbitration.

Research Strategies:

Once I had a very general understanding of Chinese BITs, I was able to much more effectively research and analyze the China Africa BITs for this project.  My main tips for researching BITs are as follows:

1) Start with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) International Investment Agreements Navigator.  This database will give you a fairly comprehensive idea of what is generally available.  It has information on signatory and ratification dates and provides many full text treaties.

2) Use Target Countries’ International Trade Ministries. The English language page of China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has a database of Chinese BITs.  They had the full text of several BITs that were not available via the International Investment Agreements Navigator.

3) Use Print Materials for Older BITs. One of the very best English books for any project involving Chinese BITs is Gallagher and Shan’s Chinese Investment Treaties.  In addition to having great analysis, there are reprints of several BITs in the Appendix.  This was the only place to find the Seychelles –China BIT.  Another very useful print resource, especially for older BITs, is the looseleaf set: Investment, Promotion and Protection Treaties.  This is where I found the China-Mali BIT. Research guides can also be very helpful in pointing you to print sources, as can running searches in the Google Books database.

4) Advanced & Deep Web Searching. Searching Google for BITs can often lead to frustration for a couple of reasons: 1) A basic Google search only crawls the very top layers of websites.  It won’t find anything buried.  The solution is to go directly to the target website and use their search tool to go deeper. 2) BIT is a generic term.  Although the titles vary, BITs generally have the terms “promotion and protection of investments” in them somewhere. It will help if you have model treaty language that you can track.  I also like to use the site search in Google. The advance Google search: Tanzania promotion protection investment site:mofcom.gov.cn brought up the Tanzania-China BIT which was not available in the MOFCOM Bilateral Investment Treaty database.

5) Contact Experts. While attending the ASIL conference in Washington, D.C., I stopped by the Law Library of Congress and met with several of their country specialists.  One of the China specialists found the China-Sierra Leone BIT tucked away in the AsianLII database – a place it had not occurred to me to look.

Additional Resources:

CAFLL-WestPac Recap: Continuing Education for Law Librarians and Demand-Driven Service Innovation in China

By Alex X. Zhang

CAFLLThis blog post highlights a panel discussion on two major and long-standing issues: continuing education for law librarians and demand-driven service innovation in law libraries. Both issues are important and deserve close attention in the law librarianship and legal information field. Michael Chiorazzi, Dean and Professor of Law at the Daniel Cracchiolo Law Library, University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, shared his insights on continuing education for law librarians. More specifically, he critiqued major formats and platforms that deliver continuing education content to users such as webinars, continuing education classes through colleges, workshops, networking events, etc. He emphasized the value of individual scholarship in continuing education and advocated for more sabbaticals for law librarians, claiming “they refresh and invigorate one’s enthusiasm for the profession.” He also shared his experience with managing the Law Library Fellowship program offered through the University of Arizona’s School of Information and experience teaching undergraduates legal research classes at the University of Arizona, which is the only law school in the United States that offers an undergraduate law degree. Continuing education is important in all professions and, needless to say, is necessary and essential for law librarians. Unfortunately, there has not been much discussion on what works and what does not work for the law librarians. Dean Chiorazzi’s talk challenged us to think more in depth of the topic, or in his own words, “how do we know what we need to know?”

Dr. Liu Ming, Associate Director of the Law Library of Renmin University of China, tackled an equally important problem in the law librarianship field, which is demand-driven service innovation in China. Dr. Liu Ming took a new angle and introduced us a new perspective looking at the issue that has otherwise been extensively discussed. She employed KANO theory to examine the user demands in Chinese Law Libraries and how Law Libraries in China have tried to meet user needs in three different levels. The KANO model was first introduced by Professor Noriaki Kano of Tokyo Rika University. The model was based on the valid assumption that customer needs are constantly changing and the question becomes how to meet patron’s ever-changing demands. Dr. Liu summarized demands of Chinese law library patrons under three levels: basic needs, performance and excitement demands. She argued that currently, most Chinese academic law libraries meet the basic needs of library patron, but need to further enhance the user satisfaction and promote the law libraries’ status as a legal information center as opposed to a place to collect and house books.

AALL 2015 Recap: Chinese Legal Information: Availability, Accessibility and Quality Control

By Alex Zhang and Anne Mostad-Jensen

NewAALLClogoSmallHave you ever been tasked with finding an English translation of a recently enacted ordinance in Hong Kong when all of your colleagues in the Hong Kong office on the other side of the world are asleep in their beds? Have you been asked to help a member of the law journal reverse engineer and decipher an esoteric citation to a Chinese regulation that has been translated into English? Have you ever been asked by your favorite law professor to figure out whether the State Council of the People’s Republic of China has translated its open government information regulation into English?

The Asian American Law Librarians Caucus (AALLC) program on Chinese legal information, held on Monday, July 20 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm, was designed to help you to handle these problems and others like them that you may have already encountered or will likely encounter in the future. Alex Zhang, from the University of Michigan Law Library, and Anne Mostad-Jensen, from the University of North Dakota Law Library, explored some of the most practical yet important issues related to English translations of Chinese primary legal materials, such as availability, accessibility and quality control.

Before using any English translation of primary legal materials of any jurisdiction, it is important to understand and fully appreciate the characteristics of the legal system and infrastructure. The Chinese legal system is a mixed legal system composed of the socialist civil law system of Mainland China, the common law system of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and the civil law system of Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SAR). Each section has its own official language that directly impacts the authority and availability of English translations of primary legal materials. For example, in Mainland China, the official language is Mandarin Chinese nationwide. As a result, English translations, regardless of its issuing organ, are only for informational purposes. On the other hand, English and Chinese are both official languages of HKSAR and therefore, English and Chinese versions of primary legal materials issued by the official governmental entity are considered equally authoritative. Macao SAR is unique in the sense that Chinese and Portuguese are both considered as official languages. Consequently, English translations are of informational purposes only.

The different legal systems and framework also impact the availability and accessibility of English translations of primary legal materials in all three jurisdictions. With English as one of the official languages, English versions of primary legal materials of Hong Kong SAR are the most accessible among the three jurisdictions. Legislation in both English and Chinese is available through HKSAR Department of Justice Bilingual Laws Information System. The website also provides glossaries of legal terms prepared by the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice. Similarly, Hong Kong Judiciary’s Legal Reference System provides the full text of court decisions in English.[1]

The PRC government is making progress toward making its laws available in English. Both the National People’s Congress and the State Council have been publishing English translations of selective laws and regulations since the late 1970s. Furthermore, both branches have made laws and regulations in English available online. For example, the National People’s Congress launched the online database Laws and Regulations in English in 2006. Its Chinese Law database also provides English translations of certain laws and regulations when available. Commercial vendors, such as Chinalawinfo, Westlaw China and Lexis China all provide extensive English translations of primary legal materials from Mainland China.

Users may have the least luck when it comes to finding English translations of Macao laws and regulations. Both Chinese and Portuguese versions of the laws and regulations of Macao are readily available at the Macao SAR Legislative Assembly website, but English versions are not included on the website. The Government Printing Bureau of Macao does make English translations of certain major codes available at its official website, including both the Commercial Code and the Industrial Property Code.

On the other hand, making translations available does not necessarily indicate the quality of the translations. Translation is hard. Legal translation is even harder. Deborah Cao claims “the sources of legal translation difficulty include the systematic differences in law, linguistic differences and cultural differences.”[2] Olga Burukina argues that legal translators are constantly challenged with “time and quality issues as well as a number of contradictions” related to time, systems, terminology, meaning, etc.[3]

Relying on a misleading translation is worse than not relying on a translation at all. Therefore, both presenters spent time discussing issues and concerns with the quality of the currently available English translations of all three jurisdictions. The presenters provided concrete examples of some of the major concerns, such as inconsistency, lack of officially issued bilingual legal terminologies for Mainland China and Macao SAR, and omissions and additions of words from the version in the source language. At the end of the presentation, presenters also shared tips and strategies for using English translations of Chinese primary legal materials with the audience. If you would like to receive a copy of the presentation materials by email, please feel free to contact Alex Zhang (zxm@umich.edu) or Anne Mostad-Jensen (anne.mostadjensen@law.und.edu).

[1] HKSAR judicial decisions are issued either in Chinese or in English, with a majority of cases still issued in English. Judicial decisions of jurisprudential value originally issued in Chinese are translated and made available in English as well. See http://legalref.judiciary.gov.hk/lrs/common/ju/tjpv.jsp.

[2] Deborah Cao, Translating Law 23 (Multilingual Matters, 2007).

[3] Olga Burukina, The Legal Translator’s Competence, 5 Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 809, 810–812 (2013).

Compilation of Chinese Legal Research Guides Available From CAFLL

By Sergio Stone

The Chinese and American Forum on Legal Information and Law Libraries (CAFLL) has compiled a collection of online Chinese legal research guides from law libraries and NGOs around the globe. If your library has posted a Chinese law guide, CAFLL would be delighted to add it to the list. CAFLL intends to update the site annually. Many thanks to all the librarians who have created such wonderful and helpful research guides.

 

canstockphoto21225592