Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chinese Law Relating To Publishing By Foreigners: No

Sherman Oaks, California

"Just to be clear, foreigners are prohibited from publishing in China. Chinese law could not be any clearer on this."

So says Chinese law expert Dan Harris on his blog.

Using the example of the closure of Time Out Beijing, Harris explains that many foreign firms operate illegally in China, a practice which is tolerated until the day it's not.

"The problem with operating a business illegally in China is that past history is simply not a good indicator of future performance. We know foreign businesses that have operated illegally in China for 15 years without a problem and we know other businesses in the very same industry that have been shut down within six months of beginning operations. And that is the problem with an illegal business: you just never know when the knock on the door is going to come and when it does, saying that you have gotten away with it for x number of years is no defense at all. There is little that can be done when you are on the wrong side of China's law," he writes.

Harris also notes that it's easy in China to come in out of the cold. Illegal businesses, he writes, begin the application and formalization process, and no one asks about the past.

In any event, Harris' bottom line is that, from the information in the public record, Time Out Beijing seems to have been a completely illegal enterprise under Chinese "law."

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Anonymous Rich Kuslan, Editor, Asiabizblog said...

Illegality per se is not the problem. In the case of publishing, the Party wants control. But over and above that, illegal enterprises are tolerated until they start to make money. Thereafter, the threat of shut down is costly to the founders. Heavies from government can then come in demanding a piece of the action -- or the whole thing, which others have paid for. Do you see how "illegality," as an American might understand it, does not really figure in here?

12:08 AM  

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