Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sang v. Hai

A Chinatown attorney Mr. Ming Hai's failed to block a lawsuit (12 Civ. 7103) against himself. The US District court for Southern District of New York ruled a complaint filed by his former client would move ahead.

What is interesting is that one of the legal grounds Mr. Hai suggested was First-to-File Doctrine. Mr. Hai argued that the federal case should be thrown out because he had sued his former client first in a state court. However, the doctrine is about cases filed in federal court, not for cases filed concurrently in a federal court and a state court. It's shocking to hear an attorney either wished the court didn't understand this simple and commonly referred doctrine or actually himself did not know.

The plaintiff alleged Mr. Hai defamed her when he made public statement through blogs and interviews, saying San was a thief, sexually irresponsible to her own dog, and made romantic advances on him.

The court did dismissed an allegation that Mr. Hai had breached fiduciary duty when he disseminated confidential information he obtained through client-attorney relationship to the press. The court noted that although Mr. Hai might have violated professional conduct rules, it did not raise to the level of a cause of action.

Also interesting was the invasion of privacy claim regarding Sang's photographs posted by Mr. Hai in his Tencent Micro-blog, a tweeter-like service in China. General population in China hold an over sensitive stance on using personal portrait without explicit consent. Chinese law is very vague, but the courts have consistently sided with the plaintiffs in privacy cases. The US law separates commercial usage from editorial usages, and usually recognize press privilege and rights in free speech. The district court, however, agreed with Sang Lan that Mr. Hai's blog was used to promote his business thus 'not newsworthy'. Therefore, the court denied Mr. Hai's motion to dismiss the invasion of privacy claim.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chinese Student Expelled by Vassar College Sued for Discrimination

The New York Post reported that a Chinese student from Dalian Xiaolu 'Peter' Yu was expelled by Vassar College after a white student Mary Claire Walker accused him of rape.

Yu said the College was wrong, and his recollection of the incident was: on the night of Feb 18, 2012, the two teammates of the Vassar College rowing team were at a team party. The two agreed to have sex after the party, and they did.

For unknown reason, one year later, Walker informed school officials that Yu raped her that night. Vassar College expelled Yu on Walker's words.

Yu claimed the sex was 'clearly consensual' because:

  • Walker called her roommate to find out whether they could have sex at her dorm room, and when it was not an option, they walked together to Yu's room.
  • Walker assured Yu, a virgin at the time, that she knew 'what to do', and started by performing oral sex on him. Then she put a condom on him, before the two conducted intercourse.
  • When Yu's roommate returned, Walker made a comment on how she 'took Peter Yu's virginity' before dressed and left.
  • The next day, Walker sent Yu a message through Facebook saying she 'had a wonderful time'.

Having had his life dismantled at age 20, Yu filed a complaint in Manhattan federal court against Vassar College on grounds of discrimination.

One picture featured on Walker's Facebook cover page was a word expansion of her own name: "Mad, Adorable, Romantic, Young, Crazy, Lethal, Adorable, Innocent, Rich", along a quote from Walt Disney, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible'.

A spokesman for Vassar College indicated that attorneys of the school had provided 'strong legal ground'. Vassar has an endowment over $800 million.

Unlike peer elite liberal arts colleges which are often found crowded with foreign students, less than 10% of Vassar's student population comes from overseas. Perhaps, there was a reason. But probably, it no longer matters. This lawsuit looks really bad for the small rural college in upstate New York. Most likely, the name had already been crossed out by many college shopping parents from non-white families, by now.

Informants, Sleeping On Your Bed And Living Next Door

One of the many twists in the Wen Ho Lee, and one of the shocking knowledge Lee gained at court trail was that it turned out that his wife had been an FBI informant. He hadn't known the woman he had slept with for decades were an eye for the government. While, on the other end, his wife was equally shocked to learn that Lee himself had been an FBI informant, too.

You would never know who is a government agent or who is not, like you would never know what are included in your file kept by state troopers, FBI, NSA, and whoever else.

As it happened to be, when a Chinese business man in Washington D.C. applied for a license for taxi operator, the Chair of the D.C. Taxicab Commission Leon Swain was a government informant. Anthony C. Y. Cheng Sr. and son Anthony R. Cheng Jr. was indicted (US v. Cheng and Cheng, 1:13-cr-00184-ESH) yesterday on allegation that they bribed Swain $1,500 in January 2011 for the license.

Cheng and Cheng could have had a chance to change their destiny. According to defense attorney Ken Robinson, Chengs were engaged by federal agencies in January 2013, but refused the opportunity.

US Attorney Ron Machen stated, 'we cannot tolerate the culture of pay-to-play in the District of Columbia'.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Yale President's 20 China Trips and Some Thoughts on Small Colleges

When Richard C Levin left his tenure as the President of Yale, he left a legacy of a best time in Yale's history. Among the many things he will be remembered, '20' is the amount of trips he made to China since 2001.

There is no dispute that Chinese students had become the largest source of revenue increase for US colleges. A fast had long known by their peers in Singapore, Australia and Canada and England. Anyone who could not see this by now already missed the boat, unfortunately. It is especially fatal for small colleges. A few years back, Chinese students went to no name colleges in fly over states such as Kansas and North Dakota. Today they are increasingly aware of options and alternatives. Those who had not built a foundation with Chinese students must face fierce competition with major universities and elite colleges.

Many independent colleges are struggling to attract local students, not aware of the fading away of opportunities for survival. Although the gloomy economy plays a factor, but the real threat to independent colleges is their refusing to adjust to students need.

Liberal arts curricula is not marketable. Progressive professors still have the chance to smuggle their ideology in the college experience, but they need to package it with a job oriented approach. Alas, many small colleges are working the opposite way: market a vocational education curricula in a package with label of liberal arts.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Western Infiltration of Chinese Infrastructure

Many of Snowden's revelations and claims are shocking to the public, not because they were anything new, but because of the reason laid out in the letter from Senators to the NSA: the gap between the understanding of Americans and the interpretation of law of the administration. At the end of the day, the mass scale surveillance over American citizens would probably be found legal.

Snowden also confirmed that the US had been hacking into infrastructure in China. This would not be news for the Chinese government. In 1989, after the Tian'anmen Square Slaughter, Chinese officials found dead tone when they picked up their phones, and was surprised to know all western companies and embassies had normal communications to the outside world. That made a legitimate argument for building China's own communication infrastructure, thus ZTE and Huawei.

For some people who are not sure about the information you can extract from phone records (minus the actual contents), with modern data mining techniques, the government will know more about you then a particular conversation. With very similar surveillance but on much primitive methods, former Chongqing police chief Mr. Wang Lijun, who defected to the US consulate in Chengdu for a few days before surrendered the to central government in Beijing, boasted a 128 degrees of surveillance over each individual who had ever set foot in Chongqing. The system was deployed to fight political enemies of his boss Bo Xilai, then Party Boss of Chongqing. Both Bo and Wang were arrested.

American's wary eyes on China are not always unappreciated. The red regime never knew how much irrigation land it had, until a folder of geo-sensing image was passed from the US as a neighborly gesture in the 1970s.

An interesting question would be whether Google would withdraw from the US market, given their previous statement over the rationale of withdrawing from the mainland China market all together. By all means, the government intrusion into individual privacy is way more penetrative and aggressive on the US side.

Google published a map of number of requests to censor certain data from the governments around the globe. What was unsaid in the map was that fact that the US government had unlimited direct access to its servers, a fact Google had fiercely denied until the Snowden Revelation. NSA have been mining directly on servers of nine major companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. Thousands other smaller companies provide user data voluntarily in exchange of favorable treatments by the NSA. In the case of Microsoft, it even provides information on its system bugs and loopholes to the NSA before it release patches to patch them.

The fiasco should bring back memory from a 1998 movie, the Enemy of the State. For a long time, even computation scientists had been speculating the data accumulated by the NSA had surpassed its processing capability. However, based on the information made available after the Snowden incident, almost everyone had underestimated the computing capacity of NSA.

Both Snowden and Manning came from the state of Maryland.

On the other hand, it might be a pragmatical choice for American people not worried about the NSA. After all, general public are not worthy targets for NSA. It's a golden opportunity for the Americans to reflect on the invasion of privacy by the Internet, in particular social networks such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. Their potential employers had much more interests to dig out any bad jokes or shirtless pictures they posted half a century ago in middle schools.