Translation talk:People v Zhang Shulin (2020)

Latest comment: 6 months ago by Chu Tse-tien in topic Assumed FAQs

On the translation style and quality edit

Some pedantic, redundant, and bureaucratic sentence patterns can be widely observed in mainland Chinese legal documents. I will try to render the translation as close to the original as possible to convey its pedantic, redundant, and bureaucratic style. (This is important since some judgements were so vacuous that no other details were given apart from these pedantic, redundant, and bureaucratic sentences and structure.)

Some of the original documents contain syntactic or grammatical errors (by adding redundant parts, lacking necessary parts, or giving two or more semantically conflicting parts and such in the sentences). In the most serious cases, they have created such semantic obfuscation that made the sentence incomprehensible. In these situations, I will simply correct the grammatical errors in the translation to avoid confusion or try my best to provide the closest possible interpretation that is both semantically and logically sound based on my educated and prudential guess. (In addition, typos that existed in the original Chinese documents are automatically corrected and will not be reflected in the translation.)

It is also worth noting that the basic laws often cited in these documents were, in most cases, badly translated here on Wikisource—that is, if translations are present. Especially the Criminal Law—it was way out of date (missing all 11 amendments by now) and very poorly translated with some choices of words so wrong as to be hilarious. However, it would be a huge amount of work for me to re-translate the Criminal Law, the Criminal Procedure Law, as well as all those untranslated and yet frequently cited Interpretations. Therefore, it would be only wise for me to adhere to the current translations available, and sometimes it means I have to stick to their choices of words for consistency (and for better search results for readers) when they were not so ridiculously incorrect.

Assumed FAQs edit

1. The source of this document, please?

Most of these documents (in which most of them were judgements issued by courts) were once published by official websites like (and mainly was) China Judgements Online (Chinese: 裁判文书网)—the official archive website for judgements run by the Supreme People’s Court of China.

But all the documents of political offenders (i. e. ‘speech crimes’) were no longer available on those official websites.

The gradual disappearance of documents of political cases can be summarised as following stages:

From the very beginning, judgements of sensitive cases like those of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ (Chinese: 煽动颠覆国家政权) or any other ‘state security endangering’ cases were not published on China Judgements Online. Cases of ‘disturbing the working order of state organs’ (Chinese: 扰乱国家机关工作秩序) or ‘assembling crowds to disrupt social order’ (Chinese: 聚众扰乱社会秩序; often falls on those who assembled to ‘petition’) were also very likely not to be published in the first place. Only those judgements of some of the cases that fall under ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ (Chinese: 寻衅滋事), ‘libel’ (Chinese: 诽谤), or ‘insult’ (Chinese: 侮辱) were published on those official websites for a time.

Starting from about midsummer of 2020, the website China Judgements Online began to hide those judgements of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ if the cases were related to political reasons. These hidden judgements cannot be searched by its own search engine on the website, but they can be navigated to if filters were carefully chosen on the left pane of the site and if you have the energy and the time to browse all the cases listed on the right. For these hidden cases, there will be an entry of the citation and the defendant’s name listed there, but no content of the judgement will be there if clicked, only a line that reads ‘other reasons that the court held not appropriate to make this judgement public on the internet’ (Chinese original: 人民法院认为不宜在互联网公布的其他情形) will be shown on the new page.

At the beginning of June 2021 (the process of cleansing had already begun a few months ago, but the date of the completion of cleansing was no later than 9 June 2021), the website China Judgements Online took another step to completely erase all the judgements of political cases; not even the citations can now be found on that website. In fact, they removed these records in such a hurry that they even did not have the time to identify which judgements of cases of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ were political and which were not; they just removed nearly all of them.

Other official websites (the ‘12309 China Prosecution Online’, run by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, for example) will also remove Indictments of political cases if the Indictment was found by internet users and discussed in some online community.

Web pages of China Judgements Online cannot be archived using the Internet Archive due to its login wall—it requires a mobile number to register an account, and all activities on the website require signed-in status to continue.

Fortunately, some documents were saved by third-party websites or internet users. A Twitter account with the ID of @SpeechFreedomCN has been collecting these judgements of speech crimes since 14 October 2019, and there are now hundreds of judgements saved by them, dated as early as 2007.

Judicial documents fall under the public domain because they are exempted by Article 5 of Chinese copyright law. And Article 202 of the Criminal Procedure Law of China explicitly stipulated that ‘In all cases, judgements shall be publicly pronounced.’

2. Why the ‘People v XXX’ thing? I heard that mainland China is not a common law country?

True. But the Chinese authorities imitated the common law tradition in their official translations.

The courts in mainland China (especially the Supreme Court) and some prestigious law libraries followed a modified ‘British convention’ to name the cases when translating them into English. A virtual legal notion, the ‘People’, was constructed for criminal cases. And as with the R in all the British cases, this constructed notion of the ‘People’ cannot become the defendant. Therefore, if the defendant appeals, the name of the case shall then be rendered as ‘People v XXX (A)’.

This naming convention can be found both in the official case book series named ‘Selected Cases from the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China’ authorised by the Supreme Court of China (and published by Springer), and on the website ‘www.lawinfochina.com’ (the official law library run by the Peking University Legal Information Centre).

3. Who translated it?

I did. But you are more than welcome to proofread it, as Wikisource is a place where we all contribute to.

4. Why are there subtle differences between different documents in those parts that should be identical?

Well spotted! You must be an exceedingly meticulous reader! The reason for the existence of subtle differences in certain parts that should be identical among different documents is attributed to the fact that each translation is a literal and faithful rendition of the original text. Consequently, these minor variations also exist in the original texts themselves. For instance, the inclusion or omission of references to cited legal provisions, the level of detail in citing those provisions, the presence or absence of a seal stating ‘This copy is verified to be identical to the original document.’ as well as the colour of the ink and the font style used for such a seal, are among the intricate details that may differ across jurisdictions and courts. Moreover, even certain standard phrases employed within the main text may exhibit variations depending on the specific jurisdiction or court involved.

Boreas Sawada 19:30, 24 September 2023 (UTC)Reply