Class dismissed: Surge in arrests of foreign teachers in China

By Cate Cadell

BEIJING, August 13 (Reuters) – Arrests and deportations of foreign teachers in China have soared this year, lawyers, schools and teachers say, amid a broad crackdown defined by new police tactics and Beijing’s push for a “cleaner”, more patriotic education system.

Four law firms told Reuters that requests for representation involving foreign teachers had surged in the past six months by between four and tenfold, while teachers and schools confirmed arrests and temporary detentions for minor crimes had become commonplace.

Switzerland-based Education First (EF), which runs 300 schools across 50 Chinese cities, has seen a “significant” increase in detentions in China for alleged offences including drugs, fighting and cybersecurity violations, according to a June 27 internal notice sent to employees and seen by Reuters.

It said EF staff had been “picked up by police at their home and work as well as in bars and nightclubs and have been questioned and brought in for drug testing”. The notice said the school had also received warnings from embassies about the rise in arrests.

A spokeswoman for EF declined to comment on the content of the notices but said the company “values our close collaboration with the Chinese authorities,” adding that it “regularly reminds staff of important regulatory and compliance policies.”

An international school in Beijing and a teaching agency in Shanghai separately confirmed arrests had risen sharply.

“There’s tremendous pressure for them to keep things clean. It’s all part of (President) Xi Jinping’s idea to make sure that China can show a good face for the rest of the world,” said Peter Pang, principal attorney at the IPO Pang Xingpu Law Firm in Shanghai, which represents foreign teachers in disputes.

China’s Public Security Bureau and Ministry of Education did not respond to requests for comment.

The detentions come amid growing tensions between China and western countries, including the United States and Australia.

China had roughly 400,000 foreign citizens working in its education industry in 2017, the last year for which official figures are available, working in schools, colleges and language institutes.

The industry has long been plagued by abuses on both sides, with many foreign teachers in China working without proper visas and some schools taking advantage of that vulnerability.

Lawyers said a rising backlash against foreign influence in China’s fiercely nationalistic education system means even qualified teachers are increasingly vulnerable to exploitation.

LOVE EDUCATION, LOVE THE MOTHERLAND

Many of the legal cases involving foreign teachers are linked to new and enhanced drug-testing measures, including testing methods that can track drug use over a longer time, such as surprise inspections at teacher’s homes and workplaces, lawyers said.

Three former teachers from two schools in Beijing and Shanghai who were detained for between 10 and 30 days before being deported this year say authorities drug-tested teachers multiple times within weeks of arrival and conducted extensive interrogations.

One of the three, a 25-year-old Florida man who was deported in May after a 10-day detention in a Beijing jail, said he and a colleague underwent a urine screening on their first day in China, which came back clean, but were detained after a surprise workplace test two weeks later showed traces of cannabis in his hair.

“I didn’t touch a single drug in China,” said the man, declining to share his full name because he is currently looking for a job in the United States.

Hair tests can detect cannabis for up to 90 days, meaning teachers that come from countries where the drug is legal, including parts of the United States, are especially vulnerable.

“The problem with hair testing is that it can detect cannabis from months prior,” said Dan Harris, Seattle-based managing partner of law firm Harris Bricken, whose firm saw a steep rise in case requests involving foreign teachers beginning earlier this year.

The behavior of foreign teachers in China was thrust into the spotlight last month when 19 foreign citizens, including seven who worked for EF, were arrested in the eastern city of Xuzhou on drug charges.

The case drew fierce criticism in state media, which echoed earlier calls by Beijing to push for the eradicating of foreign influences from the country’s schools.

Last September, China launched a wide-reaching campaign to remove foreign influences from education, including efforts to ban foreign history courses, outlaw self-taught material and revise textbooks to focus on core Communist Party ideology.

The ongoing effort, which includes follow-up checks and random inspections at schools, is designed to promote “patriotism” and “core socialist values”, reflecting a “love for the motherland”, China’s education ministry said at the time.

RISKS OUTWEIGH REWARDS

Lawyers said rising anti-foreigner sentiment in Chinese education and a glut of teachers mean expats are also more likely to be exposed to non-criminal legal issues, including schools docking pay, refusing to provide documentation for visas and changing contracts without warning.

“When (schools) get a lot of applications they feel they are in a commanding position,” said Pang, whose firm has handled dozens of labor arbitrations between teachers and schools in recent months.

Emily, a 25-year old English teacher from the U.S. state of Utah, said a school in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu held her passport for 10 weeks in late 2018, refusing to hand it back until she threatened to call police.

“There was always an excuse, like registering my dorm with police or some administration to transfer my visa … at one point they just said they were keeping it safe,” she said, asking not to publish her full name or the name of the school because of an ongoing arbitration.

The Chengdu school did not respond to phone calls by Reuters. The HR employee who Emily said had held her passport confirmed she had worked at the school, but declined to comment on the case via a messaging app.

The school docked her 16,000 yuan ($2,269) monthly salary by 1,200 yuan for an unexpected “agency” fee, according to documents provided to her by the school before and after her arrival.

Lawyers say the practice is not unusual, and arbitration typically costs more than the withheld wages.

“What has changed is that many government officials think that kicking out Western influences like English teachers is doing the Party’s work, and the schools are taking advantage of it” said Harris, the Seattle lawyer, who now advises against foreigners teaching in China. “The risks of going to China to teach far outweigh the rewards.”

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Tony Munroe and Alex Richardson)

Illinois Church abuse survivors demand perpetrators’ names

Cindy Yesko is presented as a survivor of clergy sex abuse by a legal team of attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, during a news conference in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

By Suzannah Gonzales

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Survivors and lawyers demanded on Thursday the Catholic Church make public the names of 500 priests or clergy members in Illinois accused of child sexual abuse, in the latest outcry of a global crisis.

They spoke out two weeks after Illinois state Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a blistering report stating alleged abusers had not been publicly identified by the Church and many had not been properly investigated.

“We’re here to fight for the 500 that have been identified as the number of clergy offenders who the Catholic bishops … in Illinois know about who have not disclosed,” attorney Jeff Anderson said at a news conference standing alongside survivors.

Anderson said he and his colleagues will issue a report by next month that identifies every clergy offender accused of child sexual abuse who was brought to their attention.

Children cannot be protected unless the names are provided to police and the general public, Anderson said.

Knowing the names of the accused priests would also help victims who have not come forward, survivor Ken Kaczmarz said.

“If the priest that molested them is on a published list, those people that are currently suffering in silence will, I guarantee you, have the courage to seek help,” he said.

The Illinois dioceses of Rockford, Joliet and Belleville on Thursday stood by lists published on their websites of priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor and of clergy removed from ministry.

Representatives of the other three dioceses in Illinois did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Madigan, who opened her investigation in August and leaves office later this month, said the 500 priests and clergy members her office had identified were in addition to 185 publicly named by the six dioceses.

Facing accusations of sexual abuse and coverups by priests around the world, Pope Francis on Thursday accused U.S. bishops of failing to show unity in the face of the crisis.

Survivors gathered in downtown Chicago on Thursday as U.S. bishops met near the city for seven days of prayer and spiritual reflection ahead of a gathering at the Vatican in February to confront the global abuse crisis.

“There has to be more than 500. That’s just the start. We need a comprehensive list in order for the Church to feel safe again,” Cynthia Yesko, a survivor and plaintiff of a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of the names of clergy offenders in Illinois, said.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Caroline Stauffer and Matthew Lewis)

Turkey’s Erdogan takes legal action after lawmaker calls him ‘fascist dictator’

Turkey's Erdogan takes legal action after lawmaker calls him 'fascist dictator'

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan filed a criminal complaint against a prominent opposition lawmaker on Tuesday, one of Erdogan’s lawyers said, after the deputy called the Turkish leader a fascist dictator.

In blistering criticism of Erdogan, the spokesman for the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Bulent Tezcan, attacked what he said was a “fearful atmosphere” in Turkey.

Erdogan’s lawyer, Huseyin Aydin, said on Twitter: “We have filed a legal petition concerning Bulent Tezcan with the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for the crime of insulting the president.” Aydin also posted photos of the petition.

“The suspect’s statements are part of a new campaign against our president and cannot be interpreted as an isolated incident,” the petition said, saying such a campaign had also been launched ahead of last year’s attempted coup.

In a speech on Monday in the western city of Tekirdag, criticizing local judicial authorities, Tezcan had said: “If you try to scare people and to create a fearful atmosphere by showing legal words as illegal ones we will not be deterred.”

His comments appeared to be in defense of the local mayor, a CHP member, who was questioned by authorities this month after he reportedly called Erdogan a “dictator” at a party congress.

“I don’t know if our mayor said that or not. I, here in Tekirdag, say it now: ‘Erdogan is a fascist dictator’,” Tezcan said.

His comments prompted a swift backlash from Erdogan’s office and lawmakers from his ruling AK Party, with Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin saying his “hate speech is an example of disgrace for the main opposition”.

Insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey.

Lawyers for Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, have filed more than 1,800 cases against people including cartoonists, a former Miss Turkey winner and school children on accusations of insulting him.

Following the failed coup of July 15 last year, Erdogan said he would drop outstanding suits, in a one-off gesture.

Nonetheless, rights groups and some Western governments have voiced concern that Turkey is sliding toward authoritarianism. Some 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs and more than 50,000 jailed pending trial on suspicion of links to the failed coup.

Erdogan says such measures are necessary to ensure stability and defend Turkey from multiple security threats.

 

(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Paul Tait and David Dolan)

 

Turkey seeks detention of 189 lawyers in post-coup probe: media

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish authorities issued detention warrants for 189 lawyers as part of an investigation into followers of a Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating last July’s attempted coup, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday.

The scope of purges that have also seen more than 130 media outlets shut down and some 150 journalists jailed has unnerved rights groups and Western allies, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup bid as a pretext to muzzle dissent.

The 189 suspects were sought by anti-terrorist police across eight provinces including Istanbul for alleged links to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the agency said. He has denied involvement in the failed putsch.

Police have so far detained 78 of the lawyers, some believed to be users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app the government says was used by Gulen’s followers.

Since the July coup attempt, authorities have jailed pending trial 50,000 people and sacked or suspended 150,000, including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants, over alleged links with terrorist groups, including Gulen’s network.

Erdogan says the crackdown is necessary due to the gravity of the coup attempt in which 240 people were killed.

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Ralph Boulton)

New York mayor criticized for proposed limits on legal aid to immigrants

People rally on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City public defenders on Thursday criticized a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio to deny free legal counsel to immigrants in deportation hearings if they had been convicted of serious crimes in the past, saying the plan would deny them due process.

In his proposed annual budget, De Blasio allocated $16.4 million to legal services for immigrant New Yorkers, citing concern about U.S. President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigrants living in the country illegally.

Lawyers, local lawmakers and civil rights activists welcomed the funding proposal, which sharply increases legal aid for immigrants. But they gathered on the steps of City Hall to criticize a provision they said would unfairly deprive some people of the right to due process under the law.

De Blasio’s proposal would deny city-funded lawyers to immigrants previously convicted of one of 170 crimes that the city considers serious or violent.

Jennifer Friedman, who runs the immigration practice at Bronx Defenders, said the mayor’s plan would create a “two-tier system that treats people different based on their criminal history.”

The funding be in addition to the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), which has been funded by the City Council since 2013 and provides free lawyers to immigrants facing deportation hearings at the federal immigration court.

In the United States, the right to a lawyer does not extend to federal immigration hearings which are civil, not criminal, proceedings.

The plan contradicted de Blasio’s description of New York as a “sanctuary city” for immigrants, the public defenders said.

Seth Stein, a City Hall spokesman, wrote in an email that “the public should not be expected to foot the bill” for immigrants convicted of dangerous crimes. “The vast majority of immigrants have not been convicted of violent crimes,” he wrote.

More than 2,000 immigrants have received free lawyers under the council-funded program, which provides free lawyers regardless of an immigrant’s criminal record, in the four years since it began, Legal Aid said.

In New York City, immigrants without lawyers managed to overturn a removal order in court only 3 percent of the time, while those with lawyers were able to remain in the country 30 percent of the time, Legal Aid said.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. accuses Chinese citizens of hacking law firms, insider trading

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore i

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Three Chinese citizens have been criminally charged in the United States with trading on confidential corporate information obtained by hacking into networks and servers of law firms working on mergers, U.S. prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Iat Hong of Macau, Bo Zheng of Changsha, China, and Chin Hung of Macau were charged in an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court with conspiracy, insider trading, wire fraud and computer intrusion.

Prosecutors said the men made more than $4 million by placing trades in at least five company stocks based on inside information from unnamed law firms, including about deals involving Intel Corp and Pitney Bowes Inc.

The men listed themselves in brokerage records as working at information technology companies, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said in a related civil lawsuit.

Hong, 26, was arrested on Sunday in Hong Kong, while Hung, 50, and Zheng, 30, are not in custody, prosecutors said. Defense lawyers could not be immediately identified.

The case is the latest U.S. insider trading prosecution to involve hacking, and follows warnings by U.S. officials that law firms could become prime targets for hackers.

“This case of cyber meets securities fraud should serve as a wake-up call for law firms around the world: you are and will be targets of cyber hacking, because you have information valuable to would-be criminals,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said.

Prosecutors said that beginning in April 2014, the trio obtained inside information by hacking two U.S. law firms and targeting the email accounts of law firm partners working on mergers and acquisitions.

Prosecutors did not identify the two law firms, or five others they said the defendants targeted.

But one matched the description of New York-based Cravath, Swaine Moore LLP, which represented Pitney Bowes in its 2015 acquisition of Borderfree Inc, one of the mergers in question.

The indictment said that by using a law firm employee’s credentials, the defendants installed malware on the firm’s servers to access emails from lawyers, including a partner responsible for the Pitney deal.

Cravath declined to comment. In March, Cravath confirmed discovering a “limited breach” of its systems in 2015.

Prosecutors also accused the defendants of trading on information stolen from a law firm representing Intel on the chipmaker’s acquisition of Altera Inc in 2015.

Intel’s merger counsel on the deal was New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. The law firm declined to comment.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was aware of the reports about the case but knew nothing about it.

The case is U.S. v. Hong et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-cr-360.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Richard Chang)

Judge Refuses To Delay Boston Bomber Trial

A judge on Wednesday denied attempts by lawyers for the Boston Marathon terrorism suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to delay the start of his trial.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge George O’Toole, Jr. means that jury selection will begin Monday in Boston federal court.

Lawyers for Tsarnaev tried to make the case that it would impossible to find an impartial jury in Massachusetts because of the amount of publicity given to the case.  They also said they needed more time to examine the large amounts of discovery turned over my prosecutors.

The lawyers tried to use the example of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh whose trial was moved to Denver because of media attention.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges that could bring the death penalty if he is convicted.

Jury selection in the case is expected to take weeks because of the intense media coverage and the number of local residents impacted in some way because of the bombings.  Also, jurors who object to the death penalty could also be excluded from the case.