There is a skyscraper in Beijing, in the corner of Sanlitun bar street, that stood unfinished for many years. The tall gray cement skeleton was a constant reminder of the spotty nature of Beijing’s economic growth.
The unfinished skeleton always seemed to symbolize that Beijing – and China – is very much a work in progress.
There is a lot in China that is a work in progress – from its economic foundations to its social mores that incorporate old traditions with new trends. It is still an open question what the ultimate shape will look like but it’s worth watching.
China’s legal system is also a work in progress but one that will have to be defined by Chinese people and based on their own values, beliefs and needs. The world is watching, and often issuing value judgements.
On Friday, courts upheld the convictions of a famous blind activist (on charges with tenuous links to his legal activisim) and a researcher for the New York Times (on bizarre fraud charges). Earlier last week, a conviction against Ching Cheong, a former reporter for Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper accused of spying for a Taiwan, was also upheld.
These cases have generated much publicity around the world and offer a view of China’s legal system.
The building in Beijing sat unfinished for years when the original developer ran out of money. When authorities and other developers started paying attention, the windows and doors quickly went up. Now it is almost finished on the outside, covered by the shiny and reflective windows that will transform it into yet another city center skyscraper.
China’s legal system has been the subject of similar attention for some time now. One question that remains is whether the developments last week are part of the old and bare legal structure or if they represent the finished product that will remain in place for years to come.