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The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from official national legal publications and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the Global Legal Monitor.

China: Regulators Ban Companies from Raising Money Through Virtual Currencies

(Oct. 19, 2017) On September 4, 2017, seven government administrations in China – the People’s Bank of China, the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission – jointly issued the Announcement on Preventing Financial Risks from Initial Coin Offerings (the Announcement.) (Zhongguo Renmin Yinhang, Zhongyang Wangxinban, Gongye he Xinxihua Bu, Gongshang Zongju, Yinjian Hui, Zhengjian Hui, Baojian Hui Guanyu Fangfan Daibi Faxing Rongzi Fengxian de Gonggao (Sept. 4, 2017), People’s Bank of China website.)

The Announcement provides that initial coin offerings (ICOs) are an unauthorized illegal fundraising activity and will be banned by the authorities. (Id. Item I.)

Definition of ICO Financing Activities

According to the Announcement, “ICO financing” is defined as the financing subjects’ raising of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other “virtual currencies” from investors through the illegal sale and circulation of tokens, activities that by their nature are  unauthorized public financing tools. ICO financing activities are suspected by the authorities of involving the illegal sale of tokens, illegal issuance of securities, illegal fundraising, financial fraud, pyramid sales, and other illegal and criminal activities. (Id.)

The Announcement points out that tokens and other virtual currencies involved in ICO financing are not issued by monetary authorities, are not legal tender, and are not mandatorily accepted. Therefore, they do not have equal legal status with fiat currencies, and should not be circulated or used in the market as currencies. (Id.)

Provisions on Organizations and Individuals

From the date of issuance of the Announcement, all kinds of ICO financing activities will immediately be halted. The organizations and individuals that have completed ICO financing will withdraw from ICO financing activities and make relevant arrangements to return funds, with the purpose of protecting the interests of investors and properly dealing with risks. ICO financing projects that fail to cease operation and illegal activities found to have occurred in connection with completed ICO financing projects will be subject to investigation and punishment.  (Id. Item II.)

Trading Platforms

The Announcement indicated that all ICO financing trading platforms are prohibited from engaging in the following businesses:

  • providing exchange services between fiat currencies and virtual currencies;
  • purchasing or selling tokens and virtual currencies themselves or as central counterparts; or
  • providing pricing, information intermediary, or other services for tokens and virtual currencies. (Id. Item III.)

For any ICO financing trading platform that has violated the abovementioned provision, the administrative department will close its website platform and mobile APP, remove its mobile APP from APP stores, and revoke its business license in accordance with the law. (Id.)

Financial Institutions and Non-Bank Payment Institutions

According to the Announcement, financial institutions and non-bank payment agencies are prohibited from carrying out the following related businesses:

  • directly or indirectly providing products or services involving tokens and virtual currencies, such as account opening, registration, trading, liquidation, and settlement; or
  • underwriting any insurance business relating to tokens and virtual currencies, or including tokens and virtual currencies in any insurance coverage. (Id. Item IV.)

Investor Awareness and Self-Discipline of Industry Organizations

The Announcement also emphasizes the importance of enhancing public awareness of the financial and legal risks involved in ICO financing activities and of maximizing the  role of industry organizations in disciplining themselves and educating the general public. It states that investors must assume investment risks by themselves and should be on high alert for all kinds of illegal financial activities involving tokens and other virtual currencies. (Id. Item V.) Financial industry associations, on the other hand, must effectively interpret policies, urge members to voluntarily resist illegal ICO financing activities, and strengthen investor education. (Id. Item VI.)

Prepared by Yichao Zhang, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Laney Zhang, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.

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Indonesia: President Signs Decree on Character Education

(Oct. 19, 2017) On September 6, 2017, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo signed a presidential decree issuing a regulation on education designed to strengthen character. Widodo stated that the regulation had been prepared following input from a variety of interested parties across the country and that it would be followed up with the provision of technical guidance on its implementation. (Maryati & Ani Hasanah, President Joko Widodo Signs Decree on Character Strengthening Education, VOICE OF INDONESIA (Sept. 7, 2017); Moses Ompusunggu & Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jokowi Signs Amended Regulation on Character Education, JAKARTA POST (Sept. 7, 2017); Peraturan Presiden Republik Indonesia Nomor 87 Tahun 2017 Tentang Penguatan Pendidikan Karakter [Regulation of the President of the Republic of Indonesia No. 87, 2017, on Strengthening Character Education] (Character Education Regulation) (Sept. 6, 2017), Cabinet Secretariat website.)

Widodo added that he is pleased that Islamic clerics and community leaders supported the decree and attended the signing. He stated that it will provide a legal umbrella for the budget to finance character education in public schools, madrasahs (Islamic religious schools), and communities. (Maryati & Hasanah, supra; Moses Ompusunggu & Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jokowi Signs Amended Regulation on Character Education, JAKARTA POST (Sept. 7, 2017).) 

The Regulation

The regulation defines “strengthening character education” (penguatan pendidikan karakter in Indonesian, abbreviated PPK) as “the education movement under the responsibility of the educational unit to strengthen the learner’s character through harmonizing the heart, taste, thought, and body, with the involvement of and cooperation between educational units, family, and society … .”  (Character Education Regulation, art. 1.)  It goes on to list three purposes of the PPK program:

  • by 2045, to build learners into a generation of Indonesians who have experienced good character education, with the soul of “Pancasila,” the Indonesian political philosophy that stresses national unity, democracy, and social justice;
  • to develop a national education platform incorporating character education, with public engagement through formal and informal educational organizations and with respect for cultural diversity; and
  • to strengthen the competencies of educators, the community, and the family to implement PPK. (Id. art. 2.)

The program will be overseen by the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs and implemented by the ministries that manage education, culture, religion, and domestic affairs, as well as by local governments. (Id. art.  12.)

Implementation of Dual Report Card System

The Ministry of Education and Culture has directed schools to use a “double report card” system, beginning in 2018.  The cards would report on both academic achievement and personal progress.  Some teachers are already evaluating students on qualities related to the new character education, in addition to their school work.  Muhadjir Effendy, the Minister of Education and Culture, stated that the new cards “force teachers to scout and look out for the talents of each child.”  (Schools Begin to Adopt ‘Dual Report Card’ System, JAKARTA POST (Oct. 7, 2017).)

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Israel: Establishment of the Council for Preschoolers

(Oct. 19, 2017) On July 26, 2017, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Council for Preschoolers Law, 5777-2017 (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, official gazette, SH] 5777 No. 2658 p. 1129, available at KNESSET NATIONAL LEGISLATION DATABASE (in Hebrew).) The Law will enter into effect on February 7, 2018, six months after its August 7, 2017, publication. (Id. § 21(a).)

The Law declares as its objective to provide preschoolers (children from birth to first grade) the care necessary to support their physical and mental health and development, address their educational and social needs, and offer appropriate conditions for attaining equal opportunities in their adult life. (Id. § 1.) The Law defines an area affecting preschoolers as education and special education, health (including preventive care), infant clinics and programs for child development, welfare, education, treatment centers for preschoolers, nutrition, guidance for parents, safety, or reduction of poverty. (Id. § 2.)

Duties of the Council for Preschoolers

The Law establishes the Council for Preschoolers (CP) as a unit within the Ministry of Education tasked with fulfilling the following duties (id. §§ 3-4):

  • preparation of a multi-year national plan, for a period of at least three years, to promote areas affecting preschoolers as determined by the CP and recommending priorities for implementation of the said plan;
  • coordination between government offices and local authorities of the preschool age activities they oversee, including for prevention, detection, and early identification of preschoolers in danger; for handling difficulties in parental functioning; for addressing infant/child developmental delay; and for reduction in preschoolers’ poverty;
  • coordination between government agencies and local authorities with regard to the needs of preschoolers with disabilities;
  • recommendation of standards for policies affecting preschoolers and ways to implement or enforce them;
  • adoption of recommendations on the professional training required of preschool-area professionals, including for preschoolers with disabilities;
  • promotion of informational activities;
  • recommendation of qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods of activities of preschool-age institutions and professional training;
  • establishment and management of a national center for information and research on preschool education and care;
  • recommendation of programs for creating continuity between programs designed for preschoolers and children in schools, including in special education; and
  • submission of recommendations on the ministerial committee (see below).

Organization of the Council for Preschoolers

The Law authorizes the CP to appoint consultative committees and invite experts to its hearings. (Id. §§ 5-6.)

The CP will be chaired by the Minister of Education and include 22 additional members, including an expert in preschool education and care; employees with relevant experience from the Ministry of Education, Health, Interior, Justice, and Treasury; academics; a pediatrician; a day care operator; and public representatives, including at least one person with knowledge or experience in mainstreaming children with disabilities. (Id. § 12.)

The Law also requires that the CP will reflect the diversity of Israel’s population, with at least one member from the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish community and one from the Arab community. (Id. § 13.)

Ministerial Committee

The Law establishes a ministerial committee for preschool-age matters that will be chaired by the Minister of Education and include the Minister of Health; the Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services; the Minister of the Treasury; and the Minister of the Interior. (Id. § 18(a).) The committee will deliberate on the multi-year national program to be prepared by the CP and approve it, subject to any changes the committee deems necessary. (Id. § 18(b)(1).) The budget for implementation of the program will be allocated as an additional item in the annual budget provision for the Ministry of Education, unless otherwise determined by the ministerial committee. The CP will oversee implementation of the budget. (Id. § 18(b)(2).) The CP’s activities and other expenses under the Law, excluding the budget for implementing the national multi-year program for preschoolers, will be paid for from the budget allocation for the Ministry of Education in the annual budget law. (Id. § 19.)

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Egypt: Fatwa Permits Females to Have Permanent Tattoos

(Oct. 18, 2017) On October 9, 2017, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt (the main, official religious scholar), Sheik Ali Gomaa, issued a new fatwa (religious decree) allowing women to have permanent inked tattoos on their bodies. However, the same religious decree bans males from getting permanent tattoos. (Getting Tattoo Permissible for Girls, Sin for Boys: Egypt’s Former Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, AL MASRY AL YOUM (Oct. 9, 2017).)

Background

Such a fatwa is unique, because many Sunni Islamic scholars support banning Muslim men and women from tattooing their bodies. Sunni Islamic scholars justify the prohibition of inked tattoos by arguing that tattooing the body mutilates it and changes God’s creation, inflicts unnecessary pain, and introduces the possibility of infection. (Amal Al-Sibai, Health Dangers of Tattoos and Its Prohibition in Islam, ISLAMIC INFORMATION PATROL (Feb. 16, 2013).)

The religious decrees against tattooing supported by those scholars are based on a speech by the Prophet Mohammed. According to the book Sahih Al-Bukhari, a major collection of of sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, the speech on the subject of tattoos that the Prophet had made reads: the Prophet (ï·º) cursed the women who practice tattooing and those who seek to be tattooed, the women who remove hair from their faces seeking beautification by changing the creation of Allah (God).” (5 SAHIH AL-BUKHARI, Book 41, Hadith 2782, SUNNAH.COM.)

The New Decree

The new fatwa challenges the current view of traditional Islamic scholars. Sheik Ali Gomma stated in the decree that inked permanent tattoos are permissible under Islamic law if they meet certain conditions. For instance, drawing or removal of the tattoo must not spill blood or inflict unnecessary pain, and a tattoo must be a means of female decoration and adornment. (Getting Tattoo Permissible for Girls, Sin for Boys: Egypt’s Former Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, supra.)

By contrast, the same fatwa bans males from having tattoos. Sheik Gomaa argues that men having tattoos are imitating women and is akin to a man putting on lipstick or nail polish, which the Sheik says is completely forbidden in Islam. (Id.)

The Basis for the New Fatwa

Ali Gomma founded his fatwa on a previous religious decree that was issued by the Egyptian Dar al Ifta (the government body that is the religious institution in Egypt in charge of issuing religious decrees). That decree allows women to have tattoos as long as they are easily removed. The decree requires that the procedure of drawing or removing tattoos does not cause unnecessary pain, bodily harm, or spillage of blood. (Men Getting Tattoos, DAR AL-IFTA (last visited Oct. 16, 2017).) Moreover, the decree claimes that God described women in the Quran as naturally loving adornment. “A creature who is brought up in adornments (wearing silk and gold ornaments, i.e. women)… (Quran 43: 18).”  (Id.)  Consequently, the Dar al Ifta decree concludes that removable tattoos used by women are permissible under Islamic law. (Id.)

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Taiwan: Animal Protection Law Amended

(Oct. 18, 2017) On April 11, 2017, the Legislative Yuan (Taiwan’s main legislative body) passed a number of amendments to the Animal Protection Act. The President of Taiwan promulgated the amended Act on April 26. (Animal Protection Further Enhanced in Taiwan, TAIWAN TODAY (Apr. 12, 2017); Animal Protection Act (Nov. 4, 1998, as last amended Apr. 26, 2017), Council of Agriculture website (toggle for Chinese text.)  Among other changes, the Act now bans the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat and of any food products that contain the meat or other parts of these animals.  It also strengthens animal cruelty penalties.  (Animal Protection Further Enhanced in Taiwan, supra.)

According to the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture, in 2003 there were about 1.6 million pet dogs and cats in Taiwan, a number that grew to 2.2 million in 2015. (Id.) With this increase in pet ownership has come an increase in calls to strengthen legal provisions against animal cruelty. (Id.)

Anti-Consumption Provisions

Under the amended Animal Protection Act, a new provision has been added to ban the slaughter or dogs and cats, and to ban the sale, purchase, consumption, or possession of dog and cat carcasses, the animals’ internal organs, and food containing dog or cat parts. (Act, art. 12.3.1.) The relevant penalties and administrative sanctions have been changed accordingly. Thus, violation of this new provision will entail a fine of NT$50,000 to NS$250,000 (about US$1,659-$8,295), and the offender’s name and photograph and the fact of the offense may be publicized. The offender may be also required to take corrective actions by a deadline, and a fine may be imposed for each deadline extended and missed. (Id. arts. 27.1 & 27.1.6.) In addition, anyone who has previously committed any of the above acts will not be allowed to own pets of specific breeds that require compulsory registration for adoption because they are sheltered animals. (Id. arts. 33-1.1 & 33-1.1.7.)

Reportedly, the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan banned the consumption of dog and cat meat, and any products containing it, in 2015, imposing a fine of NT$15,000 to NT$75,000 on offenders. It was the first city in Taiwan to do so. (Animal Protection Further Enhanced in Taiwan, supra.)

Increased Penalties Against Abuse

The amendment updates the penalties for animal cruelty, so that the slaughter or intentional injury or damage to animals that results in “shattered limbs, organ failure or death” is punishable upon conviction with a sentence of up to two years of imprisonment or criminal detention, and a fine of between NT$200,000 and NT$2 million. Repeat offenders face a prison term of up to five years. (Id.; Act, art. 25.) Under the Act’s original provisions, the deliberate harming of animals could incur a punishment of imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of NT$100,000 to NT$1 million. (Animal Protection Further Enhanced in Taiwan, supra.)

No Dragging of Animals on Leash Behind Vehicles

The Act now prohibits car and motorcycle drivers from towing animals behind them with leashes (Act, art. 5.2.7), an act that is included among those for which a fine of between NT$15,000 (about US$498) and NT$75,000 will be imposed if it intentionally harms the animal or causes it to be harmed but does not result in mangled limbs, vital organ failure, or death, or if the act accidentally harms an animal or causes it to be harmed and leads to mangled limbs, vital organ failure, or death. (Id. art. 30.1.1.)

Moreover, the term of imprisonment that may be imposed on the deliberate repeat offense of certain acts, including the towing offense, within five years from the date of a previous penalty notice, has been increased from up to one year to up to two years. (Id. art. 30.2.) According to a Council of Agriculture summary of the amendments, the drafters of the amendment consulted article 17 of the German Animals Protection Act, which provides three years of imprisonment for such a crime, in arriving at the new maximum two-year penalty. (Summary of Revisions to Some Articles of the Animal Protection Act, AGRICULTURAL GOVERNANCE AND AGRICULTURAL CONDITIONS, No. 301 (July 2017), Council of Agriculture website (in Chinese).)

Use of Drugs and Firearms to Kill Pets

Under article 25-1.1 of the amended Act, criminal responsibility is imposed on those who use drugs or firearms to cause the death of multiple animals in serious violation of the Act’s provisions on animal care (art. 5.2), on harassment, abuse, or injury of any animal (art. 6), and on exceptions to the ban on killing animals without due cause (arts. 12.1, 12.2, &12.3.1). The maximum penalty is a prison term of up to five years (the minimum is no less than one year) and a fine of between NT$500,000 and NT$5 million; the competent authority may also publish the name and photograph of the offender and the facts about the illegal acts. (Id. art. 25-1.2.)

Addition of New Provision

Under new article 25-2, a fine of between NT$100,000 and NT$3,000,000 will be imposed on anyone who operates a breeding, trading, or lodging business involving specific breeds of pets in violation of article 22.1, which prohibits the sale of specific breeds of pets without a permit issued by the local competent authority. In addition to the fine, the offender will be ordered to close down the business and will also be fined for each closure deadline extended but missed. (Animal Protection Act, art. 25-2.1). The new provision further provides that the local competent authority may confiscate the pets under the control of the offender if that person is in violation of articles 25 (on abuse) or 25-1 (on use of drugs or firearms to harm), or the provisions on specific breed of pets for breeding or trading referred to in article 25-2.1. (Id. art. 25-2.2.)

Situation in Some Other Countries of Trade in and Consumption of Dog Meat

According to one news report, citing Humane Society International (HSI), “dog meat is still consumed widely in many Asian countries, specifically China, South Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and northern India,” and “[t]he practice also exists in parts of Africa and remote areas of Switzerland.” (Kristine Phillips, Taiwan Bans Eating Cats and Dogs and Lifts Penalties for Animal Cruelty, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (Apr. 17, 2017); Dog Meat Trade, HSI website (last visited Oct. 16, 2017).) On February 28, 2014, ASEAN Member States Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam agreed to intercept traffic in dogs for slaughter along the Vietnamese/Laotian border and the Thai/Laotian border. The governments of the four countries had adopted the moratorium in principle in August 2013. (Merritt Clifton, ASEAN Nations Move to Implement Dog Meat Trafficking Ban, ANIMALS 24-7 (Mar. 19, 2014).)

It was reported that the government of Yulin, China, had stated it would “prohibit restaurants, street vendors and market traders from selling dog meat” at its controversial June 2017 dog-eating “festival” and that the ban would “be strictly enforced with fines of up to 100,000 yuan [about US$15,192] and risk of arrest for violations.” (BREAKING: Dog Meat Sales Banned at China’s Yulin Festival in Milestone Victory to End Brutal Mass Slaughter of Dogs, HSI website (May 17, 2017).) The festival took place, however, despite the report that it would be closed down.  (Yulin Dog Meat Festival Begins Despite Rumours of Ban, BBC NEWS (June 21, 2017.)

In January 2016, the Secretary of Agriculture of the Philippines signed a directive providing for a campaign to end the dog-meat trade in the country by 2020, partly by increasing public awareness of the health hazards of eating dog meat and by focusing “the government crackdown on areas where the practice remains rampant.” (Phillips, supra; National Plan of Action to Eliminate the Trade of Dogs for Meat Campaign and Enforcement of Laws in the Philippines, Department of Agriculture Administrative Circular No. 1s of 2016 (Jan. 21, 2016).) Although the authorities in Manila have had a ban on killing and selling dogs for meat for over 30 years, a national ban was instituted in 1998, and the 2007 Anti-Rabies Act imposes additional penalties and punishments on trading in dog meat, the Secretary of Agriculture has “acknowledged that officials have fallen short in enforcing those laws.” (Phillips, supra; Republic Act No. 9482 “Anti-Rabies Act of 2007,” §§ 7(7) & 11(7), available at the Philippine Animal Welfare Society website.)

HSI contends that the practice of trading in dog and cat meat “is limited but does exist in the United States; however, “legislation introduced last month, the Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act, would ban the killing and selling of cats and dogs for human consumption in the country.” (Phillips, supra; H.R.1406 – Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2017, CONGRESS.GOV (introduced in House Mar. 7, 2017.)

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