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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.

Thailand: New Law on Competitiveness in Targeted Industries

(Mar. 1, 2017) On February 13, 2017, the King of Thailand announced the adoption of the National Competitive Enhancement Act for Targeted Industries, BE 2560 (2017), in the country’s Royal Gazette. (Thailand Waives Corporate Tax in Targeted Industries, THAI LAW FORUM (Feb. 22, 2017); Act to Enhance the Competitiveness of Targeted Industries B.E. 2560, 134:19 RATCHAKITCHANUBEKSA [ROYAL THAI GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, GG] (Feb. 13, 2560 [2017]), GG website (in Thai).) The law entered into force the following day. The Act is part of Thailand’s long-term investment promotion strategy, “Thailand 4.0,” and the country’s national agenda on investment-led transformation. (Kowit Somwaiya & Paramee Kerativitayanan, Thailand’s Act on Enhancement of Competitiveness for Targeted Industries Comes into Force, LAW PLUS (Feb. 2017); New Chapter of Investment Promotion (Feb. 15, 2017), Thailand Board of Investment website.)

According to news reports, the law aims to enhance the competitiveness of industries “in line with Thailand’s capabilities” and foreign companies that meet certain criteria will be permitted and encouraged to invest in industries that are “new to the country or use new technology or advanced production that will bring in development and promotion of innovation.” (New Law to Make Thailand More Competitive in Targeted Industries, NATION (Feb. 15, 2017).) The law’s provisions apply to companies that invest in “core industries such as biotech, advanced manufacturing, creative and digital industries, as well as companies using new technology or advanced production methods, in areas such as nanotechnology, advanced materials and digital technology.” (Government of Thailand Announces New 4.0 Investment Attraction Policies, PRWEB (Feb. 28, 2017).)

Investment Incentives

Incentives for promoted projects under the Act have been characterized as falling into three main categories. One type of incentive is an exemption from corporate income tax for up to 15 years. (Somwaiya & Kerativitayanan, supra.)

Another category of incentives is non-tax benefits that already exist under Thailand’s Investment Promotion Act. Those incentives include, for example, permitting foreigners to have a shareholding beyond the foreign shareholding limit specified by the Foreign Business Act; allowing foreigners to own land; and “exemption or reduction of import duties on machinery and essential or raw materials.”  (Id.)  They also include the provision of visas and permits that will allow foreign experts and craftsmen to work in Thailand. (New Law to Make Thailand More Competitive in Targeted Industries, supra.) Only the previous tax exemption incentive and deductibles under the Investment Promotion Act are excluded as incentives for promoted projects under the new Act, because the latter already provides the tax exemption mentioned above. (Somwaiya & Kerativitayanan, supra; Investment Promotion Act B.E. 2520 (Jan. 2002), Thailand Board of Investment website; Investment Promotion Act No. 4 (amending the Investment Promotion Act), 134:10 GG 47 (Jan. 24, 2017) (in Thai).)

A third type of incentive is subsidies provided from the Fund for Enhancement of Competitiveness for Targeted Industries, newly created by the Act, which has seed money of THB10 billion (about US$285 million) for investment projects involving research and development or innovation. (Somwaiya & Kerativitayanan, supra.)

Administrative Infrastructure

The Act provides for the establishment of the Committee on Policy for National Competitive Enhancement for Targeted Industries, with Thailand’s Board of Investment as the secretariat; members of the Committee include, among others, the Prime Minister, one of the Deputy Prime Ministers, the Minister of Finance, and the Minister of Science and Technology. (Id.; Act to Enhance the Competitiveness of Targeted Industries, art. 5.) The Committee is assigned the tasks of formulating a strategic plan to enhance national competitiveness, specifying the types of target industries to be promoted, and approving the payment of grants from the Fund, among other responsibilities.  (Somwaiya & Kerativitayanan, supra; Act to Enhance the Competitiveness of Targeted Industries, art. 6.)

The Act also prescribes that the Sub-Committee on Nomination and Negotiation be established, “to look for and negotiate with potential investors to invest in the targeted industries and get incentives under the Act.” (Somwaiya & Kerativitayanan, supra; Act to Enhance the Competitiveness of Targeted Industries, arts. 8 & 9.)

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China: First Law on Film Industry Effective in March

(Feb. 28, 2017) On November 7, 2016, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the Film Industry Promotion Law, the first national law regulating the country’s film industry.  (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Dianying Chanye Cujin Fa (promulgated on Nov. 7, 2016, effective on Mar. 1, 2017), State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) website; Film Industry Promotion Law 2016, CHINA LAW TRANSLATE (Nov. 7, 2016) (unofficial English translation).)

Currently, the SAPPRFT and its local agencies are in charge of the administration of films, in accordance with the provisions of the Regulations on the Administration of Movies, which were issued by the State Council in 2001.  (Dianying Guanli Tiaoli (issued on Dec. 12, 2001, effective on Feb. 1, 2002), SAPPRFT website; Regulations on the Administration of Movies, WIPO LEX (click on “Download” hyperlink to view text).)  Article 24 of the 2001 Regulations provides that “[t]he State applies a film censorship system.”  (Id. art. 24.)  The Regulations further contain provisions on censorship throughout the processes of publication, display, import, and export of films.

The new Law keeps the censorship system, with some amendments, and adds provisions on promotion of the film industry.  Some highlights of the Film Industry Promotion Law are as follows.

Decentralization of Censorship

While the Regulations provide that the SAPPRFT is the film censorship authority (Regulations, art. 24), the Law grants that authority to both national and provincial administrations of the press, publication, radio, film, and television.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, arts. 13 & 17.)

Under the Film Industry Promotion Law, entities that plan to produce films will file the script outlines with the SAPPRFT or its provincial agencies for the record before shooting.  For films that involve sensitive topics, including China’s national security, foreign relations, ethnic groups, religion, and military affairs, completed scripts will be filed for examination “in accordance with relevant provisions of the State.”  (Id. art. 13.)  In contrast, under the Regulations the SAPPRFT is entitled to examine the completed scripts of all films to be produced, regardless of the topic.  (Regulations, art. 26.)  The Law also abolishes pre-production licenses that are required by the Regulations, making it easier for individual producers and small companies to enter the film industry market.  (Id. arts. 10 & 16.)

The new Law retains the requirement of obtaining a film release license, a license issued to the film producer by the SAPPRFT or its provincial agencies after reviewing the finished film.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, art. 17.)  The current Regulations forbid any publication or display of films by the producers without the release license.  (Regulations, art. 42.)  The Law further stipulates that films for which there is no release license will not be transmitted over the Internet, telecommunications networks, or radio and television networks; recorded as audio or video products; or submitted to any film festival or exhibition.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, arts. 20 & 21.)  Violators of the provisions will be subject to fines of 10 to 20 times the amount of the film revenues (id. art. 49), which is higher than the standard multiple of 10 to 15 times that had been prescribed by the Regulations.  (Regulations, art. 58.)

Promotion of the Film Industry

Chapter 4 of the Law provides for various means of promoting the film industry.  First, the Law provides for support for the film industry through fiscal tools, including special funding and tax incentives.  (Film Industry Promotion Law, arts. 37 & 38.)  Second, the Law encourages development of special finance and insurance products for the film industry.  (Id. art. 40.)  Third, local governments are required to construct and improve infrastructure facilities in support of the film industry and the Law encourages the development of the film industry in rural and poor areas.  (Id. arts. 39 & 43.)  Fourth, the Law encourages entities to conduct cross-border investment and promotional activities in the film industry.  (Id. arts. 41 & 44.)

Targeting Box-Office Fraud

The Law requires film publishing entities and cinemas to record film revenues truthfully and forbids false transactions.  (Id. art. 34.)  Noncompliance with the provision will be subject to confiscation of illegal gains and fines of up to five times the amount of illegal gains.  (Id. art. 51.)

Core Socialist Values

One of the legislative purposes of the Film Industry Promotion Law is to promote “core socialist values”; such values will be embedded in the examination standards of films.  (Id. arts. 1 & 16.)  The Law also requires film industry associations to issue self-discipline rules and to strengthen professional ethics education in the industry.  (Id. art. 9.)  In addition, it stipulates that actors and directors “shall behave professionally and ethically.”  (Id.)

Next Steps

The SAPPRFT has announced that the Regulations will be amended in 2017 in order to be consistent with the new Law.  (Yingzao Lianghao Fazhi Huanjing – 2017 Nian Xinwen Chuban Guangbo Yingshi Fazhi Gongzuo jiang zai Liu Fangmian Zhongdian Tuijin [Create a Good Legal Environment – Rule of Law Work Regarding the Press, Publishing, Radio, Film, and Television Will Focus on the Promotion of Six Aspects in 2017], CHINA NEWS AND PUBLICATION (Feb. 16, 2017).)  The amended Regulations are likely to provide detailed guidance on implementation of the Film Industry Promotion Law.

Prepared by Emma Wei, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Laney Zhang, Senior Foreign Law Specialist.

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Sweden: Man Sentenced to Prison for Soliciting Funding of Terrorist Organizations

(Feb. 28, 2017) On February 23, 2017, Malmö District Court sentenced a Swedish national to six months’ imprisonment for having “enticed funding” for the terrorist organizations Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State (IS). (Press Release, Fängelse för uppmaningar på Facebook om att finansiera terroristbrott [Prison for Enticement, on Facebook, to Fund Terrorist Crimes], Malmö tingsrätt (Feb. 23, 2017); Case B 10658-15, Malmö District Court [Malmö TR], Feb. 23, 20179 (on file with author).) The sentence was handed down in accordance with the Act on Punishment for Public Enticement and Education Regarding Terrorist Crimes and Other Extraordinarily Serious Crimes.  (Lagen om straff för offentlig uppmaning, rekrytering och utbildning avseende terroristbrott och annan särskilt allvarlig brottslighet (Svensk Författningssamling [SFS] 2010:299) RIKSDAGEN.)

The case is the first of its kind brought under the provision that criminalizes solicitation to commit terrorist crimes; in this case the solicitation was to fund a terrorist organization, a crime punishable on conviction with up to two years in prison. Specifically, section 3 of the provision reads: “[h]e who in a message to the public entices or otherwise tries to deceive [others to commit] extraordinary serious crimes is sentenced to two years of imprisonment.”  (Id. 3 §.).)

The prosecutor did not charge the defendant with directly collecting funds for a terrorist organization, as criminalized under the Swedish Act on Funding of Serious Crimes, a crime that is punishable upon conviction with up to six years’ imprisonment. (3a § Lagen om straff för finansiering av särskilt allvarlig brottslighet i vissa fall [Act on Punishment for Funding of Extraordinarily Serious Crimes] (SFS 2002:444).)

Although the defendant denied wrongdoing, the Court established that the man had solicited terrorist funding by making the following message available on his Facebook page: “[h]elp us supply our brothers at the front with weapons to avenge our siblings.” (Case B010658-15 Malmö TR at 8.)  The Court also found that he had provided contact information for two known funders of terrorism.  (Id. at 4.)  The Court found that he was the owner of the account, despite the alias used; that his objection that he had been given the Facebook account in order to access other accounts was improbable; and that in light of the full circumstances, including updates being made on his employer’s network, he had indeed exercised control over the account and intentionally provided information on the account to solicit funding of terrorism.  (Id. at 9-12.)

Because this was the first case where a person was charged with the crime of soliciting funding of terrorism, there are no higher court verdicts that guide sentencing, but the Court found that the severity of the terrorism crimes committed warranted a presumption of sentencing to prison and that there were no extenuating circumstances to rebut that presumption. (Id. at 12-13).  Due to his financial situation, the defendant was deemed wealthy enough, and sentenced accordingly, to repay the state for the cost of his counsel.  (Id. at 13.)

Any appeal of the sentence must be lodged with the Appeals Court for Skåne and Blekinge by March 16, 2017.

Impact of the Case

The impact of the case on the law of Sweden may not be that long-lived, as the Swedish government has announced the creation of a commission to overhaul and consolidate Swedish terrorism legislation. The commission has been asked to complete and present its report and recommendations by January 31, 2019. (Press Release, En ändamålsenlig och effektiv terrorismlagstiftning [Appropriate and Effective Terrorist Legislation], REGERINGSKANSLIET (Jan. 10, 2017).)

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Iran: Charter on Citizens’ Rights Signed

(Feb. 28, 2017) With the aim of “recovering and promoting citizens’ rights,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, under his constitutional authority to “determine the program and policies of the government,” signed the Charter on Citizens’ Rights in a ceremony on December 19, 2016.  (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding “Enforcement Guarantee, VOA (Dec. 19, 2016) (in Persian); Manshur-e Hoquq-e Shahrvandi [Charter on Citizens’ Rights] (Dec. 2016), Hassan Rouhani website; Charter on Citizen’s Rights (Charter) (Dec. 2016), Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran website (official English translation); Qanun-e Asasi-e Jomhuri-e Islami-e Iran [Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran] (1979), art. 134, Islamic Parliament Research Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran website; Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Constitution), Comparative Constitutions Project website.)

The Charter, which is actually draft legislation that needs to be passed by Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament), contains no specific enforcement guarantee.  (Rouhani Unveils Charter on Civil Rights; Vagueness Regarding “Enforcement Guarantee, supra; Mehrnaz Samimi, Will Rouhani’s “Charter of Rights” Change Anything in Iran?, ATLANTIC COUNCIL (Jan. 3, 2017).)

The Charter contains 120 articles, which include the right of Iranian citizens “to enjoy a decent life and necessities thereof, such as clean water, adequate food, promotion of health, … appropriate medical treatment, access to medicines, … and safe and sustainable environmental conditions.  (Charter, art. 2.)  The Charter guarantees citizens’ freedom of speech and expression “within the limits prescribed by law,” and affords them the right to access public information, communicate in cyberspace, assemble and participate in demonstrations, and receive due process of law.  (Id. arts. 26, 30, 33, 46 & 57.)  In addition, the Charter provides for a number of women’s rights, guaranteeing women’s participation in formulating policy and legislation and equality of social opportunities (id. art. 11); protection from verbal and physical abuse and violence (id. art. 54); appropriate job opportunities and pay equal to that of men (id. art. 83); and access to public environments and participation in social, cultural, and artistic groups (id. art. 103).

However, according to Iranian-American journalist Mehrnaz Samimi, “[m]any of these rights already exist in Iran’s constitution, but have often not been implemented.  Such a charter was among Rouhani’s campaign pledges when he first ran for president four years ago and the president may have felt the need to unveil the bill before running for re-election this spring.”  (Samimi, supra.)

Reactions to the Charter

Reactions to the issuing of the Charter reflect the divide within Iran between reformists, moderates, and centrists like Rouhani, and traditional and hardline conservatives.  (Kaylyn Wade, 2016 Iranian Elections: Clash of Reform and Revolution, EX-PATT MAGAZINE (Oct. 7, 2016).)  Some conservative commentators and newspapers have criticized the Charter as redundant and full of shortcomings, while Kayhan, Iran’s most prominent conservative newspaper – known as “the mouthpiece of ultra-conservatives” – labeled it a “list of unfulfilled duties of the government” and attacked governmental managers for receiving very high salaries and living in mansions while citizens were suffering from unemployment and inadequate housing.  (Samimi, supra; Rohollah Faghihi, Can Rouhani’s Citizens’ Rights Charter Be Enforced?, AL-MONITOR (Dec. 20, 2016).)  Moreover, the hardline Javan newspaper criticized the Charter for usurping the power of the Parliament and drafting legislation.  (Faghihi, supra.)

In contrast to the conservatives, reformists and moderates in the country welcomed the issuing of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights, but expressed serious concerns about whether it would have any significant effect or was even enforceable.  Writing in the reformist daily Shargh, Iranian lawyer Kambiz Norouzi stated that not only was the Charter clearly not a law, but it was not even possible to determine whether it was binding, government-approved legislation.  Norouzi’s primary concern is that because the Charter merely lists citizens’ rights but ignores the reasons why citizens’ rights already enshrined in existing laws are disregarded and violated, it cannot be effective.  (Kambiz Norouzi, Is the Charter on Citizens’ Rights …, SHARGH RUZNAMEH (Dec. 20, 2016) (in Persian).)

Other commentators trace such violations of citizens’ rights to the primary basis of the Charter – the Iranian Constitution itself, which affords no protection to religious minorities not officially recognized by the Constitution (that is, any minorities besides Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians).  Accordingly, “the effective application of each … of those rights may be compromised by interpretations of ‘Islamic criteria.’”  (Christopher Buck, The Trial of the Yaran Under the Iranian “Citizens’ Rights” and “Legal Procedures for Revolutionary Courts” Standards, IRAN PRESS WATCH (Feb. 20, 2010); U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, International Freedom Report 2005; Bijan DaBell, Iran Minorities 1: Diverse Religions (Sept. 3, 2013), United States Institute of Peace website.)

Finally, despite the Charter’s seven articles calling for various rights and protections for women (Charter, supra), it is silent about “existing laws [that] discriminate against women in a wide variety of areas, including age of criminal responsibility, marriage, inheritance, and veiling.”  (Shahin Milani, Situation of the Bahá’í Minority in Iran and the Existing Legal Framework, 69(2) JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (June 6, 2016).)

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Japan: Undertaking by Non-Attorneys of Requests to Delete Online Content Can Constitute Legal Representation

(Feb. 24, 2017) Under the Attorney Act, legal assistance from non-lawyers is restricted in Japan, as it is in most jurisdictions. (Attorney Act, Act No. 205 of 1949, as amended by Act No. 87 of 2005, art. 72, translated in JAPANESE LAW TRANSLATION.) According to news articles, on February 20, 2017, the Tokyo District Court decided that undertaking requests from a client to delete content on websites was legal representation. Therefore, the contract between the plaintiff, an individual who requested that a non-attorney agency take action to delete content, and the agency was invalid, and the agency must return fees that were received from the plaintiff. (Ryuji Nakagawa, Tokyo District Court Decided Illegal Nature of Net Article Deletion Business, ASAHI SHINBUN (Feb. 20, 2017) (in Japanese).)

As the number of persons and organizations that want their information on the Internet deleted has increased, the number of agencies that undertake deletion requests has also increased. (Ryuji Nakagawa & Hideki Murakami, Widespread Net “Deletion Businesses” Advertise Their Skills and Undertake Procedures, ASAHI SHINBUN (Feb. 21, 2017) (in Japanese).) Also, the number of disputes between clients and such agencies has grown. In the present case, the plaintiff wanted 13 websites to delete descriptions that would negatively affect him and paid about 500,000 yen (about US$4,500) for the deletion service. Because only ten websites deleted the descriptions after requests were made through the agency, the plaintiff was unhappy with the outcome, and sued the agency. (Nakagawa, supra.)

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