（By Wang Haichuan）The new Export Control Law of China (the “Draft”) was published for public comments on December 28, 2019. This is the first law on export control in China. Export control means measures taken to prohibit or restrict the export of certain items such as nuclear, biological products or weapons in order to fulfill international obligations such as non-proliferation obligation, national security and development interests, etc. Currently, there are administrative regulations of export control on chemicals, general nuclear items, nuclear items used for multi-purpose, missiles, military products, biological products (the “Current Regulations”). Compared with the Current Regulations, the Draft makes no change in the current regulatory mechanism and allocation of responsibility and duties, appropriately improves the system and measures and fills blanks in laws. This article will focus on the changes in export control and their possible impact on companies doing business in China.
(By Wang Haichuan)Facing the coronavirus epidemic, some people are going on the extra 10-days’ holiday, while others are worrying about their contracts. For example, the Government of Shanghai requires local enterprises not resume their work before 24:00 of February 9th. Such requirement may result in a delay or failure of contract performance. This brings about a few questions. Who should be responsible for the contract breach? Can the contract be extended or terminated? What about allocation of damages arising from the contract termination.
I.The epidemic is a force majeure event
People usually think of such events as force majeure. Is the coronavirus epidemic a force majeure event? Chinese courts used to consider similar events as force majeure. The SARS epidemic in 2003 is very similar to the coronavirus epidemic this time. The Supreme Court issued the notice regarding contract disputes arising from SARS (“SARS cases”) in 2003. Accordingly, contract disputes arising from the SARS epidemic or government acts to prevent and control the SARS epidemic should be resolved according to force majeure related provisions. Actually, there are contract disputes decided by Chinese courts as caused by force majeure events.
According to the Contract Law of the People’s Republic of China, if a contract cannot be fulfilled due to a force majeure event, the liabilities may be exempted in whole or in part depending on the impact of the force majeure event. The “exemption of liabilities” means no longer needing to pay damages and be responsible for the breach of the contract, but does not mean exempting the obligation to perform the contract. For example, in case of delayed performance of a contract, the defaulting party shall pay the non-defaulting party 0.5% of the contract price as penalty for each day of delay. When the performance is delayed due to force majeure, the delaying party is entitled to refuse to pay the penalty pursuant to force majeure related provisions. After the disappearance of a force majeure event, the other party is entitled to require the delaying party to continue to perform the contract.
You may feel less worried after reading the above paragraph because anyhow you are not liable for the contract breach. However, force majeure related provisions do not apply in all cases where a force majeure event occurs. For example, the effect of the epidemic on a sales contract may be different from that on a tourism contract. For instance, a tourism contract for a trip to Wuhan is completely unable to be performed, while a computer sales contract between two Shanghai-based companies are not be affected at all. Therefore, the impact of force majeure events on the performance of contracts should be determined on a case-by-case basis by taking actual circumstances into consideration. In some SARS related cases, courts found that the SARS epidemic and restrictions imposed by the government due to the SARS epidemic only affected part of the business of the defaulting party in a way that was not serious enough to “directly” or “basically” cause the contract to be unable to be performed and therefore the force majeure event could not be a legal reason for the contract termination[L.S.2.M.K.Z.No.14 Tenancy Contract Case of Second Trial between Dalian Pengcheng Holiday Damu Co., Ltd. and Dalian Zhengdian Watches Co., Ltd.]. In summary, after the occurrence of force majeure events, factors such as the duration of the epidemic, the contents of the contract, the term of the contract and government orders should be taken into consideration to determine whether relevant force majeure provisions can be applied.
II. What should we do after a force majeure event occurs?
The exemption of liabilities in the event of force majeure doesn’t mean that the contractual parties can wait and do nothing until the disappearance of the force majeure event. The parties should do the following things about their contract after the occurrence of a force majeure event.
1. To take active and appropriate measures to reduce the extent of the damage and the adverse effect on the performance of the contract. The party failing to take prompt action is liable for additional losses arising from such failure.
2. To obtain proof of the occurrence of the force majeure event. In some contracts the affected party may be required to provide the other party with proof of the force majeure event within a certain period of time. Therefore, the affected party should be active collecting proof of the force majeure event from government agencies or other third parties.
3. To deal with other contract related issues as soon as possible, especially modification or termination of the contract. In case of modification of the contract, the parties will continue to perform the contract some time later or at a reduced contract price. In the SARS epidemic some tenants had to stop doing business and asked for cuts in rent. Courts supported their claims in equitable fashion[(2004) H.2.Z.M.2.(M) Z.Z.No.354 House Lease Contract Case between Shanghai Pipe Entertainment Co., Ltd. and Shanghai New Huangpu (Group) Co., Ltd.]. In case of termination of the contract, neither party is liable for the termination if the purpose of the contract cannot be met because of the force majeure event.
4. Any party that wants to terminate the contract needs to collect evidence of losses arising from the contract performance. After the termination, the fulfilled part of the contract should be paid for, with the rest part of the contract price not needing to be paid. The cost of preparations made for the performance of the contract made are part of losses of the parties to the contract. Courts usually award damages in an equitable fashion. In some cases, each party pay 50% damages[cf. Government’s Abstract Administrative Act Resulting in Non-Performance of a Contract Can Be Considered as a Force Majeure Event, by Li Hu, People’s Judicature, 20th issue 2009, pp.83-86; and the written judgement for the (2016) SPC.M.Z.No.220 contract case of second trial between Bai Junying and the Government of Tumd Zuoqi].
5. To send a written notice to the other party to the contract. Issuing such written notice will give you the following advantages. First, giving a clarification of measures taken to mitigate the adverse effect of the force majeure event could reduce the risk of being held liable (for further losses). Second, there are different approaches to addressing issues arising from an force majeure event (such as change or termination of the contract). Sending a written notice can give you an advantage of making a good choice for yourself. A notice usually contains:
(1) details of the force majeure event and its effect;
(2) measures taken or to be taken by you to reduce losses after its occurrence;
(3) your proposed plan to deal with other contract related issues arising therefrom (such as change or termination);
(4) your losses arising from performance of the contract and loss distribution plan (if the contract is terminated)
6. To actively negotiate with the other party and prepare for possible action. The two parties must reach a mutual agreement for the change of contract. If the parties fail to reach an agreement, an action may be brought to change the contract. When a force majeure event occurs, the possibility of contract disputes is higher. Therefore, on one hand, the parties involved should discuss and negotiate with each other actively to resolve the problems; on the other hand, they must prepare for possible litigation.
We suggest the parties affected by the epidemic of the coronavirus:
1.evaluate the impact of the epidemic on the contract performance to see whether force majeure related provisions are applicable;
2. take reasonable measures to reduce losses after the occurrence of the force majeure event;
3. obtain proof of the occurrence of force majeure event;
4. decide how to deal with issues related to the contract (change or termination);
5. collecting evidence of losses arising from the performance of the contract;
6. sending a written notice to the other party as soon as possible to fix related facts and express your opinions;
7. discuss with each other actively and prepare for possible litigation.
（By Bai Lituan）The Regulations of Several Issues Concerning Application of the Company Law of the People’s Republic of China (IV) (Legal Interpretation IV of the Company Law) taken into action by the Supreme People’s Court on 1 September 2017 provides that if shareholders claim that the company should distribute its profits without providing a related distribution plan or shareholder resolution, the court should reject the claim unless shareholder rights are abused, causing the company unable to distribute its profits and causing damage to other shareholders. In other words, in principle, courts should reject profit distribution claims brought by shareholders without a related shareholder resolution, unless in exceptional circumstances.
(By Bai Lituan)Securities repurchase is a financial activity of raising funds by selling securities and meanwhile signing an agreement with the buyer to repurchase the same securities at the agreed price and time. There are not many securities repurchase cases because it is not long ago that people in our country began to raise funds in this way. The first case decided by the Shanghai Finance Court is Oriental Securities v Honggao Zhongtai Securities Repurchase case.
Securities repurchase contract related laws mainly include the Securities Law, the Company Law, the minutes of meetings of the Supreme People’s Court on securities repurchase cases and the Notice on Restating Several Issues Connected with Further Standardizing Securities Repurchase Activities published by the Central Bank, the Ministry of Finance and the China Securities Regulatory Commission. All securities repurchase cases courts are dealing with come from the main, small and medium sized business and startup boards. My search result shows no securities repurchase cases relating to the new OTC board (the national share transfer system for small and medium sized businesses).
(By Lisa Li)The EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) affects a broad range of people outside the EU. Certain Chinese businesses are very likely to be bound by GDPR. This article briefly discusses how GDPR affects Chinese businesses and what Chinese businesses should do to comply with GDPR.
1.The Application of GDPR to Chinese Businesses
This is a matter of applicability. GDPR applies to the following people.
(a) People established in the EU who control or process data and process personal data while doing business regardless of where these data are processed.
(By Shi Weidong)On 4 January 2019 the Supreme Court of China promulgated the Legal Interpretation (II) of Issues Concerning the Application of Laws Relating to Construction Work Contract Disputes (“Interpretation II”) .
The promulgation of the Interpretation II marks the first time in the past fourteen years that the supreme court gives a detailed explanation of laws relating to construction work contracts since the Legal Interpretation (I) of Issues Concerning the Application of Laws Relating to Construction Work Contract Disputes (“Interpretation I”) was carried out on 1 January 2005.
(By Tian Shanshan) The Chinese Company Law and legal interpretations thereof provide that founders are responsible for paying in full their capital contributions. However, should founders of a company be responsible for paying in full their capital contributions if the company was established before the Company Law 2005 took effect, the first law setting forth responsibilities of a company’s founders for paying in full their capital contributions? Another issue in this case is how to define the founder’s responsibilities and protect the creditors’ interests. Legal authorities didn’t deal with this issue in the same way.
（By Li Xiang）Article Six of the Regulations of the Supreme People’s Court on Hearing Civil Compensation Cases Arising from False Statements in Securities Markets (“Regulations”) states that “courts should accept and hear litigation cases brought by investors claiming damages for themselves arising from a false statement on the basis of decision made by an administrative authority or a criminal court”. According to this, administrative or criminal punishment is the preliminary process for filing a civil compensation case arising from a false statement.
(By Lisa Li) The following is Part II of the topic on application of laws on non-competition clauses from perspective of Chinese employment law.
1.Termination of non-competition agreement
Article 4 of the Judicial Interpretation IV stipulates that if there are non-competition obligations and compensations agreed in the employment contract or confidentiality agreement, the employer’s failure to pay the compensations for three months will entitle the employee to request terminating the non-competition agreement. In accordance with the wording of these provisions, the employee has the right to request terminating the non-competition agreement, however the non-competition agreement shall not end automatically. However, local practice varies from place to place; even the same court rendered different judgments for similar cases according to the search conducted by the author.
(By Lisa Li) In accordance with relevant laws of People’s Republic of China (“PRC), judicial interpretation by PRC Supreme People’s Court, judicial interpretation by local Superior People’s Courts and local regulations and based on the author’s research into and analysis of over two dozens of litigation cases from Shanghai and Beijing etc, the author elaborates on the application of laws on non-competition clauses from the perspective of Chinese employment law practice. The following is Part I of this topic on application of laws on non-competition clauses.
(By Lisa Li)In accordance with the PRC Company Law (hereinafter referred to as the “Company Law”), the Regulations of PRC on Administration of Company Registration (hereinafter referred to as “Company Registration Administration Regulations”) as well as the Law of PRC on Foreign Invested Enterprises (hereinafter referred to as “Foreign Invested Enterprises Law”) etc and based on the author’s prior experience in handling cases of early dissolution and liquidation of companies, we summarized key points and practical experience regarding the early dissolution and liquidation process of wholly foreign invested companies, including foreign invested enterprises owned by one sole foreign investor and those jointly owned by foreign investors (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “WFOE”) prior to expiration of the registered operation term.
(By Lisa Li) As of April 2017, the Circular on Fully Implementing the Work Permit System for Foreigners to Work in China jointly issued by the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security (the “Circular”) has been implemented in China to integrate previous foreigner’s employment permit and foreign expert work permit as the foreigner’s work permit, aiming to simplify the foreigner’s work permit application procedures and to facilitate the introduction of foreign talents. In accordance with the relevant laws, regulations and policies regarding the foreigner’s work permit and from our recent experience, we summarized the following main points and some best practices regarding the foreigner’s work permit in order to provide a brief overview on the foreigner’s work permit system in China.
(By Wang Ting)Recently the court has approved of the attorney fee up to 1 million RMB in an IPR case, and it is the first time that the court has applied time-based billing to calculate such attorney fee. Meanwhile in this case, the court has also confirmed the principles of determining the attorney fee on three items. Today, we are going to go through this case and discuss about the reasons why the court has fully approved of the attorney fee this time.
Plaintiff: Beijing Watchdata Technologies Co., Ltd (the “Watchdata”)
(By You Yunting) Recently, the Ministry of Culture has issued the Notice of Ministry of Culture on Regulating Online Game Operation and Strengthening Interim and Ex Post Supervision (Referred to as “Notice”), which will be put into effect as of May, 2017. The Notice contains lots of specific policies, including the restrictive policy on providing virtual props and value-added services of an online game by sweepstakes (Referred to as “Item Sweepstakes”), which are the significant sources of profits for game companies. In this article, we’ll discuss whether this policy would affect the incomes of these game companies or not.
(By Wang Ting and You Yunting)The limited liability of the shareholders means that the liability of the shareholder to the company are limited to its capital contribution, and the independent personality of corporation means that the Company shall fulfill its external liabilities by all of its properties. Therefore, the shareholders usually do not take personal responsibility in IPR infringement cases even when the long-term business of the company is infringement of the intellectual property rights (“IPR”) in most cases. However, today we will introduce a recent case, in which the shareholders were determined to take such joint liabilities for the IPR infringements.