Tag Archives: Liu Xiaoyuan

Liu Xiaoyuan on Residential Surveillance and its Pitfalls

In light of the ongoing disappearances and reappearances of lawyers, intellectuals and activists the legality [or lack thereof] of house arrest repeatedly came up in the news coverage, although not much explanation was given on one of the Chinese governments more peculiar measures in dealing with its subjects. Just as I was wondering where I could find further information I stumbled over a series of posts on Liu Xiaoyuan’s blog, who went into great detail to discuss what it’s all about. Obviously he had gotten a whole bunch of emails from people for whom the legal intricacies of house arrest or—in proper terminology—residential surveillance were equally hazy.

I guess most of these requests were related to Ai Weiwei’s whereabouts (as he is also believed to be under RS),considering that Liu might take over his defense. ((Unless he disappears into said legal limbo himself that is.)) For two interesting posts on the legality of Ai’s situation, albeit from opposite perspectives, check here and here.

In the first post Liu gives a detailed overview of the relevant laws and regulations, in the second post (translated below) he discusses legal ambiguities and cases of abuse of RS. In the third post (which I’ll try and post soon), he argues for an abolition of said measure due to the widespread problems arising in its implementation.


A further discussion of residential surveillance

Posted on May 26, 2011 by Liu Xiaoyuan

Residential surveillance is defined as a coercive measure that can be imposed on a suspect by the People’s Courts, the People’s Procuratorate and public security organs. In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law a suspect can be ordered not to leave his home or designated residence for a certain amount of time, during which his actions can be monitored and his personal freedom restricted.

But to what extent can the personal freedom of a person under RS be restricted? How big a range of movement or action should people under RS still be entitled to? In regard to these questions the relevant laws and regulations, the interpretations by the judicature as well as further regulations by different departments [involved in its execution] are far from clear.

Article 57 of the Criminal Procedure Law states that criminal suspects or defendants under residential surveillance should not leave their domicile [or home residence] without permission of the executing organ, or, if the person in question has no fixed domicile, not to leave a designated residence without prior permission. Thus, without obtaining prior permission stating otherwise, their freedom of movement is limited to those places.

But it is not further elaborated what a home or designated residence exactly is.

Article 98 of the “Provisions on the Procedures for Handling Criminal Cases by Public Security Organs” defines the home residence as the legitimate residence the suspect holds in the city or county where the case is handled. The designated residence is defined as the residence a suspect is appointed, due to case-specific circumstances, by the PSB in the city or county where the case is handled. The police is not allowed to set up a special place for residential surveillance, in order to avoid that the suspect is actually put under a disguised form of detention. Furthermore, it can not be carried out in detention facilities or any kind of designated PSB work place.

But these explanations also lack clarity.

If a suspect under RS has an apartment in a residential compound, should his movements be restricted only to his apartment or should the residential compound be included? In other words, can he exit the door of his apartment and move around in his compound? The same question can be asked in regard to an assigned place of residence.

One reading of the law is, that “home residence” in rural areas should be understood as the entire village in which the home of the person in question is located or, in cities, should be interpreted as the entire compound surrounding the house. The assigned place of residence should be understood as the house or courtyard in which the living quarters are located.

Another interpretation is that while the requirements of an ongoing investigation and trial have to be met in order to guarantee that further steps can be executed swiftly, consideration should also be paid to enabling a suspect to lead a regular life and resume his work or study, when he is not demanded in court.

In my personal opinion, [the definition of] home or assigned residence should not be interpreted in a narrow and limiting sense. A person under RS can hardly remain in the confinement of his living quarters all day, without ever leaving the apartment. There should be some space and range for movement. Because if a suspect’s or defendant’s range of movement is limited to residential quarters alone, then he is de facto deprived of his personal freedom.

The longest duration of RS allowed by law is six months. If the suspect isn’t even allowed to step out of the door in such a long period of time, the severity of this measure would be so grave that there is virtually no difference to official custody or detention. The original intent of the RS legislation was to define a coercive measure that would only partially restrict a suspect’s or defendant’s personal freedom, and not another form of detention or arrest.

When put into practice, a multitude of problems arise:

1. Abuse of the measure as intended by law. The boundaries, subjects and conditions of RS are clearly defined, but some investigative organs severely breach the relevant laws and regulations in its implementation. This has for example happened in cases where the prosecution has decided against raising charges and authorizing an arrest, but instead of dropping the proceedings, as it should be done, the persons in question were subjected to RS. In other cases the relevant departments used RS as an alternative to conducting a proper investigation and thus put people in RS who shouldn’t be subjected to this coercive measure under the legal framework. In some cases RS was used as a means of resolving cases in which civil disputes had led to minor injuries. In all these particular cases RS was used due to intervention or under influence from forces outside the legal institutions, leading to a much higher amount of RS cases than would have been allowed by law.

2. RS is executed in locations that are in breach of the law and regulations. In these cases the suspect or defendant is subjected to a disguised form of detention, as intended for a criminal offense. Article 57 of the Criminal Procedure Law defines the locations where RS can be implemented as the home residence of a suspect or defendant or —if this is not possible— as a designated residence. But some of the departments entrusted with carrying out RS used some form of hotel, hostel, guesthouse or basement accommodation instead. In other cases the suspects where held at places meant for handling cases and carrying out administrative detention as well as property of security companies. In addition, some of the investigative organs denied the person under RS any direct contact with other people and even installed surveillance technology to keep constant watch. Others ordered that even people also living in the residence and appointed lawyers needed to obtain permission to gain access.

In cases where the suspects or defendants did not have a place of residence or their home residence was relatively far away from the place the case is handled, the investigative organs routinely put people in preinstalled “surveillance houses.” But bringing a suspect to a fixed location for the purpose of carrying out surveillance is nothing but taking someone into custody or putting him in detention. If the place where RS in carried out is illegal, resulting in a situation of disguised detention, it constitutes a serious violation of a suspects human rights.

3. The choice of the executing organ is illegal. Article 51 of the Criminal Procedure Law states that RS has to be carried out by public security organs. But PSBs, in whose jurisdiction the suspect or defendant falls, often hand the implementation out to “hired cops” or local public security defense forces, due to a lack of resources or other reasons. Situations where the number of PSB personnel is not sufficient and additional manpower is contracted from the civil sector certainly exist. Furthermore, some investigative organs authorize other departments or subordinate private security companies entirely with the implementation. Others hand the management of RS into the hands of local village committees and thereby turn [the legal intend of] RS into a mere formality. Because all these actors haven’t obtained the formal approval by the relevant body responsible for law enforcement, they don’t have the legal power to carry out RS and thus their actions are illegal.

The More Things Change on the Chinese Internet…

…the more they stay the same. This has been an interesting week for the internet in China. First came the news — not surprising to anyone, probably — that China’s internet user base continues to grow, and reached 420 million in June. Then came the Beijing Daily report sounding the death-knell for Green Dam censorship and monitoring software that was going to be required on all computers sold in China before netizen complaints forced Beijing to back down. The news that the company behind Green Dam is belly-up (and that the government is no longer supporting it) might seem like cause for a little celebratory grave-dancing, if some less terrible things hadn’t also happened this week.

Microblogs nationwide went down, and when they came back up, they had all slapped “Beta” on to their logos. Slowly, netizens are discovering what that means. We reported yesterday that Sina’s weibo service no longer allows links to any foreign websites (blocked or not). Danwei reported ((Can’t load Danwei because of the effin’ GFW? Try Freedur.)) today that at least one person has discovered his name is now a “sensitive word” on Sina. What’s worse, the stepped-up censorship doesn’t seem limited to blogs.

Renowned lawyer and blogger Liu Xiaoyuan posted his own story of Sohu’s censorship to his Sohu and Sina blogs today:

In March of 2007, Sohu started to block and hide some of my blog posts. I got fed up with it and on August 16, 2007, filed a lawsuit with the Haidian district People’s Court. After nearly a year and two trials, both of my suits ((The second, presumably, was an appeal of the decision on the first suit; Liu does not go into any detail about this though.)) were rejected. If even the People’s Court sees but does not care about the violation of a citizen’s right to free speech, what could I do?

My blog posts continued to be blocked and hidden. Especially during the period of Yang Jia‘s case, a large number of posts were “purged”, but I had already become numb to it.

On July 28, 2009, I had been writing on my Sohu blog for more than three years. That day was the first time my blog was forcibly closed. They didn’t tell me anything [about why the blog was suddenly closed]. So fine, if you won’t tell me anything, then I will tell you something! I immediately registered another Sohu blog and gave Sohu a piece of my mind.

I never thought that this blog would be killed on July 12, 2010, before it had even reached one year of age. On the 13th, I opened another Sohu blog, but it only lived for a single day and was “assassinated” on the 14th.

I’ve said before, the best wat to protest when they close your blog is to open another. [I’ve opened another blog,] I really don’t know how long this one will survive.

Open your own blogs, let other people worry about closing them!

Within a few minutes, that post had been deleted from his Sohu blog, although it remains on his Sina blog, at least for the time being ((Although Sina also deletes specific posts of Liu’s on a fairly regular basis, as Liu often posts lists of the titles of recent posts of his that have been deleted.)). His Sohu blog now consists of a single brief post, entitled “Sohu moves so fast”:

Today, I opened a new Sohu blog and my first post [the post translated above] was deleted within five minutes. Sohu, Sohu, when did you become such cowards?

Green Dam may be dead, but censorship is clearly alive and well on the Chinese internet. Stepped up censorship from domestic portals (both microblogging and real blogging portals) is definitely a grave sign. On the other hand, there’s a chance the push could trigger a push back from netizens, just as the Green Dam software initiative did. Only time will tell, but feel free to speculate with me in the comments in the meantime.

You can also follow Liu Xiaoyuan via his Twitter.

The Zhuanghe Kneeling Protest Incident

Liu Xiaoyuan’s blog recently described two instances of citizens kneeling before officials, asking for change. The first was “a woman who kneeled before the Municipal Party Committee Secretary of Nanping, Fujian, to communicate a grievance.” The result was that she was “taken into administrative detention.”

Protesters kneeling in Zhuanghe
The second incident, however, involved a lot more people, and had a happier outcome for the protesters:

“Over a thousand citizens of Zhanghe, Liaoning knelt down before the mayor of Zhanghe to request he accept reports about official corruption […] and in the end they kneeled him right out of the picture [i.e., he resigned].”

In fact, it’s a bit more complicated than that. According this Xinhua article, he was forced to resign by the Municipal Party Committee in Dalian after they determined that he had “handled the situation improperly.” The protesters were asking for a number of things; in essence they wanted speedier and more effective investigation from the government into complaints they filed about corrupt local cadres. Exactly how he handled the initial kneeling protest is unclear from reports, but what is clear is that there’s no love lost over this guy’s resignation. “A stupid c**nt mayor,” wrote one netizen commenting on the story. “Not bad!” wrote another.

But despite the happy outcome in Zhuanghe, cynicism remains widespread. Liu Xiaoyuan’s post notes that given the unfavorable outcome of the other recent “kneeling protest”, it’s hard to do much more than sigh. Other netizens agreed. “What is there to be happy about?” wrote one. “He’ll just go somewhere else and become an official who knows if the poor and out-of-work in that place will have to kneel down all over again.” “Don’t be happy,” another netizen wrote, “he’s just gone to be an official somewhere else.”

And, of course, getting rid of the mayor who handled the protest improperly doesn’t actually have any effect on the original grievances. “Did the problem of reporting things to the authorities get resolved?” asked a commenter. No one seemed to have an answer for that.

“Kneeling before officials might sometimes cause them to find their consciences,” wrote Liu Xiaoyuan, “but it does nothing to change the source of the problem. Kneeling down shows our servility, and also the meanness of officials. On this, I’d offer a bit of advice: in the face of power, straighten yourselves up!”

Kneeling in China, as in many cultures, indicates submission and servility, and thus can be a powerful gesture for protesters. For thousands of years, subjects knelt whenever they were in the presence of the emperor, so kneeling before the supposedly-equal cadres is a way of embarrassing them, and of connecting them to the exploitative imperial culture that Chinese students all study in history classes. Perhaps one of the most remembered, most moving moments of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 was the moment when several students knelt on the steps of the Great Hall of the People, their heads bowed and arms outstretched, holding a petition.

New on ChinaGeeks

The Curious Case of Wang Yahui

Readers of ESWN may already be familiar with the name Wang Yahui, perhaps the first man ever to have been killed by a glass of water. The story in brief as translated by ESWN:

Wang's Grief-stricken family

According to the Lushan county public security bureau, the young man named Wang Yahui was taken away on suspicion of theft on February 18. On February 21, the police interrogated Wang at the detention center. “At the time, he said that he was thirsty. The police poured some boiled water for him, but it was too hot. Meanwhile another policeman was drinking water mixed with cold medicine and offered the mixed drink to Wang. When Wang drank this mixed, he reacted badly both physically and psychologically. He was quickly taken to the hospital where he died.”

Wang’s family was notified. They went to the hospital morgue and saw Wang’s body. They found multiple wounds on the body. The photos showed bruises and wounds on his back and arms. There was a hole in his head. His nipple was cut cut. Even his penis showed injury signs. This raised many questions with the family. “The public security bureau told us that he was healthy while in the detention center. He was healthy while he was interrogated. But after the interrogation, he experienced a sudden stomach ache and then he died.”

The Lunshan county public security bureau chief said that the police officers in charge of the case are suspected of committing a crime while on duty. He said: “If they committed a crime while on duty, the procuratorate will definitely set up a case for investigation.” He also said that the four police officers have been detained.

Wang’s family are working with the police to determine the real cause of death.

The real cause of death? I’m no doctor, but if pressed, I think I would go with hole in the head. I hear the head is one of those parts of the body we ought to keep from being punctured.

Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan has also commented on the case:

A reporter asked me: “Wang Yahui drank water and died, but his whole body was covered in scars, could this be another case of ‘hide-and-seek’*?”
I said: Wang Yahui had only been with the police for three days, and as soon as he has to appear in court he suddenly gets ill and dies, the corse is covered in scars, there is a hole in his head, his nipples are cut off, his penis is scarred; he was obviously beaten to death by them, he didn’t just die of a cold!”

When the police send criminals to jail before their court appearances, they must undergo a physical examination. If, after the police arrested Wang Yahui, they beat him black and blue, the jail would normally write this down in his physical report, because they would fear having to take responsibility. As his whole body was covered in injuries, we can see there’s a possibility Wang Yahui was beaten by the other criminals in his cell.

But what can’t be explained is, if he was beaten by his cellmates, the police handling the case would likely react similarly [and report the beating] before the court date. Otherwise, the police would fear the jail putting responsibility for the man’s death on their shoulders. Of course, this is just [speculation] based on what usually happens.

Liu Xiaoyuan goes on to say that the matter should thus be simple to resolve if the police and the jail can be forced to produce their records. But he notes:

After last year’s ‘hide-and-seek’* case, the highest people’s procuratorate and the PSB began an investigation into the entire nation’s jails, and it seemed as if [the problem] was being taken seriously enough. What makes people hopeless is that this watchdog work hasn’t accomplished what it should, with the result that this kind of bizarre death often occurs.

Wang Yahui — who, oddly enough, shares the exact same given name I was assigned by my first-year Chinese teacher in college — obviously wasn’t killed by a glass of water. And as Liu Xiaoyuan points out, had he been killed by his fellow prisoners, it would make sense that someone would have reported that, if for no other reason than to save their own skin. That no one did indicates what everyone was already assuming: he was killed, probably during torture, by the police. Why? He was suspected of stealing sometime.

He is survived by his two children, ages four and two.

*”Hide-and-seek” refers to a famous case from last year where a prisoner in a police station died, and the police reported that he had died running into a wall while playing hide-and-seek. Netizens, and many other people who heard this news were, needless to say, pretty skeptical.

“Hillary Talks About the Problem of the Chinese Internet, China Unhappy”

The following is an original translation of a post by lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan. Ironically, the post was quickly deleted from his blog (see the delete notification he got here), but the essay has been reposted here.


On January 21 Hilary Clinton made a speech at the Newseum journalism museum in Washington about the freedom of the internet.

Clinton made reference to China’s censorship of the internet. In parts she criticised China, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has responded.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu was asked “In her speech on internet freedom on January 21, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on China’s internet policy, accusing China of restricting internet freedom. How do you comment?”.

Ma Zhaoxu responded: “The US attacks China’s internet policy, indicating that China has been restricting internet freedom. We resolutely oppose such remarks and practices that contravene facts and undermine China-US relations.

China’s internet is open. China is a country with the most vibrant internet development. By the end of last year, China had 384 million internet users, 3.68 million websites and 180 million blogs. China’s Constitution guarantees people’s freedom of speech. It is China’s consistent policy to promote the development of internet. China has its own national conditions and cultural traditions. It supervises internet according to law, which is in parallel with the international paractice.

Hacking in whatever form and offence of others’ privacy is prohibited by law in China. As a major victim of hacking in the world, China believes that the international community should intensify the cooperaion in jointly combating internet hacking so as to safeguard internet security and protect the privacy of citizens in accordance with law.

We urge the US to respect facts and stop attacking China under the excuse of the so-called freedom of internet. We hope that the US side can work with China to earnestly implement the consensus between leaders of both countries on developing bilateral relationship in the new era by strengthening dialogue, exchanges and cooperation, respecting each other’s core interest and major concerns and properly handling differences and sensitive issues so as to ensure the healthy and stable development of China-US relationship.”

I have seen a transcript of Clinton’s speech, and she makes six references to China.

  1. When she makes references to the audience, she mentions Chinese participants. “Also, I’m told here as well are Senator Sam Brownback, Senator Ted Kaufman, Representative Loretta Sanchez, many representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, ambassadors, chargés, participants in our International Visitor Leadership Program on internet freedom from China, Colombia, Iran, and Lebanon, and Moldova.”
  2. When talking about Obama’s dialogue with university students, she also mentions China. “During his visit to China in November, for example, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet.”
  3. When she talks about the issue of internet censorship, China is mentioned. “In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet.”
  4. She mentions China again when speaking about how the internet is used to crackdown and suppress religious groups. “Some nations, however, have co-opted the internet as a tool to target and silence people of faith. Last year, for example, in Saudi Arabia, a man spent months in prison for blogging about Christianity. And a Harvard study found that the Saudi Government blocked many web pages about Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and even Islam. Countries including Vietnam and China employed similar tactics to restrict access to religious information.”
  5. She mentions China when speaking of the attack on Google. “The most recent situation involving Google has attracted a great deal of interest. And we look to the Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough review of the cyber intrusions that led Google to make its announcement. And we also look for that investigation and its results to be transparent.
  6. When speaking of Sino-American views on the internet, she mentions China once more.

    “The internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China, and it is fabulous. There are so many people in China now online. But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century. Now, the United States and China have different views on this issue, and we intend to address those differences candidly and consistently in the context of our positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship.”

Although Clinton had some criticisms of China, her stance wasn’t rigid.

If our internet has any problems, I think that 3 hundred million netizens have the most right to speak out on it. If a fellow countrymen spoke up about the internet, those that supervise it wouldn’t react. But as soon as these words are on the lips of an outsider, it embarrasses them.

Our spokesperson even remembered that “China’s Constitution guarantees people’s freedom of speech.” This made me feel gratified. Internet censors, don’t delete netizens’ posts lightly, or you’ll be infringing on a basic constitutional right.

“[China] supervises the internet according to law, which is in parallel with the international paractice.”

I totally support the spokesperson’s point of view. But I think we need to apply this lawful supervision not only to obscene sexual material, but also to the restrictions placed on citizens’ expression of their views. Even more so, those that misuse public office to stop netizens’ expression of their views should be supervised according to the law.

On the afternoon of the 22nd, the American Embassy in Beijing, along with the American Consulate in Shanghai and the Consulate in Guangzhou, invited netizens to discuss their views on Clinton’s address. I really would like to understand what the situation is like in America with regard to lawful supervision of the internet. It’s a shame that there isn’t time for me to have a turn to ask these of questions.

Yan Xiaoling, Legal Questions, and Reporting Injustice

For some time now, lawyer and blogger Liu Xiaoyuan has been following the case of three netizens (You Jingyou, Fan Yanqiong, and Wu Huaying) accused of framing/falsifying information because they published an article on the internet about the lethal gang rape of Yan Xiaoling. The post attracted widespread interest online and was posted on many popular Chinese internet portals. Unfortunately, the official verdict came down on Yan Xiaoling as having died from pregnancy-related complications rather than gang rape, and according to the police, the post about the rape was “purely rumors”. According to Liu Xiaoyuan, the libelous part of their post was probably the first part, where they name several police officials by name as being complicit in the administration of the KTV establishment where, according to the post, Ketamine was openly sold, prostitution was encouraged, and Yan Xiaoling and possibly other girls were raped to death. At the end of their post, they call for netizens to report the incident to officials and “punish severely these conscienceless police bandits!”

There are lots of strange things about the case. For one, the evidence from a local hospital of Yan Xiaoling’s death there after the incident (whatever happened) comes from a “Diagnostic Certificate” rather than a “Death Certificate”, which seems odd; furthermore, this was only given to Yan Xiaoling’s mother seven months after her death. She has been seeking audience with higher-ups to look into the event for a year. She maintains that she was raped to death; but the police cite her death as complications from ectopic pregnancy, citing the autopsy report. (The previous two paragraphs are all based on information from this post by Liu Xiaoyuan)

(For more background on the case and a translation of the original post, see ESWN, but be warned it contains a pretty gruesome and probably NSFW postmortem photo of Yan Xiaoling.)

In any event, the netizens who wrote the posts about this were arrested, which raises some interesting legal issues. Is posting something untrue on the internet “false accusation” if the writer believes it is true? Furthermore, does making a post on the internet really count as a false accusation or is it just an expression of suspicion, given that it’s not at all formal. Certainly, plenty of other untrue things have been posted online without the authors behind them going to jail. Beijing lawyer Su Zhanjun wrote quite a lengthy post on the legal implications of the “framing” charge on Liu Xiaoyuan’s site, concluding that “if suspecting someone of something falls under the category of falsely accusing them, then this society truly is terrifying.”

Well said. It’s also hard to imagine that there isn’t at least some truth to what the netizens posted, as an anonymous democratic party [a Chinese democratic party, not the American Democratic Party] member writes in this open letter to the local secretary now in charge of handling the case (via Liu Xiaoyuan, our translation):

Dear Secretary Sun Chunlan,

As a member of a democratic party, I’ve been closely following the “framing netizens” case’s investigation, to see whether the rights granted to citizens in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China will be protected or not, and whether Secretary General Hu’s [promise] of “making people the focus” will be fulfilled or not.

That you were appointed the secretary should be a good thing to the three defendants; as you used to be the head of a group of workers you most understand the situation of the [common] people, understand their frame of mind, and are able to protect them. The facts of the case are clear; there are only people reporting injustice because injustice exists. They [those reporting injustice] are people of conscience, [you] should not use your power to harm them further and hurt the hearts of the whole nation’s people.

Freedom of speech is the root from which the development and prosperity of a nation and a people springs. [People’s] thinking cannot be liberated until speech is free, and free thinking is the greatest power in developing productivity. Secretary Sun, you may understand this logic much better than many others; now we focus on what must be done.

In truth, your appointment [as secretary] was where the change in this case started from, I hope you can implement Secretary General Hu’s governing principle of “making people the focus”, accord with the principles of the Constitution, resolve this case in a way that is harmonious with the people’s hearts and opinions, safeguard the image of the Party, safeguard the dignity of the Constitution, and turn Fujian into a harmonious society!

Most Sincerely,

A Democratic Party Member
December 5, 2009

The sentence “there are only people reporting injustice because injustice exists” was highlighted in red on Liu Xiaoyuan’s blog, and was also the title of his post. It is, I think, a pretty valid observation. Whether or not Yan Xiaoling actually died from being raped, it seems as though something fishy was going on, to put it lightly. And there’s no one living in China who would doubt that there might be police officers in league with local gangsters and shady KTV bars.

If the allegations are true, it’s one of the most disturbing cases we’ve heard about in some time. And if they aren’t, given the widespread belief that they are on the internet, the police and government might indeed do well to heed the feelings of the people and produce some more evidence that nothing unjust happened instead of locking up the people trying to start discussions about the case.