How Chinese High Tech Can Defend Itself in the USA: the Case of WeChat Users v. U.S. as an Example

Intriguing article on how a Chinese high tech company defended its interests through the U.S. legal system. Having a fair (or at least non-discriminatory — that is maybe unfair, but at least unfair to everybody) is a a great asset for a modern country, especially if they prefer to use courts rather than gunboats to defend themselves. I imagine that the US, unlike several other foreign powers, never had an extraterritorial trade enclave in China was because US merchants were satisfied with using the courts in the UK concessions: thus the UK legal system because of its perceived impartiality actually became a tool for extending UK influence. I remember reading back in the late 1990s a lament by the Guizhou Communist Party Secretary Liu Fangren that Guizhou lost considerable investment and business from other provinces because outsiders very often lost cases in Guizhou courts just because they were outsiders.

Court rejection of unreasonable ‘national security exceptions’ to normal practice protects rights and consumers of foreign products. President Trump’s willingness to take national security exceptions to an extreme can be seen in a 2018 article on his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. See “When Justin Trudeau Asked How Canada Could Be a National Security Threat to the U.S., Trump Brought Up the War of 1812”. If a US administration can casually consider Canada to be a national security threat to the USA, then one can imagine that they thought about China.

Chinese lawyers over the past decade have become a frequent (at least those who haven’t learned to keep their heads down) target of the Chinese Communist Party. See for example the December 2021 Chinese Human Rights Defenders article entitled “New Wave of Persecution Against Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Must Sound the Alarm“. One can imagine that a lawyer who understands how courts limited executive overreach in the U.S. political system must truly imagine that Communist Party of China to be truly wise if it does not need to be similarly constrained. In sensitive cases, Chinese judge need to take advice from the Political and Legal Affairs committee of the national or local level of the Chinese Communist Party. As you might imagine, many Chinese lawyers and many Chinese law students become very disillusioned. Makes me recall Tsinghua University Law Professor Lao Dongyan’s article 2022: Chinese Law Prof’s Lament and Encouragement

I am often impressed that China has many more deep experts on the USA than vice versa. While this sittuation has gotten better over the past twenty years, I wonder if the current less welcoming environment of China for foreign journalists and foreigners in general may reverse this trend. When I was in college in the 1980s, nearly all students from the PRC were in graduate programs in science and technology. Over the past several decades very many Chinese students have been studying at the undergraduate level or even attending high school/private prep schools in the US before going on to college. The much higher level of English proficiency that many of these students achieve makes it much easier for them to study more language-intensive fields such as the humanities, international relations and the law. With the covid pandemic virus and the political virus of intensifying political represssion and unhappiness in China’s foreign relations under the first decade of Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, I suspect that China going forward may become a less attractive place to study.

When will this change? As the old Chinese saying goes wuji bifan 物极必反 — when something reaches and extreme, it must reverse itself. Not something as predictable as the swing of a pendulum. It seems to be something true only retrospectively not prospectively. Where it stops, nobody knows, although some China experts make a dire prediction nearly everyday so as to claim credit as a prophet when perhaps it eventually does.

The author, Hao Min 郝敏 : Director of Intellectual Property and Technology Security Research Center, of thed University of International Relations in Beijing.

Hao Min 郝敏 : Director of Intellectual Property and Technology Security Research Center,


Hao Min, Doctor of Civil and Commercial Law, professor, is currently the director of the Intellectual Property and Technology Security Research Center of the University of International Relations. Graduated from Peking University School of Law, Graduated from the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tokyo, Japan. She is an expert member of the Copyright Committee of the International Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI), a supervisor of the Beijing Intellectual Property Research Association, and a visiting researcher at Georgetown University in the United States. Monographs “Research on Legal Issues in Sino-US Technology Competition” (2021), “Empirical Research on Intellectual Property Protection in the Entertainment Industry” (2019), published many articles in the core legal journals “Intellectual Property”, “Journal of China University of Political Science and Law”, etc. academic papers. She presided over and completed a number of provincial and ministerial-level key scientific research projects, and was the host of the “Sino-US Climate-Beneficial Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Cooperation” project. In 2021, she published the monograph “Research on Legal Issues in Sino-US Science and Technology Competition”, and presided over and completed the project “Sino-US Science and Technology Competition and Intellectual Property Judicial Case Study” commissioned by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

I found this article on the Chinese-language side of the Carter Center’s US-China Perceptiions Monitor, one of my favorite places to look for articles on US – China relations.

An Exploration of the Judicial Path for Chinese Technology Industry to Defend Their Rights in the U.S.–The Case of WeChat Users v. U.S. as an Example 中国科技产业在美维权的司法路径探析——以微信用户诉美案为例

Author: Hao Min 郝敏 Source: Contemporary American Review 当代美国评论

Hao Min, Professor, Director of Center for Intellectual Property and Technology Security, School of International Relations

Abstract

The new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial change is reshaping the global innovation map, and the development of the science and technology industry is a key factor in national security, economic development and national rise and fall. In the competition for the high ground of global science and technology innovation, the U.S. government has been broadening the concept of national security and using various political, economic and legal means to block and suppress China’s emerging science and technology industries, which has exposed China’s science and technology industries to many new risks and challenges. In this context, the victory of the WeChat users v. United States case has important legal significance and practical value, showing that under the U.S. judicial system, defending the legitimate interests of Chinese technology industries in the U.S. through litigation may be the most effective way to remedy the situation. By analyzing the U.S. judicial system and the litigation strategy of WeChat users against the U.S. government, this paper discusses the experiences and insights of Huawei, Xiaomi, TikTok and other high-tech enterprises in defending their rights in the U.S., aiming to provide reference and reference for Chinese enterprises to protect their business and development rights in the U.S., prevent and cope with legal risks, and carry out judicial defense actions.

Keywords

“WeChat ban”; Chinese technology industry; U.S. justice; U.S.-China relations

Currently, a new round of technological revolution and industrial change is reshaping the global innovation map. The development of the science and technology industry is a key element in national security, economic development and national rise and fall, and the core of the competition between China and the United States is increasingly reflected in the competition of science and technology innovation capacity. The U.S. government has been broadening the concept of national security and using various political, economic and legal means to contain and suppress China’s emerging technology industry, adopting a full range of restrictive measures such as export control, overseas investment review, financial sanctions and data security regulation. Chinese technology companies face many new risks and challenges, with companies such as Huawei, ZTE, Xiaomi, and ByteDance taking a serious hit.

In August 2020, U.S. WeChat users sued the Trump administration in U.S. federal court in opposition to Trump’s presidential executive order banning the use of WeChat overseas, U.S. WeChat Users Alliance v. Trump (hereinafter referred to as “WeChat Users Alliance”). Trump (hereinafter referred to as “WeChat Users v. United States”), which ultimately succeeded in getting the U.S. government to rescind the executive order. The case is a struggle that extends across many domains including modern technology, legal system, economic competition, market mechanism and national security. This is the first case in U.S. history in which Chinese people sued the U.S. government and won due to a national security-related ban. Since the United States is a common law country, the logical arguments, legal application and verdict of U.S. judicial precedents are binding for similar cases in the future. As an important representative precedent, this case has significant legal significance and practical value for the Chinese technology industry to defend its rights in the United States.

I. Overview of Chinese Technology Companies in the U.S. and the State of Play in the U.S.

With the rapid development of China’s technology industry in the global market, China has been regarded by the United States as its biggest competitor in the field of science and technology, and both the Biden and Trump administrations have made the containment of China’s technological rise one of the core policies towards China, and the U.S. government and both parties have reached a high level of consensus in this regard. Since 2018, the U.S. has continued to interfere with the operation of the “bottom-up” technology market through top-down political forces, not only sanctioning leading Chinese technology companies such as Fujian Jinhua, ZTE and Huawei, but also holding up the “national security” label. They have not only sanctioned leading Chinese technology companies such as Fujian Jinhua, ZTE and Huawei, but also raised the banner of “national security” in an effort to drive leading Chinese companies out of the U.S. and other Western markets. Since the launch of the trade war with China, the U.S. government has been adjusting its export control policies on China, frequently expanding the “entity list” and conducting targeted and continuous suppression of China’s strategic emerging industries such as artificial intelligence, integrated circuit chips and Internet communications, in an attempt to promote a complete “decoupling” of U.S. and Chinese technologies. “Although the Biden administration has not fully accepted the Trump administration’s policy of full “decoupling” from China, it has generalized national security under the guise of supporting “human rights” and “democracy” , it continues to Under the pretext of protecting intellectual property rights, thas intensified its censorship efforts in an attempt to more precisely block the development of China’s technology industry and reduce its living space in the U.S. and international markets in order to ensure the U.S. maintains its technological leadership and industrial hegemony.

In the context of great power competition, the U.S. political suppression and economic containment of China’s technology industry will not slow down, and how China’s technology industry can effectively respond and break out will be an important ongoing issue. In recent years, Huawei, Xiaomi and TikTok have tried various methods to protect their rights and interests, such as issuing protest statements, conducting negotiations and lobbying. In 1988, the Toshiba Group of Japan invested millions of dollars in lobbying the U.S., and finally succeeded in getting the U.S. government to lift sanctions against it. In 2012, Huawei hired dozens of lobbyists, including a large number of former government officials, and invested millions of dollars in the U.S., but was unable to change the U.S. government’s determination that Huawei posed a threat to the security of U.S. network facilities. Since 2019, ByteDance has also hired several lobbying firms to lobby in the U.S., but given that the U.S. government has determined that it “has a significant impact on information network security,” lobbying alone is hardly effective. Other initiatives have also been ineffective.

As a result, judicial action against the U.S. government’s undue actions against them has become an arduous but effective option for Chinese technology companies, and perhaps the best means of defending their rights. In recent years, the continued ratcheting up of U.S. sanctions has triggered a series of judicial battles by Chinese high-tech companies in the United States. For example, in 2019, Huawei sued the U.S. government three times, seeking judicial justice against the U.S. government’s crackdown; in 2020, TikTok and its parent company ByteTok filed four lawsuits against then-President Trump, asking him to stop implementing an executive order banning ByteTok’s transactions in the U.S.; in 2021, Xiaomi launched a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense and the Treasury Department, asking for a court ruling to include In 2021, Xiaomi launched a lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of Defense and Treasury, asking the court to rule that the decision to list Xiaomi as a “military-related enterprise” in China was unconstitutional; in 2021, the “WeChat Users v. United States” case, with its tumultuous trial process and frightening litigation and defense links, brought the struggle of Chinese high-tech enterprises to defend their judicial rights in the U.S. to a climax. Formerly, due to a lack of in-depth understanding of the U.S. judicial mechanism, fear of the strict and complex U.S. judicial proceedings, and fear of the high cost and potential risks of litigation, Chinese technology companies often prefer to choose means other than litigation to solve problems. But the experiences of WeChat, Huawei and Xiaomi in the U.S. demonstrate a new way to save themselves against the backdrop of competition from major powers and economic sanctions, namely to be bold and adept at seeking judicial remedies. In the face of U.S. suppression and siege, Chinese technology companies cannot compromise indefinitely, but must first do their own “compliance checkup”, accurately judge the situation, raise the awareness of fighting wisdom and courage, especially “fighting the law”, and dare to take the initiative to use legal weapons to defend The legal rights and interests of their own.

II. The constraints and limitations of the U.S. judicial system on administrative power

The independence, authority and coercive power of the U.S. judicial system are the necessary prerequisites for Chinese technology enterprises to defend their rights in the United States. Under the separation of powers system, one of the functions of the independent judiciary is to restrict the government’s unlawful or unconstitutional behavior. The budget of the U.S. federal courts is directly submitted to Congress for consideration and adoption without the approval of the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the President, which to a large extent prevents interference of the executive branch in the judiciary through its control over the budget. In addition, the U.S. judicial recourse system is authoritative and coercive, and the courts have the final say on cases, and their decisions are enforced by state coercion. When a court requires government officials to enforce a judgment as the losing party, government officials must cooperate and comply with the court’s decision.

(1) The U.S. Judicial System’s Constraints on Executive Power

The United States is a country of three branches of government, with the legislative, executive and judicial powers restraining each other. The essence of the rule of law in the United States is that the government is bound by law, and no person or entity can decide its rights and obligations on its own, and the government is often a defendant in litigation, so the courts need to independently decide whether the government has violated the law in the corresponding case. The Judicial Review System was established in 1803 by Marbury v. Madison, which provided the basis and guarantee for the separation and balance of judicial and executive powers and laid the foundation for ensuring the power of the judiciary in a system of separation of powers and checks and balances. In 1946, the United States passed the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which clarified the system of judicial review and provided detailed additions to the ways and means of judicial review, its scope of application and remedial functions. The federal courts have the authority to make judicial interpretations of the U.S. Constitution and to decide whether government actions are unconstitutional. In practice, the role of judicial review is mainly reflected in two aspects.

First, it is an important means of obtaining a civil rights remedy. 

  • The scope of judicial review is very broad. In order to protect civil rights from improper administrative acts, according to the provisions of the Federal Administrative Procedure Act, any act of administrative organs can be the subject of judicial review, including regulations, administrative rulings, decisions, permits, sanctions, remedies and other similar acts and omissions. 
  • The scope of the plaintiff’s subject matter has been expanding in judicial practice. U.S. courts used to adopt the “legal interest standard” to determine the eligibility of the plaintiff, that is, eligible parties must prove that their legitimate interests are infringed or adversely affected by administrative actions, and must prove that the impaired interests claimed in the existing laws have clear provisions, such as the law of wills, tort law, etc., and these statutory laws are limited by the rights recognized. Since the 1970s, the scope of the plaintiff’s subject matter has been expanded, and it is no longer required that the rights and interests claimed by the plaintiff must be explicitly protected by law, but merely fall within the scope of legal protection. Finally, judicial review has promoted expanded political participation by citizens. The Federal Administrative Procedure Act requires administrative agencies to notify the public and receive comments when making regulations, and federal courts have required administrative agencies to provide written responses to important comments in their decisions.

Second, it regulates the scale of expansion of executive power. 

  • It balances the legislative power and the executive power. In 1892, the Supreme Court upheld the expansion of the executive power of the president in Field v. Clark, emphasizing that the constitutional structure of the separation of powers, the separation of powers, and the executive branch of the government should be in harmony with the executive branch. The Supreme Court upheld the expansion of presidential executive power in Field v. Clark in 1892, emphasizing the separation of powers, mutual equality, and independence in the structure of the Constitution. 
  • It focused on monitoring the expansion of the executive branch’s power through substantive review. As American society and economy evolved and changed, the executive branch expanded its powers and gradually acquired some delegated legislative and quasi-judicial powers. The courts’ judicial review function provides room for the development of executive power while maintaining oversight of it, requiring that hearings and decisions of administrative agencies must be based on “substantial evidence” and must be conducted under the auspices of administrative judges. The 1971 case Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe moved the standard of judicial review from procedural to substantive review. The 1983 case of Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. suggested that courts should (Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.) suggests that courts should conduct a more sensitive review of “arbitrary and capricious” administrative actions. Judicial review recognizes the necessity and legitimacy of the expansion of administrative power, but also emphasizes its supervision and control to ensure that the expansion of administrative agency power does not deviate from the track of safeguarding the public interest.

(2) Limitations and Breakthroughs of Judicial Review in National Security Issues

The U.S. Bill of Rights specifies the individual rights enjoyed by citizens and protects these constitutional rights and interests through the rules of power distribution and operation within the state apparatus. However, in foreign affairs involving vital national interests, the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are not in a strict relationship of mutual checks and balances. in 1937, President Roosevelt signed into effect the Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, which pushed the U.S. Supreme Court to gradually shift from judicial activism to judicial restraint in The Supreme Court of the United States has gradually shifted from judicial activism to judicial restraint, applying a double standard of judicial review, i.e., strict judicial review of individual rights legislation and administrative actions related to constitutional protection, and cautious review of administrative activities such as economic intervention. In Haitian Refugee Center v. Baker, the federal court recognized that the president has “wide discretion” in executive matters and that the court should exercise some judicial restraint in the face of executive power and maintain a sober perspective. The courts should maintain a certain level of judicial restraint in the face of executive power and maintain a clear legal logic and self-positioning.

According to the “political question doctrine,” the U.S. judiciary tends to maintain judicial deference in matters related to national security, and to give a certain degree of “deference, respect, and restraint” to the decisions of the executive branch in order to avoid unnecessary political “to avoid unnecessary political strife. Judgment on national security is considered an administrative issue rather than a judicial one. “Since 9/11, “national security” has become a priority concern for the United States, and the decisions of the President, Congress, and federal government agencies on this issue are basically considered “politically correct. “The judicial system fully respects and cooperates with administrative decisions and measures related to national security. In recent years, as the U.S. gradually sees China as its biggest competitor, it has become the consensus of the U.S. government and both parties to impose a comprehensive technology blockade and suppression on China’s high-tech industry. In this context, Chinese high-tech enterprises, especially the leading companies with leading international technologies, are easily identified as affecting the core competitiveness of the United States in science and technology and posing a threat to its “national security”.

In recent years, the U.S. government has repeatedly used the pretext of “addressing the malicious actions of foreign adversaries in relevant fields” to intervene in market competition by administrative means and impose sanctions and suppression on foreign enterprises on the pretext of protecting U.S. national security interests. However, in most judicial cases, the judiciary has been somewhat tolerant of this vague and broad executive power. In TikTok Inc. v. Trump, the plaintiffs challenged the Trump administration for exceeding its authority in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by The court did not uphold the plaintiff’s claim that the Trump administration exceeded its authority by “interfering with private communications and the transmission of information” in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. In Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States), the plaintiff in Trinity Corp. In Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States), the plaintiff, Trinity, had its claims based on several pieces of legislation rejected by the court, and only its claim of eminent domain under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was upheld by the court.

When constraining executive power through judicial means, the focus should be on the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process of law clause. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution provide that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” and that “No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” clearly constraining the excessive exercise of executive power. Courts can determine that if an administrative agency acts without due process of law to infringe on the interests of an individual or entity, its actions are unconstitutional. 2014 Sany Group’s U.S. affiliate, Rolls, and 2021 China’s Xiaomi Company both successfully litigated through this route to defend their rights and interests. Under special historical conditions, courts can restrict executive power by interpreting the “Bill of Attainder” clause in relation to administrative agencies in a restrictive manner. ” In August 2020, employees of TikTok and its platform content creators filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government. filed lawsuits against the U.S. government, arguing that the Trump administration’s executive order violates their rights under the U.S. Constitution. The most critical allegation is that TikTok employees will not be paid beginning in September 2020 under Trump’s presidential executive order, which constitutes an “unconstitutional taking” of the plaintiffs’ legal property. TikTok and its parent company, ByteTok, previously filed a lawsuit on behalf of the company, which failed because they were unable to obtain some of the strong constitutional protections available to them as individual plaintiffs.

This shows that invoking and emphasizing the empowerment of the U.S. Constitution is a proven strategy in the judicial game between Chinese technology companies and the U.S. government. The U.S. government has a clear tendency to politicize its actions against China, routinely using “threats to national security, data security and information privacy” as a reason to snipe at the Chinese technology industry. Given that judicial review is governed by the “political question doctrine,” debating with the U.S. government over whether Chinese technology companies’ products and services pose a “substantial threat” to U.S. international standing and national security is not the best option for Chinese technology companies. . However, the civil rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are unassailable, and Chinese technology companies can bring lawsuits against the U.S. government based on claims of freedom of speech, property rights and racial equality as much as possible, and avoid “China threat” and “technology security” as much as possible. The lawsuits against the U.S. government can be based on claims of freedom of speech, property rights, and racial equality, and avoid grand narratives involving national security propositions, such as “China threat” and “technological security,” so as not to compromise the judicial system due to political pressure. The WeChat users’ lawsuit against the U.S. government fully draws on the above judicial rights defense strategy. A profound analysis and study of it will help deepen the understanding of the operational features and adjudication elements of the U.S. technology law and judicial system, and will be of great significance to the defense and development of China’s high-tech industry in the United States.

Analysis of the litigation strategy of the WeChat users v. United States case

According to Sensor Tower, a mobile application data analysis firm, WeChat has been downloaded more than 20 million times in the U.S., and its users include individuals, small businesses, and enterprises. On August 6, 2020, President Trump signed Executive Order 13943 (hereinafter “Executive Order 13943”). Order 13943 (hereinafter referred to as the “WeChat ban”), which announced that individuals, companies and groups would be prohibited from engaging in WeChat-related transactions in the United States in the vital interest of U.S. national security. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued the “WeChat Ban” implementation rules, explaining the scope of “transactions”, including the application store shelves, downloading and use of WeChat features or services, and financial transactions through WeChat, which is basically a comprehensive ban on downloading, installation and use of features. This is basically a comprehensive ban on everything from downloading, installation, and use.

A survey report released by the United Chinese Americans (UCA) in 2020 showed that 90% of respondents had used WeChat for more than five years, and 95% of victims used WeChat daily, and 82% of respondents said they could not find an application to replace WeChat if the WeChat ban was implemented. If the “WeChat ban” is implemented, 82% of the respondents said they could not find an application to replace WeChat. Therefore, the users concerned reacted strongly to the “WeChat ban”. On August 21, 2020, the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance (USWUA) announced that it would actively defend its rights and fight the U.S. government to the end. “filed a formal lawsuit against then-President Trump and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and filed a Preliminary Injunction motion with the court to stay the “The court filed a Preliminary Injunction motion to stay the implementation of the WeChat injunction. After four court battles, the district court issued a pre-suit injunction, calling a halt to the “microsoft ban,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ultimately rejected the Department of Justice’s appeal request. In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice voluntarily petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stay the hearing of the WeChat users v. United States case and the appeal of the pre-litigation injunction. signed the Executive Order on Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries, which revoked the injunction. On August 9, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) formally filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and on October 20, the U.S. government agreed to pay a settlement with the DOJ. “The U.S. government agreed to pay $900,000 in attorneys’ fees to the U.S. WeChat in the case. Thus, the judicial litigation between the WeChat users and the U.S. government ended with a comprehensive victory for the plaintiffs. The following is a detailed analysis of the litigation strategy and effects.

(i) Choice of Parties and Court of Jurisdiction

In the case of WeChat Users v. United States, by selecting representative plaintiffs and identifying reasonable defendants and courts of jurisdiction, the U.S. WeChat Association was able to identify and eliminate adverse factors and lay the foundation for winning the lawsuit.

  1. Selecting representative and qualified plaintiffs

“The plaintiff in the WeChat Users v. United States case was the WeChat Users Association of America, a non-profit organization jointly sponsored by five Chinese American lawyers, and Tencent did not directly participate in the lawsuit. The selection of plaintiffs in this case is based on the different needs of WeChat users, reflecting the importance and irreplaceability of WeChat in communication services, social life and commercial trade, and also figuratively reflecting the protection of individual rights such as freedom of speech, property rights and equality rights granted by the U.S. Constitution.

In 2019, Huawei filed a lawsuit against the President of the United States, the Department of Commerce, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and several other U.S. government agencies, suing the U.S. government for abusing the legislative process and impeding market competition. This case is known as Huawei Techs. USA, Inc. v. United States. However, the U.S. federal court ultimately dismissed Huawei’s lawsuit based on its challenges to the U.S. in key technology areas such as 5G amid “national security” concerns. This case is about foreign technology companies seeking equal opportunity to compete in the U.S. market “where there is a potential or imminent national security threat,” while WeChat Users v. United States is about ordinary U.S. citizens and businesses whose “legal rights have been violated by public authority. “The WeChat Users v. United States case is a judicial remedy for the individual rights of ordinary U.S. citizens and businesses against the U.S. government. From the process and outcome of the two lawsuits, the U.S. federal courts’ judgment and choice of venue for the two lawsuits can be described as very different.

“WeChat Users v. U.S. and Huawei v. U.S. Government are in stark contrast in terms of their plaintiff selection strategies. In the case of Chinese technology companies bringing judicial proceedings against the U.S. government, they chose individuals as plaintiffs, transforming the political game between countries into a conflict between the public interest and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of individuals, and seeking judicial protection of individual freedom rights by taking advantage of the vigilance and restraint against the expansion and abuse of government power in the context of American political culture and judicial tradition. Under the U.S. judicial system that emphasizes judicial independence and values civil rights, it is more helpful to win the approval of judges and juries to use individuals as plaintiffs to sue the executive branch for abuse of power resulting in the violation of individual rights.

  1. Reasonable determination of defendants and choice of jurisdictional court

“In this case, the U.S. MicroLeague identified then President Trump and Secretary of Commerce Ross as defendants for issuing and enforcing the injunction. Under Section 702 of the U.S. Federal Administrative Procedure Act, eligible subjects have the right to bring administrative actions in which the U.S. government is the defendant. In such actions, the President signs an executive order and authorizes specific government departments, such as the Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice, to enforce the order, making the President and the head of the relevant government department defendants in their capacity as public officials. Such lawsuits also include a 2021 lawsuit filed by Xiaomi against the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeking a ruling that the defendants’ listing of Xiaomi as a “military-related business” is unconstitutional. In July 2020, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to remove the requirement that international students take face-to-face courses or face consequences including, but not limited to consequences of being required to leave the country.

“In this case, the U.S. Micro Alliance chose the Northern District of California, a federal court with a “tradition” of resisting the Trump administration and a large number of liberal judges, as the forum for the lawsuit, increasing the probability of success. Under Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, when the federal government is a party to a lawsuit, the case is heard in federal court. Under the doctrine of due process under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(1), when “the defendant is an officer or employee of the United States Government acting in a public capacity and a governmental agency, the plaintiff has his usual place of residence or principal place of business in this district, and a substantial part of the events giving rise to the action occurred in this district, the federal courts of that district shall have jurisdiction “. Although U.S. WeChat users are located in every state in the United States, based on the principles of personal jurisdiction and proper venue, U.S. WeChat chose to file the lawsuit in the federal court for the Northern District of California because of the possibility that if the lawsuit fails, it will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which is dominated by liberal judges who oppose the views of President Trump. A wise decision made by the different political leanings of federal judges in various districts.

(ii) Choice of cause of action and applicable law

The U.S. legal system is large and complex, and the U.S. WeChat’s accurate choice of cause of action and applicable law in this case was a key reason for its success. “The plaintiffs in the WeChat users v. United States case relied primarily on the U.S. Constitution and the Federal Administrative Procedure Act to bring four claims against the U.S. government: first, that the WeChat ban violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; second, that the actions of the President and the Department of Commerce exceeded the requirements of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) for government action. International Emergency Economic Powers Act to the government’s authorization; third, “microsoft ban” in violation of the U.S. “Federal Administrative Procedure Act”; fourth, “microsoft ban” content is vague (vagueness), should be found invalid. These causes of action and legal basis actually cover the Trump administration promulgating the “WeChat ban” unconstitutional and illegal elements of the facts.

  1. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s right to free speech

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that “the Congress of the United States shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” which provides a legal basis for the protection of citizens’ right to freedom of speech from infringement by state power institutions and has a profound impact on American society. Freedom of speech is considered the cornerstone of American democracy, and its connotation and boundaries have been enriched, developed and clarified in long-term legislative and judicial practice. Restrictions on the right to free speech fall into two main categories: one is to restrict speech of specific content; the other is to restrict how speech is published, such as the channels and the forms it takes

“The plaintiffs in WeChat v. United States argued that WeChat, an instantaneous online social networking platform, has become an irreplaceable software tool used by millions of Chinese users in the United States for interpersonal communication, business, information, and social interaction. The Trump administration’s “WeChat ban” has caused substantial and devastating damage to the social networking platform, blocking communication among users and, as a result, amounting to a restriction on how users can speak, allegedly depriving WeChat users of their right to free speech, and without any judicial review. For its part, the Trump administration claimed in its defense that “China ‘poses a threat’ to U.S. national security in the area of information and communications technologies and services, and that the requirements of data protection, national security, and public interest protection all amply justify the need and legality of banning WeChat.”

Order and liberty, or state power and individual liberty, once again intersected in this case. In Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the U.S. Court held that “no speech that is dangerous to national security is entitled to special protection. But this value judgment was based primarily on restrictions on speech that incites and abets violent crime. In the 1971 case of New York Times Co. v. United States, the Supreme Court’s decision on national security and freedom of speech reversed the traditional view and made a new weighing of interests. “The rights and liberties of citizens are extremely vulnerable to public power,” Harvard professor Frank Michelman noted, adding that “national security is a vague and general concept, and no abstract and uncorroborated justification for national security can undermine fundamental rights under the First Amendment.” U.S. federal courts have been careful to determine the measure of free speech rights, attempting to balance legal order with liberal values.

In WeChat Users vs. The United States, the court adopted an “intermediate scrutiny standard” for whether the WeChat ban violates free speech in its ruling on the pre-litigation injunction. The intermediate scrutiny standard was adopted by the federal court in 1989 in WeChat v. United States.) This standard was established by the federal court in Ward v. Rock Against Racism in 1989: first, there is a substantial or close connection between the means and purpose of the restriction; second, the purpose of the restriction serves a significant governmental interest unrelated to the content of the speech The third is the existence of adequate and viable alternative channels of communication. Only if the above three criteria are met can “restricting freedom of expression” not constitute an infringement of citizens’ constitutional rights. Internet technology and social networks have provided new platforms for public expression and communication, and in WeChat Users v. United States, the ban on the use of WeChat is a restriction on the means of expression, and in the absence of alternative communication platforms, the ban on the use of WeChat is more damaging to the right to freedom of expression than to the national security interests that need to be preserved. In his decision upholding the pre-litigation ban, Judge Laurel Beeler in this case noted that “even if the WeChat ban were enacted for a short time, excessive and unnecessary expansion of speech restrictions would cause irreparable harm to the public, and it is in the public interest to protect constitutional rights from infringement.” The U.S. government only cited several think tank reports on China’s threats to U.S. national security in the field of communications technology, but failed to provide detailed evidence of the stakes of WeChat and U.S. national security, based only on unfounded “speculation” that WeChat would “threaten national security “This is a violation of citizens’ right to freedom of expression.

  1. The Anti-Discrimination Principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that “all persons, regardless of race, shall have the same protection under the law. The Equal Protection Clause deals with equal rights and equal protection, and is widely applied to lawsuits involving gender, religion, and race issues. Its core content is anti-discrimination and substantial protection for disadvantaged races and groups.

WeChat has become an important platform for interpersonal and business interactions among Chinese in the United States, and the information it provides in Chinese is of great importance to some Chinese users who are not proficient in English. Although the “WeChat ban” involves all U.S. WeChat users, the administrative order is suspected of discriminating against the Chinese community by forcing that community to choose alternative software, since the majority of WeChat users in the United States are Chinese. The plaintiff alleges that the WeChat ban is overtly hostile to China and has the potential to promote racial bias. Moreover, the ban on WeChat has had a significant adverse impact on specific groups of users and violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides that all races have an equal right to protection before the law.

  1. Legal Procedural Justice of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” and that “in all cases, parties shall be given reasonable notice so that interested parties may be informed of the relevant legal action and be given an opportunity to present their objections “. Due process is a prerequisite for the legitimacy of factual determinations, and the Due Process Clause prevents administrative agencies from overreaching their powers or making bad decisions, and can be considered a pillar of the American judicial system. Due process can be divided into procedural justice, which refers to the steps that must be taken before deprivation of rights, such as notice and hearing, and in any case must be timely and reasonable notice to the interested party and the opportunity to be heard; the latter is more concerned with the substance, requiring administrative actions to be related to its purpose, and the means and means to fit the purpose.

Based on the political pressure of “national security,” U.S. crackdowns on Chinese technology companies are often vague in content and rarely follow strict legal procedures, so procedural justice is an important tool for Chinese technology companies to defend their rights in the United States. “In the case of WeChat Users v. United States, the plaintiff argued that the Trump administration’s WeChat ban did not clearly define the scope of WeChat’s “transactions” and that the content was vague and unclear. As a result, U.S. WeChat users were unable to accurately determine the scope of the ban, resulting in an overly broad crackdown. Although the U.S. Department of Commerce has published the rules for implementing the WeChat ban, the time between publication and implementation of the rules is too short, which may bring irreparable harm to U.S. WeChat users. The President’s Executive Order is overly broad, and the government’s failure to give WeChat users procedural protections, including clear prior notice, has resulted in a lack of procedural justice. Moreover, the U.S. government failed to successfully demonstrate the relevance and necessity of its stated purpose of “protecting national security interests” and its measures to restrict freedom of expression, contrary to substantive justice.

III. Application for Pre-litigation Injunction

In the case of WeChat Users v. United States, applying for a pre-litigation injunction was the key to winning the case. According to Rule 65 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the U.S. Micro Alliance filed a pre-litigation injunction motion with the court to suspend the implementation of the “WeChat injunction” before it took effect. This has also become the focus of controversy between the two parties involved in the case during the many hearings and court arguments. A pre-litigation injunction is similar to a preservation of conduct, which is an order taken by the court to prohibit another party from performing a specific act based on its discretionary power to protect the interests of the injured party or to protect the effective implementation of the judgment in advance, at the request of the party.

A proper and efficient pre-litigation injunction can effectively prevent the expansion of damages, and in U.S. judicial practice, pre-litigation injunctions are powerful and effective initiatives that are key to winning in litigation. In deciding whether to grant a pre-litigation injunction, judges consider the extent to which the harm is irreparable, the likelihood that the parties will prevail, and other public or personal interests involved in the injunction, and parties may also appeal the judge’s grant of the pre-litigation injunction. Although the potential harm to the applicant’s interests is not sufficient to justify a pre-litigation injunction, the applicant “need not wait for actual harm to apply for an injunction,” but may seek injunctive relief against the threat or violation of his or her rights. The U.S. Supreme Court in Blazer v. eBay Inc. and Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council), which established the standard of review and determination of pre-litigation injunction, mainly includes four elements: first, the applicant’s likelihood of success, i.e., the validity of the right and the possibility of realistic infringement; second, whether the applicant may suffer irreparable harm if a pre-litigation injunction is not issued; third, in the case of conflict between the protection of the plaintiff and the protection of the defendant’s rights, the court Usually weighs whether the issuance of an injunction to both the applicant and the respondent caused damage; fourth, according to the public interest considerations, the applicant should be given more flexible and broad relief. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit further explained in its relevant jurisprudence that if a petitioner can raise “an issue of significance to the outcome of the litigation,” it can be considered to meet the standard of likely success.

In WeChat Users v. United States, the strongest of the plaintiffs’ four claims was that the WeChat ban violated the First Amendment right to free speech. For this reason, the court first had to determine the plaintiff’s likelihood of success on this point, which was also the core argument of the entire decision. After several arguments by both sides, the judge finally found that the ban issued by Trump and the Department of Commerce’s implementation rules would have the effect of “blocking” WeChat in the United States, which is a clear violation of the plaintiff’s fundamental constitutional rights. After affirming the plaintiffs’ likelihood of success, the judge further examined the extent to which the plaintiffs would have been harmed if the pre-litigation injunction had not been granted. On this issue, the judge adopted the plaintiffs’ argument that “deprivation of the information exchange platform would cause irreparable harm to freedom of expression and other rights. By comparing the balance of interests and public interest considerations between the parties, the judge found that the DOJ had not proven that “WeChat poses a threat to U.S. national security” and that the WeChat ban would protect U.S. national interests. Therefore, the judge ultimately ruled that the executive order and the implementing regulations should not be implemented until the constitutionality of the WeChat injunction is decided, in order to avoid irreparable damage.

Thus, the application for a pre-litigation injunction is a critical step, and the court’s judgment on the likelihood of success will have a significant impact on the outcome of the lawsuit, and will also affect the U.S. government’s judgment on the risk of losing. Any lawsuit will become an important precedent for the U.S. courts and will play a guiding role in the government’s future enforcement actions, especially in important areas involving national security, the government does not want any unfavorable precedent, because it will limit administrative discretion and even intensify the battle of political parties. After the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the DOJ’s motion for a stay of the pre-litigation injunction, the Biden Administration voluntarily moved to stay the WeChat Users v. United States case, stating that it would fully evaluate the Trump Administration’s decision and asserting that the U.S. Department of Commerce has been committed to protecting the rights of individuals and the privacy of personal data. On August 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice formally filed a motion to dismiss with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, bringing the WeChat Users v. United States case to a close.

IV. Implications of WeChat Users v. United States for China’s Technology Industry

With the United States’ ideological bias against China’s technology industry and its emphasis on “national security” interests, China’s technology industry faces many difficulties in defending its judicial rights in the United States. “The success of the WeChat Users v. United States case suggests that in the future, related companies can resist the U.S. government’s reckless sanctions against Chinese companies by means of judicial litigation.

(1) Choose a professional litigation team with a fine division of labor

The U.S. legal system is complicated, and many Chinese technology enterprises do not know enough about the U.S. administrative enforcement, litigation procedures, intellectual property protection and other related legal knowledge, and lack the awareness of risk protection and experience in U.S.-related corporate compliance management, so when they get into legal disputes or judicial proceedings, they lack the ideological preparation and means to respond. The case of

In the case of WeChat Users v. U.S., Chinese lawyers with professional backgrounds led the establishment of the U.S. WeChat Users Association, and hired senior U.S. lawyers, including the top law firms proficient in free speech litigation in the U.S. to join the case. The judicial defense of multinational enterprises is destined to be an arduous and lengthy process, and the case has gone through several rounds of court battles in the U.S. District Court and Circuit Court of Appeals. Without precedent, and under intense political pressure to “threaten national security,” the litigation team also had to explain “the relevance and irreplaceability of WeChat to U.S. constitutional rights” to a judge who was completely unaware of WeChat, providing admissible The team also had to provide admissible evidence, sufficient legal authority and precedent to rebut the DOJ’s allegations, and ultimately won the case with superior legal expertise.

Legal compliance has become a core risk for the Chinese technology industry to participate in global competition, and risk control is an important part of innovation and compliance construction for Chinese enterprises going global. Chinese high-tech enterprises involved in the U.S. should actively establish a legal compliance management system in the industry and at the enterprise level, fully understand and study the U.S. legal system, do a good job of risk assessment and early warning, set up a legal department and compliance management team with rich experience and professional skills, build an export trade, intellectual property and technology security protection system, and help enterprises protect their legitimate rights and interests.

In addition, in the process of internationalization of China’s high-tech industry, the frequency of legal risk outbreak of enterprises has increased significantly. In the context of the U.S. rounds of suppression and siege on China’s technology industry, there will be more and more cases involving the defense of enterprise rights and interests, and China should pay attention to strengthening the standardization and systematization of work related to the defense of rights of technology enterprises overseas. In terms of professional talents, Chinese technology enterprises should do a good job of legal talent reserves, pay attention to training lawyer professionals, hire local legal professionals and teams with rich experience in responding to lawsuits in the U.S. as appropriate, and establish a talent pool of foreign-related lawyers in the technology industry. The division of labor among U.S. lawyers is extremely refined, with law firms specializing in a certain amendment to the Constitution and experts specializing in litigation in the field of race and civil rights. Chinese technology enterprises should pay great attention to relevant judicial precedents and state of affairs when filing lawsuits, and do a good job of legal specialized talent reserves in different categories to pave the way for Chinese high-tech enterprises to defend their rights and international development in the United States.

(2) Construct the influence of “government, industry, academia and research” of Chinese enterprises involved in the United States

In a sense, the “WeChat users v. U.S.” case is also a legal and political game between the public and the government, in which the plaintiff’s side finally won through orderly legal procedures and flexible political communication. The plaintiff’s attorney team actively communicated with the U.S. government for many times, repeatedly explaining that “blocking” WeChat was not in line with the U.S. Constitution and related laws, and that it would be detrimental to the U.S. government to continue the judicial process in this case. At the same time, a number of U.S. multinational companies have exerted influence on the U.S. government in an attempt to lobby the Trump administration to limit the scope of the “WeChat ban” out of interest. The goal of China’s high-tech industry in the U.S. judicial litigation is not simply to win the case, but to combine their legitimate interests with political and economic considerations, to pressure the U.S. government, to negotiate while fighting, and eventually to achieve a settlement or other desirable results, and in the process to further expand the international influence of Chinese technology enterprises, and to obtain a fair opportunity for development in the international market. Chinese high-tech companies also need to deepen their understanding of the U.S. political system and lobbying system and actively practice them, using a variety of methods and leverage to negotiate with the U.S. government and strive for the most favorable policies and outcomes.

In addition, the Chinese government and companies can consider increasing support for policy-oriented research by domestic think tanks. In the WeChat users v. United States case, the U.S. Department of Justice cited a number of reports from U.S. think tanks and research institutions in its arguments on “national security” and other core points. Since the Trump administration took office, a large number of China-related research reports by U.S. think tanks have greatly influenced the U.S. government’s policy decisions on China. From the perspective of exerting academic influence, Chinese scholars need to better explain China’s peaceful development strategy and foreign policy, rebuild international trust, and help properly mitigate the strategic risks of China’s high-tech industry’s overseas expansion.

(3) Shaping an active and friendly civil power and public opinion environment

Judicial defense in the U.S. is a risky act involving all aspects of corporate strategy and litigation costs, which is a serious challenge for Chinese technology companies. “The success of the WeChat users v. U.S. case fully reflects the result of gathering the strength of multiple parties and integrating social resources. Behind the success of the judicial defense was the fundraising support of tens of thousands of Chinese, the solidarity of 60 Chinese lawyers, and the legal assistance provided by leading U.S. law firms and experts.

After the US WeChat users decided to sue the Trump administration, they established the US WeChat Users Federation and organized private donations, especially after the pre-litigation injunction was upheld by the court, and the fundraising amount exceeded $1 million in two days. In addition to providing financial support, many Chinese joined a team of volunteers who participated in the entire litigation process, offering advice and participating in a number of tasks such as organizing paperwork, updating the website and contacting the media. “The WeChat users v. United States case has also received widespread support from the American public. Erwin Chemerinsky, a leading U.S. constitutional law professor, and a number of former U.S. government officials have issued numerous written testimonies arguing for the unconstitutional nature of the WeChat ban. In terms of exerting influence on public opinion, the U.S. WeChat Association has been interviewed by major media in China and the U.S. for many times to convey timely information about the progress of the lawsuit, to actively demonstrate its confidence in judicial defense, and to stimulate widespread criticism of the “WeChat ban” in the U.S. society, which makes the lawsuit justified and necessary. The legitimacy and necessity of the lawsuit was affirmed by the American public opinion, which further influenced the court’s determination of the plaintiff’s “impaired rights”.

V. Conclusion

The U.S. government is trying to “regulate technology according to its own particular value judgements”. It will continue to build a “high wall” of technology restrictions in the future, suppressing Chinese technology companies, technological talent, and industrial development in the name of “national security”. In the future, the U.S. will continue to build a “high wall” of technology restrictions, suppress Chinese technology companies, technology talents and industrial development in the name of “national security,” and further legitimize technology blockades and sanctions through legislation, using a variety of legal means to curb the pace of China’s technological development. China’s science and technology security and industrial development will face many new risks, which will pose real threats and challenges to China’s long-term socio-economic development. In the process of political suppression and economic bullying, the most frequently used rhetoric by the U.S. government is “national security. In the case of WeChat Users v. United States, the U.S. judge clearly stated that the U.S. government’s argument that “WeChat threatens U.S. national security” is an important consideration, which also reflects the U.S. judicial system’s concern about Chinese high-tech companies’ “threat to U.S. national security. This reflects the U.S. judicial system’s acceptance and recognition of Chinese high-tech companies’ “threat to U.S. national security” argument, and the future of Chinese technology companies’ judicial rights in the U.S. will still face the same obstacles.

On February 2, 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce opened the prelude to this pending case by closing the public comment period on a proposed rule to “conduct a broad review of applications controlled by foreign adversaries to determine whether they pose a security threat to the United States. The rule would have expanded the scope of federal regulation to include applications “used by a foreign adversary to steal or otherwise obtain data. Under the rule, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce would have the authority to restrict foreign applications that pose “unacceptable security risks,” which could subject social media platforms like WeChat, TikTok and other Internet applications to stricter regulation or even bans. Thus, the victory in the WeChat users v. U.S. case may only be temporary, and the rights may still have to be defended again in the future.


中国科技产业在美维权的司法路径探析——以微信用户诉美案为例

作者:郝敏   来源:当代美国评论  

郝敏:国际关系学院教授、知识产权与科技安全研究中心主任

内容提要

新一轮科技革命和产业变革正在重构全球创新版图,科技产业的发展是事关国家安全、经济发展和民族兴衰的关键要素。在争夺全球科技创新制高点的角逐中,美国政府不断泛化国家安全概念,利用政治、经济和法律等各种手段对中国新兴科技产业进行围堵和打压,使中国科技产业面临诸多新的风险和挑战。在此背景下,“微信用户诉美国案”的胜利具有重要的法律意义和实践价值,表明在美国的司法体系下,通过诉讼程序维护中国科技产业在美的正当利益可能是最有效的救济途径。本文通过分析美国的司法制度和微信用户起诉美国政府的诉讼策略,探讨华为、小米和TikTok等高科技企业在美国维权的经验和启示,旨在为中国相关企业维护自身在美国的经营和发展权益,防范和应对法律风险,开展司法维权行动提供参考与借鉴。

关键词

“微信禁令”;中国科技产业;美国司法;中美关系

当前,新一轮科技革命和产业变革正在重构全球创新版图。科技产业的发展是事关国家安全、经济发展和民族兴衰的关键要素,中美竞争的核心日益体现为科技创新能力的较量。美国政府不断泛化国家安全概念,利用政治、经济和法律等各种手段对中国新兴科技产业进行遏制和打压,采取了出口管制、海外投资审查、金融制裁和数据安全监管等全方位限制措施。中国科技企业面临诸多新的风险和挑战,华为、中兴、小米和字节跳动等公司都受到了严重冲击。

2020年8月,为了反对特朗普禁止使用微信海外版(WeChat)的总统行政令,美国微信用户向美国联邦法院起诉特朗普政府,此即“美国微信用户联合会诉特朗普案”(U.S. WeChat Users Alliance v. Trump,以下简称“微信用户诉美国案”),最终成功使美国政府撤销了这一行政令。此案是一场涉及现代科技、法律制度、经济竞争、市场机制和国家安全的综合性斗争,也是美国历史上第一起由国家安全相关禁令引发的华人起诉美国政府并获胜的案例,其结果不仅是微信用户维护自身权益的成功,更是中国科技产业在美国维权的重要胜利。作为普通法系国家,美国司法先例的逻辑论证、法律适用和判决结果对此后同类案件具有约束力。此案作为具有重要代表性的判例,对中国科技产业在美国进行司法维权具有重大的法律意义和实践价值。

一 在美中国科技企业与美博弈概况

随着中国科技产业在全球市场的快速发展,中国已被美国视为在科技领域最大的竞争对手,拜登和特朗普两届美国政府都将遏制中国的科技崛起作为对华政策的核心之一,美国府会和两党也就此达成高度共识。自2018年以来,美国借助“自上而下”的政治力量,不断干涉“自下而上”的科技市场的运行,不仅先后制裁了福建晋华、中兴通讯和华为等中国科技领军企业,还高举“国家安全”的大旗,力图将技术领先的中国龙头企业逐出美国及其他西方国家的市场。从对华发动贸易战以来,美国政府不断调整对华出口管制政策,频繁扩充“实体清单”,对人工智能、集成电路芯片和互联网通信等中国战略新兴产业进行有针对性的持续打压,试图推动中美科技彻底“脱钩”。拜登政府虽然没有全盘接受特朗普政府对华全面“脱钩”的政策,却打着支持“人权”和“民主”的幌子,将国家安全泛化,继续严控对华出口,限制中国科技企业在美国的融资和并购,并以保护知识产权为借口,加大审查力度,试图更加精准地围堵中国科技产业的发展,压缩其在美国和国际市场上的生存空间,以确保美国的科技领先地位和产业霸权。

在大国竞争背景下,美国对中国科技产业的政治打压和经济遏制不会放缓,中国科技产业如何有效应对和突围将是一个持续性的重要课题。近年来,华为、小米和TikTok等企业为保护自身权益尝试过多种方法,如发表抗议声明、进行谈判和游说等。其中,游说是影响美国政府行为和公共政策的重要方式之一。1988年,日本东芝集团投入数百万美元对美进行游说,最后成功使美国政府取消了对其的制裁。为了向美国政府施加压力、对抗其不当行政行为和过分的市场排挤打压,中国科技企业开始积极在美国进行游说。2012年,华为在美国聘请了包括大量前政府官员在内的数十名说客,投入数百万美元,最后也没能改变美国政府的关于“华为对美国网络设施安全构成威胁”的认定。2019年以来,字节跳动公司也聘请了多家游说公司在美开展游说,但鉴于美国政府已经认定其“对信息网络安全具有重大影响”,单凭游说方式很难见成效。其他举措的效果同样也不明显。

因此,通过司法诉讼应对美国政府的不当打压,就成为可供中国科技企业选择的一条充满艰辛但却有效的途径,或许也是最佳维权手段。近年来,美国持续加码的制裁引发了中国高科技企业在美展开一系列的司法斗争。如2019年,华为公司三次起诉美国政府,寻求司法正义,对抗美国政府的打压;2020年,TikTok及其母公司字节跳动对时任总统特朗普先后四次提起诉讼,要求其停止实施禁止字节跳动在美交易的行政令;2021年,小米公司对美国国防部和财政部发起诉讼,要求法院判决将小米列入中国“涉军企业”的决定违宪;2021年,庭审过程跌宕起伏、诉辩环节步步惊心的“微信用户诉美国案”更是把中国高科技企业在美国进行司法维权的斗争推向了高潮。以往,由于对美国司法机制缺少深入的了解,对严格且复杂的美国司法诉讼程序存在畏难情绪,加之担心诉讼成本高昂及存在潜在风险,中国科技企业往往更倾向于选择诉讼以外的手段解决问题。但微信、华为和小米等在美国的维权经历展示了在大国竞争与受到经济制裁背景下的一条新的自救之路,即敢于且善于寻求司法救济。面对美国的打压和围堵,中国科技企业不能无限度妥协,而要先做好企业自身的“合规体检”,准确判断局势,提高斗智斗勇尤其是“斗法”的意识,敢于主动出击,运用法律武器维护自身的合法权益。

二 美国司法系统对行政权力的制约及局限

美国司法系统的独立性、权威性及强制力是中国科技企业在美国维权的必要前提。美国司法系统具有独立性,在三权分立制度下,独立的司法机构的职能之一就是限制政府的不法行为或违宪行为。美国联邦法院的预算直接提交国会审议通过,无须经过白宫管理与预算办公室(Office of Management and Budget,OMB)和总统的批准,可以较大程度地避免行政机构通过控制预算对司法进行干预。此外,美国司法救济制度具有权威性和强制力,法院拥有对案件的最终裁决权,其判决依靠国家强制力执行。当法院要求政府官员作为败诉方执行判决时,政府官员必须合作并遵从法院的判决。

(一)美国司法系统对行政权力的制约

美国是三权分立国家,立法权、行政权和司法权之间相互制约。美国法治的实质在于政府受法律约束,任何人或实体都不能自行裁决其权利与义务,且政府经常作为诉讼中被告的一方,因此需要法院在相应案件中独立裁决政府是否违反法律。1803年,美国经由“马伯里诉麦迪逊案”(Marbury v. Madison)确立了司法审查制度(Judicial Review System),为实现司法权和行政权的两权界分与平衡提供了依据和保障,为确保分权与制衡体制中司法机构的权力奠定了基础。1946年,美国通过了《联邦行政程序法》(Administrative Procedure Act),明确了司法审查制度,并对司法审查的方式方法、适用范围和救济职能等做了详尽补充。联邦法院有权对美国宪法做出司法解释,并就政府行为是否违宪作判决。在实际操作中,司法审查的作用主要体现在两个方面。

其一,是公民权利救济的重要手段。首先,司法审查的受案范围非常广泛。为保护公民权利免受不正当行政行为侵害,根据《联邦行政程序法》的规定,行政机关的任何行为都可以是司法审查的对象,包括规章制度、行政裁决、决定、许可、制裁、救济及其他类似的作为和不作为行为。其次,原告的主体范围在司法实践中不断扩大。美国法院以往主要采取“法律利益标准”来判断原告的起诉资格,即适格当事人必须证明其合法利益受到行政行为的侵害或者不利影响,且必须证明其所主张的受损利益在现行法律内有明确规定,如遗嘱法、侵权行为法等,而这些成文法所确认的权利是有限的。20世纪70年代以来,原告主体范围扩大,不再要求起诉人主张的权益必须是法律明确规定应受保护的,只需要在法律保护范围内。最后,司法审查推动扩大公民的政治参与。《联邦行政程序法》要求行政机关在制定法规时必须通知公众并听取意见,联邦法院在判决中要求行政机关必须对重要意见做出书面答复。

其二,调节行政权力的扩张尺度。一是平衡立法权和行政权。在重大国家政策上,美国行政和立法部门时常发生对抗,国会掌握着立法和预算拨款权,对行政部门具有一定的优势。1892年,最高法院在“菲尔德诉克拉克案”(Field v. Clark)中支持了总统行政权力的扩张,强调宪法结构中的三权分立、相互平等与独立。二是借助实质性审查,重点监督行政部门的权力扩张。随着美国社会和经济的发展变化,行政部门的权力不断扩张,逐步获得了部分委托立法权和准司法权。法院的司法审查职能在为行政权力提供发展空间的同时,也保持着对其的监督,法院要求行政机构的审理和裁决必须建立在“实质性证据”之上,且必须在行政法官的主持下进行。行政机构参与立法时,必须严格遵循实质性正当程序。1971年“保护奥弗顿公园公民协会诉沃尔普案”(Citizen to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe)推动了司法审查标准从程序性审查走向实质性审查。1983年“机动车制造商协会诉州农场互助汽车保险公司案”(Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass’n v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.)提出,法院应当对“任意和专横”的行政行为进行更为敏锐的审查。司法审查承认行政管理权力扩张的必要性与合法性,但也强调对其的监督和制约,以保证行政机构权力的扩张不会偏离维护公共利益的轨道。

(二)司法审查在国家安全问题上的局限与突破

美国《权利法案》明确了公民享有的个人权利,并通过国家机器内部的权力分配及运行规则来保护这些宪法权益。但在涉及国家重大利益的对外事务中,立法、行政、司法三权并不是严格的相互制衡关系。1937年,罗斯福总统签署生效的《司法程序改革法》(Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937),推动美国最高法院逐渐由司法能动主义转向了司法克制主义,在司法审查上实行双重标准,即对涉及宪法保护的个人权利立法和行政行为实行严格的司法审查,而在对有关经济干预等行政活动的审查上则趋于慎重。在“海地难民中心诉贝克案”(Haitian Refugee Center v. Baker)中,联邦法院承认总统在行政事务上有“较大的自由裁量权”,法院面对行政权应保持一定的司法克制,保持清醒的法律逻辑和自我定位。

根据“政治问题不予审查”原则(political question doctrine),在涉及国家安全的问题上,美国司法机构倾向于保持司法谦抑,对行政机关的裁决给予一定的“谦让、尊重、克制”,以避免不必要的政治纷争。对于国家安全的判断,被认为是一个行政问题而非司法问题。“9·11”事件以来,“国家安全”成为美国的优先关注事项,总统和国会及联邦政府各机构在这一问题上的决策基本算是“政治正确”,司法体系对涉及国家安全的行政决策和措施均予以充分的尊重和配合。近年来由于美国逐步将中国视为最大的竞争对手,对中国高科技产业进行全方位的技术封锁和打压已然成为美国府会和两党的共识。在此背景下,中国高科技企业尤其是掌握国际领先技术的龙头企业,很容易被认定会影响美国的科技核心竞争力,并对其“国家安全”构成威胁。

近年来,美国政府多次以“解决外国对手在相关领域的恶意行动”为由,借口保护美国国家安全利益,以行政手段介入市场竞争,对外国企业实施制裁和打压。但在大多数司法判例中,司法机构对这一模糊而广泛的行政权力保持了一定的宽容。在“TikTok诉特朗普案”(TikTok Inc. v. Trump)中,原告针对特朗普政府违反《国际紧急经济权力法》(International Emergency Economic Powers Act)的规定,越权“干涉私人交流和信息传输行为”的指控,没有获得法院支持。在“三一集团关联公司罗尔斯公司(Ralls Corporation)诉美国外国投资委员会及奥巴马政府案”(Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States)中,原告三一集团基于几项立法提出的主张被法院驳回,只有根据美国宪法第五修正案提出的征收权利的主张得到了法院的支持。

通过司法途径制约行政权时,重点应放在美国宪法对正当法律程序的保障条款上。宪法第五和第十四修正案规定,“未经正当法律程序,任何人的生命、自由或财产均不得被剥夺”,“任何一州,未经正当法律程序均不得剥夺任何人的生命、自由或财产”,明确制约了行政权的过度行使。法院可据此判定如行政机关未经法定程序行事侵害了个人或实体利益,其行为即违宪。2014年三一集团在美关联公司罗尔斯、2021年中国小米公司均通过此途径诉讼成功,维护了自身权益。在特殊的历史条件下,法院可以通过对与行政机构相关的“褫夺公权”条款(Bill of Attainder)做出限制性解释,来达到限制行政权力的目的。2019年华为公司诉美国政府时,即运用美国宪法中“褫夺公权”条款的规定,提出在美国《2019财年国防授权法案》中,直接禁止联邦政府机构采购华为等几家公司的电信设备和服务,侵犯了华为公司的财产和自由权利。2020年8月,TikTok公司员工及其平台内容创作者分别对美国政府提起诉讼,认为特朗普政府的行政令侵犯了美国宪法赋予他们的权利。其中最为关键的指控是,按照特朗普的总统行政令,TikTok的员工从2020年9月开始无法获得薪酬,这构成对原告合法财产的“违宪掠夺”。而在TikTok及其母公司字节跳动此前以公司名义提起的司法诉讼中,由于无法获得作为个人原告主体能够享有的一些强有力的宪法权利保障,诉讼失败。

由此可见,在中国科技企业与美国政府的司法博弈中,援引和强调美国宪法的赋权是一种行之有效的策略。美国政府对华举措政治化倾向明显,惯以“威胁国家安全、数据安全和信息隐私”为由,多方狙击中国科技产业。鉴于司法审查受“政治问题原则”的约束,就中国科技企业的产品和服务是否会对美国的国际地位和国家安全产生“实质性威胁”而与美国政府进行辩论,并不是中国科技企业的最优选择。但美国宪法所保障的公民权利和各项自由是不可撼动的,中国科技企业对美国政府提起诉讼可以尽可能基于对言论自由、财产权利和种族平等等权利主张,尽量避免“中国威胁”“科技安全”等涉及国家安全命题的宏大叙事,以免司法体系迫于政治压力而妥协。微信用户对美国政府的诉讼,正是充分借鉴了上述司法维权策略。对其加以深刻的分析和研究,有助于加深对美国科技法律和司法体系的运作特点及判决要素的了解,对中国高科技产业在美国的维权与发展具有重要的借鉴意义。

三 “微信用户诉美国案”的诉讼策略分析

微信是一个集社交、通信、金融和生活服务等多重功能于一体的超级应用程序,根据移动应用数据分析公司“感应塔”(Sensor Tower)的数据,微信在美国的下载次数累计超过2000万次,其用户涵盖个人、小商家和企业,是美国用户量增速最快的社交媒体,因此被特朗普政府认定展现了“中国影响力”并成为“国家安全隐患”。2020年8月6日,特朗普签署第13943号行政令(Executive Order 13943,以下称“微信禁令”),宣布为了美国国家安全等重大利益,将禁止个人、公司和团体在美国境内从事与微信相关的交易。随后美国商务部发布“微信禁令”实施细则,对“交易”的范围做出具体解释,明确其范围包括应用商店上架、下载使用微信功能或服务,以及通过微信实现金融交易,基本上是对从下载、安装到使用功能的全面禁止。

美国华人联合会(United Chinese Americans,UCA)2020年发布的一份调查报告显示,90%的受访者使用微信五年以上,95%的受害者每天使用微信,如果实施“微信禁令”,82%的受访者表示找不到替代微信的应用软件。因此,相关用户对“微信禁令”反应强烈。美国微信用户联合会(U.S. WeChat Users Alliance,USWUA,以下简称“美微联会”)宣布将积极维权,与美国政府抗争到底。2020年8月21日,“美微联会”在加利福尼亚北区联邦地区法院正式起诉时任总统特朗普和商务部长罗斯(Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.),并向法院提交了诉前禁令(Preliminary Injunction)动议,请求中止“微信禁令”的实施。历经四次法庭交锋后,该地区法院颁布了诉前禁令,叫停“微信禁令”,美国联邦第九巡回上诉法院最终驳回了司法部的上诉请求。拜登执政后在多方压力下,计划重新审查前总统的政策。2021年2月,美国司法部主动向加利福尼亚北区联邦地区法院和联邦第九巡回上诉法院递交申请,请求暂停对“微信用户诉美国案”的审理及诉前禁令的上诉审理。6月9日,拜登签署“关于保护美国人的敏感数据免受外国对手侵害”的行政令(Executive Order on Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries),撤销了特朗普签署的“微信禁令”。8月9日,美国司法部正式向法院申请撤诉。10月20日,“美微联会”与司法部达成和解,美国政府同意赔偿“美微联会”在此案中支出的90万美元的律师费。至此,微信用户与美国政府的司法诉讼以原告方的全面胜利宣告结束。以下将对其诉讼策略和效果进行详细分析。

(一)当事人及管辖法院的选择

在“微信用户诉美国案”中,“美微联会”通过选择具有代表性的原告主体,确定合理的被告和管辖法院,甄别并排除了不利因素干扰,为诉讼获胜奠定了基础。

1.选择有代表性的适格原告主体

“微信用户诉美国案”的原告为由五位美籍华人律师联合发起成立的非营利组织——美国微信用户联合会,腾讯公司并未直接参与起诉。本案对原告的选择基于微信用户的不同使用需求,体现出微信在通信服务、社交生活和商业贸易上的重要性和不可替代性,也具象化体现对美国宪法赋予的言论自由、财产权、平等权等个人权利的保护。

2019年,华为公司对美国总统、商务部、联邦通信委员会(Federal Communications Commission,FCC)等多个美国政府部门提起诉讼,起诉美国政府滥用立法程序,妨碍市场竞争。此案被称为“华为诉美国政府案”(Huawei Techs. USA, Inc. v. United States)。但基于华为在5G等关键技术领域对美国的挑战和出于“国家安全”的考虑,美国联邦法院最终驳回了华为的诉讼请求。此案是“存在潜在或紧迫的国家安全威胁”的外国科技企业要求得到美国市场平等竞争机会,而“微信用户诉美国案”则是“合法权利受到公权力侵犯”的普通美国公民和企业对美国政府提起的个人权利的司法救济。从两者诉讼过程和结果看,美国联邦法院对两项诉讼的判断和位阶选择可谓大相径庭。

“微信用户诉美国案”和“华为诉美国政府案”在原告选择策略上形成鲜明对比。在中国科技企业对美国政府提起司法诉讼时,选择个体作为原告,将国与国之间的政治博弈转化为社会公共利益与宪法保障的个人权利的冲突,利用美国政治文化和司法传统语境中对政府权力扩张与滥用的警惕和约束,寻求对个人自由权利的司法保护。在强调司法独立和重视公民权利的美国司法体系下,以个体作为原告,起诉行政部门滥用权力导致个人权利受到侵犯,更有助于赢得法官和陪审团的认同。

2.合理确定被告和选择管辖法院

“美微联会”在本案中将颁布禁令与执行禁令的时任总统特朗普和商务部长罗斯确定为被告。根据美国《联邦行政程序法》第702条的规定,适格主体有权提起以美国政府为被告的行政诉讼。在此类诉讼中,总统签署行政令并授权具体的政府部门如商务部、司法部执行该令,因此总统和相关政府部门的负责人以公职人员身份成为被告。此类诉讼还包括,小米公司2021年在美国哥伦比亚特区联邦巡回上诉法院对美国国防部和财政部提起诉讼,要求判决被告将小米公司列入“涉军企业”违宪。在TikTok与其母公司字节跳动联合指控美国政府违宪越权、要求撤销其行政禁令的诉讼中,被告是总统特朗普和美国商务部及部长罗斯。2020年7月,哈佛大学、麻省理工学院起诉美国国土安全部及移民和海关执法局,要求取消对国际学生必须接受面授课程,否则将面临包括但不限于被要求离境的后果的规定。

“美微联会”在该案中选择具有抵制特朗普政府的“传统”、拥有较多自由派法官的加利福尼亚北区联邦法院作为诉讼法院,增加了该案胜诉概率。根据美国宪法第三条第二款的规定,当联邦政府为诉讼当事人时,案件由联邦法院审理。根据《美国法典》第28编第1391节e款第1项规定的适当性审判原则,当“被告是以公职身份行事的美国政府官员或者雇员以及政府机构时,原告的经常居住地或者主要营业地在本区,并且导致诉讼的大部分事件发生在本区,该地区的联邦法院有权管辖”。尽管美国微信用户遍布美国各州,但基于属人管辖权和适当审判地原则,“美微联会”选择向加州北区地区联邦法院提起诉讼,是考虑到如果诉讼失败,有可能会向持反对特朗普立场的自由派法官主导的第九巡回法庭继续上诉,这是结合美国各地区联邦法官政治倾向不同所做出的明智决定。

(二)诉由和法律适用依据的选择

美国法律体系庞大而复杂,“美微联会”在该案中准确选择诉由和法律适用依据是获得胜诉的关键原因。“微信用户诉美国案”的原告方主要依据美国宪法和《联邦行政程序法》,对美国政府提出四项指控:一是“微信禁令”违反了美国宪法第一修正案;二是总统及商务部的行为超出了《国际紧急经济权力法》对政府的授权;三是“微信禁令”违反了美国《联邦行政程序法》;四是“微信禁令”内容含糊不清(vagueness),应被认定无效。这些诉由和法律依据实际上涵盖了特朗普政府颁布“微信禁令”违宪和违法的要件事实。

1.美国宪法第一修正案的言论自由权

美国宪法第一修正案规定,“美国国会不得制定法律剥夺言论自由或出版自由”,这为保护公民言论自由权利免受国家权力机构侵害提供了法律根基,对美国社会产生了深远影响。言论自由被认为是美国民主制度的基石,其内涵和边界在长期的立法和司法实践中得以不断丰富、发展和明确。对言论自由权利的限制主要分两类:一是限制特定内容的言论;二是限制发表言论的方式,如发声的渠道和形式。

“微信用户诉美国案”的原告认为,微信作为一种即时性网络社交平台,在美国已经成为千万华人用户用来进行人际沟通、经商、获取资讯、社会交往的不可替代的软件工具。特朗普政府发布的“微信禁令”对这一社交平台造成实质上的毁灭性损害,使用户间的交流受阻,其结果等同于限制用户的言论方式,涉嫌剥夺了微信用户的言论自由权,且这一限制未经任何司法程序审查。特朗普政府则在抗辩中声称,“中国在信息通信技术和服务领域对美国国家安全‘构成威胁’,数据保护、国家安全和公共利益保护的要求都充分证明禁止微信的必要性和合法性”。

秩序与自由,或者说国家权力与个人自由,在此案中再次交锋。美国法院在“凯德洛夫诉圣尼古拉斯大教堂案”(Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral)中认为,“任何存在危害国家安全的言论都不得享有特殊保护”,但这一价值判断主要基于对煽动及教唆暴力犯罪言论的限制。在1971年“纽约时报诉合众国案”(New York Times Co. v. United States)中,最高法院关于国家安全与言论自由的判决一反传统观点,做出了新的利益权衡。“公民的权利与自由在公权力面前具有极大的脆弱性”,哈佛大学教授弗兰克·米歇尔曼(Frank Michelman)指出,“国家安全是一个模糊和笼统的概念,任何抽象且未经确证的国家安全理由都不能损害宪法第一修正案规定的基本权利”。美国联邦法院一直谨慎判定言论自由权利的尺度,试图在法律秩序和自由价值间进行平衡。

在“微信用户诉美国案”中,法院在对诉前禁令的裁定中对“微信禁令”是否侵犯言论自由采取了“中度审查标准”(intermediate scrutiny)。这一标准由1989年联邦法院在“沃德诉摇滚对抗种族主义案”(Ward v. Rock Against Racism)中确立:一是限制手段与目的之间实质的或紧密契合的关联性;二是限制的目的服务于与言论内容无关的重大政府利益;三是存在其他充分的有可行性的沟通渠道。只有满足上述三个标准,“限制言论自由”才不会构成对公民宪法权利的侵害。互联网技术和社交网络为公众提供了表达和交流的新平台,在“微信用户诉美国案”中,禁止使用微信是对言论表达方式的限制,在缺乏可替代交流平台的情况下,禁止使用微信对言论自由权的损害大于需要维护的国家安全利益。本案法官劳雷尔·比勒(Laurel Beeler)在支持诉前禁令的判决中指出,“哪怕微信禁令颁布时间不长,但过多和不必要地扩大言论限制也将对公众造成不可挽回的伤害,保护宪法规定的权利免受侵害符合公共利益”。美国政府只是引用多份智库报告阐述中国在通信技术领域对美国国家安全的威胁,但未能提供详细证据证明微信与美国国家安全的利害关系,仅凭莫须有的“猜测”就认定微信将“威胁国家安全”,对微信展开全方位狙击,侵犯了公民的言论自由权利。

2.美国宪法第十四修正案平等保护条款的反歧视原则

美国宪法第十四修正案的平等保护条款(Equal Protection Clause)规定,“任何人,无论什么种族,都应该受到同等的法律保护”。平等保护条款涉及权利平等和平等保护,广泛适用于涉及性别、宗教和种族问题的诉讼,其核心内容在于反歧视和对弱势种族、群体的实质性保护。

微信已经成为在美华人重要的人际交往和商业交往平台,其提供的中文资讯对一部分英语能力不强的华人用户具有重要意义。虽然“微信禁令”涉及所有美国微信用户,但由于在美国的微信用户主要为华人群体,因此这一行政令存在强制这部分群体选择替代软件的嫌疑,涉嫌构成对华裔群体的歧视。原告诉称,“微信禁令”带有明显的对华敌意,有可能助长种族偏见。而且禁止使用微信对特定用户群体造成了重大不利影响,违反了美国宪法第十四修正案规定的各种族在法律面前享有平等的受保护权利。

3.美国宪法第五修正案的法律程序正义

美国宪法第五修正案的正当程序条款规定,“不经正当法律程序不得被剥夺生命、自由或财产”,“在任何情形下,当事方应当得到合理通知,以使利益相关方知悉相关法律行动,并给予机会陈述反对意见”。正当程序是事实判断正当性的前提,正当程序条款可防止行政机构权力过分扩张或者做出错误决定,可以说是美国司法体系中的支柱性条款。正当程序可以被拆分为程序正义和实质正义,前者是指在剥夺权利之前必须采取的步骤措施,如告知和听证,在任何情形下都必须及时合理地通知利益相关方并给予陈述机会;后者更关注实质内容,要求行政行为与其目的相关联,手段和方式与目的相适应。

基于“国家安全”的政治压力,美国对华科技企业的打击往往内容模糊,很少严格遵循法律程序,因此程序正义是中国科技企业在美维权的一个重要抓手。“微信用户诉美国案”中,原告认为特朗普政府颁发“微信禁令”并未对微信“交易”涉及的范围做出明确规定,内容模糊不清,导致美国微信用户无法精准判定被禁范围,从而造成过于宽泛的打击。虽然美国商务部公布了“微信禁令”的实施细则,但这一细则从公布到实施时间太短,有可能给美国微信用户带来无可挽回的伤害。总统行政命令过于宽泛,政府未能给予微信用户包括明确的事先通知在内的程序保护,造成了程序正义的缺失。并且,美国政府未能成功举证说明其宣称的“保护国家安全利益”的目的与其限制言论自由的措施之间的关联性和必要性,有违实质正义。

(三)申请诉前禁令

在“微信用户诉美国案”中,向法院申请诉前禁令是胜诉的关键。根据美国《联邦民事诉讼规则》(Federal Rule of Civil Procedure)第65条规定,“美微联会”向法院提起诉前禁令动议,要求在“微信禁令”生效前中止其实施,这也成为涉案双方在多次听证会和法庭辩论中的争议重点。诉前禁令类似于行为保全,是法院基于自由裁量权,应一方当事人请求,在作判决前,提前对受损方的利益进行保护或保障判决有效执行,而采取的禁止另一方实施特定行为的命令。

正确而高效的诉前禁令可以有效防止损害扩大,在美国司法实践中,诉前禁令是强大而有效的举措,是争取在诉讼中获胜的关键。在决定是否颁发诉前禁令时,法官会考虑损害难以弥补的程度、各方胜诉的可能性以及禁令所涉及的其他公共利益或个人利益,当事人还可以对法官是否授予诉前禁令提出上诉。虽然申请人的利益可能受到损害并不足以证明诉前禁令是合理的,但申请人“不必等到遭受实际伤害才申请禁令”,而是可以针对威胁或侵犯其权利的行为寻求禁令救济。美国最高法院在“布拉泽诉亿贝网案”(Blazer v. eBay Inc.)及“温特诉自然资源保护委员会案”(Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council)两例案件中,确立了对诉前禁令的审查和确定标准,主要包括四项内容:一是申请人胜诉的可能性,即权利的有效性和受到现实侵害的可能性;二是如果不颁发诉前禁令,申请人是否可能遭受无法弥补的损害;三是在保护原告与保护被告权利发生冲突时,法院通常会权衡签发禁令是否给申请人与被申请人双方造成损害;四是根据对公共利益的考虑,应当给予申请人更为灵活和宽泛的救济。美国联邦第九巡回上诉法院在相关判例中进一步解释指出,如果申请人能够提出“对诉讼结果具有重要影响的问题”,可以被视为满足可能胜诉的标准。

在“微信用户诉美国案”中,原告提出的四项主张中最有力的一项是,“微信禁令”违反了美国宪法第一修正案赋予的言论自由权。为此,法院首先就要判断原告在这一点上胜诉的可能性,这也是整个判决的核心论点。经过双方多次举证辩论,法官最终认定,特朗普颁发的禁令和商务部的实施细则实际上都会造成在美国境内全面“封杀”微信的效果,明显涉嫌侵犯原告理应享有的宪法基本权利。在肯定原告胜诉可能性后,法官进一步审查如果不颁发诉前禁令,原告方可能遭受损害的程度。在这一问题上,法官采纳了原告方“剥夺信息交流平台将对言论自由和其他权利造成不可挽回的损害”的主张。通过比较诉讼双方的利益平衡和公共利益考量,法官认为美国司法部对“微信构成对美国国家安全威胁”举证不足,而且也无法说明“微信禁令”能保护美国国家利益。因此,法官最终裁定,在对“微信禁令”是否违宪作判决之前,该行政令和实施细则都不得实施,以免造成无法弥补的更大损害。

由此可见,申请诉前禁令是关键的一步,法院对胜诉可能性的研判会对诉讼结果产生重要影响,同时也会影响美国政府对败诉风险的判断。任何一例诉讼都会成为美国法院的重要判例,将在政府日后的执法行为中发挥指导作用,特别是在涉及国家安全的重要领域,政府不希望出现任何不利判例,因为这将限制行政自由裁量权,甚至激化政党之争。在联邦第九巡回上诉法院驳回司法部申请暂停诉前禁令的动议后,拜登政府主动申请暂停审理“微信用户诉美国案”,表示将对特朗普政府的决策进行全面评估,并宣称美国商务部一直致力于保护个人权利和个人数据隐私。2021年8月9日,美国司法部正式向第九巡回上诉法院递交撤诉申请,“微信用户诉美国案”宣告结束。

四 “微信用户诉美国案”对中国科技产业的启示

随着美国对中国科技产业意识形态偏见和对“国家安全”利益的强调,中国科技产业在美国的司法维权之路面临诸多困难。“微信用户诉美国案”的成功表明,未来相关企业可以更多通过司法诉讼的方式,抵制美国政府对中国企业的肆意制裁。

(一)选择专业分工精细化的诉讼代理团队

美国法律体系庞杂,许多中国科技企业对美国的行政执法、诉讼程序和知识产权保护等相关法律知识了解不够,缺乏风险防护意识和涉美企业合规管理经验,陷入法律纠纷或进入司法程序时,缺少思想准备和应对手段,如果没有专业律师提供法务支持,很难在美国最大限度地维护自身的合法权益。

在“微信用户诉美国案”中,具备专业背景的华人律师牵头成立了美国微信用户联合会,同时聘请了美国当地资深律师,包括聘请美国精通言论自由诉讼案的顶级律师事务所加盟。跨国企业的司法维权注定是艰辛而漫长的过程,此案历经美国地区法院和巡回上诉法院的数轮法庭交锋。在没有先例可循的情况下,又面临“威胁国家安全”指控的巨大政治压力,诉讼团队还需要向完全不了解微信的法官解释“微信与美国宪法权利的关联及其不可替代性”,提供可被采信的证据、充分的法律依据和在先判例,反驳美国司法部的指责,最终以卓越的法律专业技能促成了此案的胜诉。

法律合规问题已经成为中国科技产业参与全球竞争的核心风险,风险管控则是中国企业走向世界的创新与合规建设的重要内容,通过专业团队构建有效的法律防御机制已成为中国企业当下自我完善的重点。中国高科技涉美企业应当在行业领域和企业层面积极建立法律合规管理制度,充分了解和研究美国法律体系,做好风险评估和预警,组建有丰富经验和专业技能的法务部门及合规管理团队,构建出口贸易、知识产权和科技安全保护体系,帮助企业保护好自身合法权益。

此外,在中国高科技产业国际化的进程中,企业法律风险爆发的频次显著增加。在美国对中国科技产业进行轮番打压和围堵的背景下,涉及维护企业权益的案例会越来越多,中国应重视加强科技企业在海外维权相关工作的规范化和体系化。在专业人才方面,中国科技企业应当做好法律人才的储备工作,注重培养律师专业人才,酌情聘请美国当地具有丰富应诉经验的法律专业人士和团队,建立科技产业涉外律师人才库。美国律师团队分工都是极其精细化的,有专门针对宪法某一修正案的律师事务所,有专门从事种族和民权领域诉讼的专家,中国科技企业在提出法律诉讼时,应当高度关注相关司法判例和事态研判,分门别类做好法律专业化人才资源储备,为中国高科技企业在美维权和国际化发展铺路。

(二)构建中国涉美企业“政产学研”的影响合力

从某种意义上说,“微信用户诉美国案”也是一次公众与政府的法律交锋和政治博弈,原告方通过有序推进法律程序,灵活进行政治沟通,最终取得胜利。原告律师团队多次与美国政府部门积极沟通,反复说明“封杀”微信不符合美国宪法和相关法律,此案司法程序继续进行不利于美国政府。与此同时,美国多家跨国公司出于利益考虑,也向美国政府施加影响,试图游说特朗普政府限制“微信禁令”的实施范围。中国高科技产业在美司法诉讼的目标不是单纯追求胜诉,而是要将自身的正当利益诉求与政治经济方面的考虑相结合,向美国政府施压,边打边谈,最终促成和解或者取得其他理想结果,并在此过程中进一步扩大中国科技企业的国际影响力,获得国际市场公平发展的机会。中国高科技企业还需要对美国政治体制和游说制度加深了解并积极实践,运用多种方法和筹码与美国政府谈判,努力争取最有利的政策和结果。

此外,中国政府和企业可考虑加大对国内智库政策性研究的支持力度。在“微信用户诉美国案”中,美国司法部对“国家安全”等核心观点的论证大量引用了美国智库和一些研究机构的报告。特朗普政府执政后,美国智库有大量涉华研究报告在极大程度上影响着美国政府的对华政策决策。从发挥学术影响力的角度而言,中国学者需要更好地阐释中国和平发展战略和外交政策,重建国际信任,助力妥善化解中国高科技产业海外拓展的战略风险。

(三)塑造积极友善的民间力量与舆论环境

在美国进行司法维权是一项风险性极大的行为,涉及企业战略和应诉成本等方方面面,对中国科技企业来说是严峻的挑战。“微信用户诉美国案”的胜诉充分体现了凝聚多方力量、整合社会资源的成果。此次司法维权成功的背后是上万名华人的筹款支持、60位华人律师的团结付出,以及美国知名律师事务所和专家学者提供的法律援助。

美国微信用户在决定起诉特朗普政府后,成立了美国微信用户联合会并组织民间捐款,尤其是在诉前禁令获得法院支持后,筹款数额在两天内突破了100万美元。除提供资金支持外,很多华人加入志愿者团队全程参与了诉讼过程,他们出谋划策,参与文书整理、网站更新和联络媒体等多项工作。“微信用户诉美国案”还获得了美国公众的广泛支持。美国著名宪法学教授艾文·切米任斯基(Erwin Chemerinsky)以及多名美国政府前官员多次出具书面证词,论证“微信禁令”的违宪本质。在发挥舆论影响力方面,“美微联会”多次接受中美两国主要媒体的采访,及时传达诉讼进展信息,积极彰显司法维权的坚定信心,并激发起美国社会对“微信禁令”的广泛批评,使得此案诉讼的正当性和必要性得到美国社会舆论的肯定,从而进一步影响了法院对原告方“权利受损”的判定。

五 结语

美国政府试图“以价值观规制技术”,未来美国会继续构筑科技限制的“高墙”,以“国家安全”为名打压中国科技企业、科技人才和产业发展,并进一步通过立法的形式将科技封锁和制裁合法化,综合利用各种法律手段遏制中国科技发展的步伐。中国的科技安全和产业发展将面临诸多新的风险,这将对中国社会经济的长远发展构成现实威胁和挑战。在操弄政治打压和经济霸凌的过程中,美国政府使用频率最高的说辞就是“国家安全”。在“微信用户诉美国案”中,美国法官明确表示,美国政府提出的“微信威胁到美国国家安全”是一个重要考量,这也反映出美国司法体系对中国高科技企业“威胁美国国家安全”说辞的接纳和认可,未来中国科技企业在美国的司法维权之路仍然面临同样的障碍。

2022年2月2日,美国商务部已经开启了此案未完待续的前奏,结束了对“外国对手控制的应用程序进行广泛审查,以确定是否对美国构成安全威胁”拟议规则的公开评议期。该规则将扩大联邦政府的监管范围,明确监管对象包括“外国对手用于窃取或以其他方式获取数据”的应用程序。根据这项规定,美国商务部长有权对“存在不可接受的安全风险”的外国应用程序采取限制措施,这可能会使微信、TikTok等社交媒体平台和其他互联网应用程序软件受到更严格的监管甚至被禁用。由此看来,“微信用户诉美国案”的胜利或许只是暂时的,未来仍可能要再次维权。

“微信用户诉美国案”司法维权策略的成功表明,应当用美国的价值观来反击美国政府的偏见,用美国的法律来规制美国政府对中国企业滥用权力的行为。首先,在诉讼过程中,可利用美国司法独立制度,抵制美国政府行政权力的滥用。其次,可利用程序正义原则反制美国政府以“国家安全”为名打压中国企业。最后,无论是司法诉讼还是政治沟通,其根本目的都是向美国政府施压并最终寻求和解及迫使其解除禁令。中国企业应以此为导向,采取多项法律措施,如申请诉前禁令、通过法院要求披露证据信息,借助舆论宣传争取美国企业和公众的支持,以影响司法机构的判定。作为美国的主要限制对象,中国高科技产业应当适应中美科技竞争常态化的态势,做好合规制度和风险预警机制建设,加强法律人才的培养和储备,以提高基础创新能力为支撑,积极开展法律维权行动,坚定维护中国企业海外合法权益。

(原文刊发于《当代美国评论》2022年第1期,文中注释略。)

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated, with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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