China Amnesty publishes report on legal profession in China
1 July 2011

China Amnesty publishes report on legal profession in China

In an Amnesty International report published on 30 June 2011, the increased pressure on and control of the legal profession by the authorities in China is detailed. According to the report, “the Chinese government has unleashed an uncompromising series of measures intended to rein in the legal profession and suppress lawyers pursuing human rights cases.”

The announcement of the report on Amnesty’s website reads:
“Government fears of a “Jasmine Revolution” inspired by the Arab Spring have led to the detention of scores of government critics, activists and netizens since February.

As part of the crackdown, the government is rounding up lawyers associated with issues such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression and land rights.
Every year members of the legal profession in China have to undergo an ‘Annual Assessment’ which many believe has no basis under Chinese law. Local authorities assess law firms, while individual lawyers are assessed by supposedly independent lawyers associations. Lawyers who dare to take up ‘sensitive’ cases, such as human rights cases, often fail this assessment, which leads to their licence being suspended or revoked.
When annual assessment or threats fail to deter lawyers taking on such cases, lawyers are silenced by the authorities in ways that violate international human rights standards, and even China’s own laws.
The pressure, intimidation and persecution faced by human rights lawyers have kept their numbers down. Out of more than 204,000 lawyers in China, only a brave few hundred risk taking on cases that deal with human rights.
New regulations introduced in 2009-2010 prohibit lawyers from defending certain clients, commenting on their work to the media or challenging court malpractice, and expand the basis for lawyers to be charged with the crime of “inciting subversion” when carrying out legal defence.
The measures have made legal representation more difficult to find for those who need it most.
These include people prosecuted for membership of unofficial religious groups including the Falun Gong spiritual movement, Tibetan and Uighur protestors, victims of forced evictions, or those who challenge the government’s response to natural disasters or food safety issues.”

Read the full report, which is called ‘Against the Law – Crackdown on China’s Human Rights Lawyers Deepens’, here.

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