August 06th, 2012 | Global Times Henan lawyers face restrictions
The justice department of Central China’s Henan Province recently issued guidelines to tighten supervision of lawyers dealing with three categories of lawsuits, which experts say will further restrict the rights of local attorneys.
The three categories are “important” cases that involve “many clients or defendants of special identities or those who have committed serious crimes with widespread influence,” and “sensitive” cases that may “give rise to mass incidents” and then cause “negative effects on social stability,” as well as “massive” cases that involve more than 10 clients, according to the guidelines, which were posted on the website of the lawyers association of Sanmenxia city in western Henan.
Cases involving land expropriation and housing demolition are included in the three categories.
Lawyers dealing with these cases are required to submit a written report to judicial authorities within two days, outlining their client’s defense against the charges.
This is not the first time that guidelines have been developed for the supervision of lawyers. In 2006, similar guidelines were drafted by the All China Lawyers Association, according to Wang Cailiang, a lawyer with the association who was one of the drafters of the older guidelines.
“Lawyers’ rights in Henan are being further restricted,” Wang told the Global Times on Sunday.
According to the Henan guidelines, local judicial departments are required to strictly enforce supervision over lawyers and anyone who violates the guidelines can receive administrative punishment.
“The guidelines may greatly discourage local lawyers,” said Wang. “People in Henan may find it even more difficult to protect their rights in the future.”
A lawyer in Henan who asked to remain anonymous confirmed his law firm had received the guidelines, and he would try to avoid the three categories in the future to protect himself.
“A lot of us now choose to provide legal consultancy services only, rather than defend clients in court in order to stay out of trouble,” he told the Global Times.
The province says the guidelines were issued to “maintain social stability and improve social harmony” leading up to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China scheduled for this fall.
Wang, however, said the key to social stability is to stop crime and to protect the basic rights of common people, rather than restrict lawyers’ rights, a sentiment that is echoed by Zhang Kai, a Beijing-based lawyer.
“The more intense the conflicts are, the more it is necessary for lawyers to get involved and resolve the conflicts,” Zhang told the Global Times on Sunday.
By Ling Yuhuan