China’s national association of lawyers unveiled a set of regulations on March 24 to better protect the legal rights of lawyers and strictly regulate their behavior to ensure the healthy development of the profession.
The regulations include an amendment to lawyers’ professional code of conduct, an amendment to the punishment rules and a new regulation on the protection of lawyers’ rights, according to the All China Lawyers Association.
The new rules make clear that lawyers can directly report any violation of their legal rights－including the rights to meet suspects, collect evidence, read files, make appeals and file complaints－to the local branches of the lawyers association, and these reports must be accepted and handled.
If lawyers are subjected to insults, slander, threats or acts of revenge, if they are stopped from speaking during a court hearing, removed from the courtroom or are illegally detained, they can also turn to local lawyers association for legal protection.
However, the new rules also clearly ban lawyers from engaging in any activities that might endanger national security, or from making use of their profession to plan, incite or organize individuals to disrupt social order. Violators will be warned and could face loss of their licenses and even criminal charges.
“Better protection of lawyers’ rights and stricter supervision of their behavior will help ensure a healthy legal community and high-quality legal service for clients,” said Wang Junfeng, president of the All China Lawyers Association.
By the end of last year, China had more than 26,000 law firms and a total of 328,000 lawyers, who handled 3.54 million civil cases and 840,000 criminal cases, according to the association.
The number of lawyers has increased from 2007 to 2016 by an average of 9.5 percent annually, and the number of law firms rose by 7.5 percent annually in that period, the Ministry of Justice said.
Concurrent with the growth in the number of lawyers and legal cases, however, a number of incidences of lawyers’ legal rights being violated or lawyers engaging in illegal behavior have occurred in recent years, and this has aroused high public attention.
To better protect lawyers’ rights and tighten supervision, lawyers association branches are required to open hotlines, email addresses and online complaint channels.
At the national level, two centers have been established, one for the protection of lawyers’ rights and the other to handle complaints and reports against lawyers, said Jiang Min, a spokesman for the association.
“After the two centers are in operation, lawyers whose legal rights are abused will receive special protection, and those who violate the regulations will encounter direct complaints from the clients and face severe punishments,” he said.