Chinese authorities will establish mechanisms to respond quickly to cases that harm attorneys’ professional rights, the Ministry of Justice said on April 26.
The All China Lawyers Association and 10 government authorities, including judicial organs and the ministries of foreign affairs, finance and commerce, have set up a joint conference to communicate and deal with such cases.
Meanwhile, all provinces and regions will set up a similar mechanism before the end of June, Liu Fuchen, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said at a news conference on April 26.
“We will use the platform to communicate with each other, conduct research and resolve some policy issues, as well as to coordinate on major cases and emergencies in a timely manner that infringe upon lawyers’ defense rights,” he said.
In recent years, a growing number of violations of lawyers’ legal rights have occurred, attracting a lot of public attention, according to the ministry.
Xiong Xuanguo, vice-minister of justice, said lawyers face difficulties meeting with suspects in criminal detention, especially when their cases involve endangering State safety or terrorist attacks, or in cases of major corruption.
In addition, some judicial authorities limit the ability of lawyers to review case files, and stop them from collecting evidence. They interrupt defense statements during court hearings, remove them from the courtroom or even illegally detain them, he said.
In April, the All China Lawyers Association, which works under the ministry, issued a regulation to better protect the legal rights of lawyers and strictly govern their behavior to ensure the healthy development of the profession.
The new rules clearly state that lawyers can report any violation of their legal rights — including the right to meet clients, collect evidence, read files, make appeals or file complaints to local association branches, judicial administration departments or a higher prosecuting department — and that these reports must be accepted and responded to quickly.
In addition, two centers have been set up at lawyers associations nationwide — one for the protection of lawyers’ legal rights and the other to deal with complaints and reports against lawyers.
According to Wang Junfeng, president of the All China Lawyers Association, local branches of the association will compile lawyers’ complaints and report them once a month, which will make them public.
Xiong said the ministry will complete a thorough review of cases that harmed lawyers’ rights before the end of June to ensure their reports are dealt with.
Ministry data show that, as of the end of 2016, China had more than 26,000 law firms and around 328,000 lawyers. They handled 3.54 million civil cases and 840,000 criminal cases last year.