Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Prosecute lawyers for the sake of rule of law

In the US we often hear jokes about lawyers, but few of them suggest we follow the Chinese lead.

Uncivil
According to Amnesty International, around 120 lawyers, as well as more than 50 support staff, family members and activists, have been rounded up [in China] since the pre-dawn hours of July 9th… as The Economist went to press at least 31 were still missing or were believed to remain in custody…

Teng Biao, a Chinese lawyer and activist currently in America, says it includes nearly all of China’s civil-rights lawyers…

The police have focused particular attention on Fengrui, a law firm in Beijing. It was set up in 2007 and is known for defending dissidents as well as suing on behalf of people forcibly evicted from their homes and victims of miscarried justice. The police have accused some Fengrui staff of being part of a “major criminal gang” whose members stirred up discontent about the government in more than 40 incidents of “public disorder” in the past three years…

Since taking office in 2012 Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has stressed the need for the “rule of law”, but has made it clear that he means something different: shoring up the party’s control, not holding it to account. Several years ago the party tolerated civil-rights lawyers…

This month a bill was passed which could provide a legal basis for the government to define almost anything as a threat to national security. Finding a good lawyer in China may become harder.

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