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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07SHANGHAI770
2007-12-04 08:20:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Shanghai
Cable title:  

EAST CHINA LEGAL CONTACTS ON NEW LAWYER LAW

Tags:   PHUM  KJUS  PGOV  PINR  CH 
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VZCZCXRO2852
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FM AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
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INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1556
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0982
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0952
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 1108
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 0982
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 0801
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 7011
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SHANGHAI 000770 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/CM AND DRL/PHD
DOC FOR ITA - DAS KASOFF, CMCQUEEN, LRIGOLI, ESZYMANSKI

E.O. 12958: DECL: XI MANUAL REVIEW
TAGS: PHUM KJUS PGOV PINR CH
SUBJECT: EAST CHINA LEGAL CONTACTS ON NEW LAWYER LAW


CLASSIFIED BY: Christopher Beede, Political/Economic Section
Chief , U.S. Consulate , Shanghai .
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)



C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SHANGHAI 000770

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/CM AND DRL/PHD
DOC FOR ITA - DAS KASOFF, CMCQUEEN, LRIGOLI, ESZYMANSKI

E.O. 12958: DECL: XI MANUAL REVIEW
TAGS: PHUM KJUS PGOV PINR CH
SUBJECT: EAST CHINA LEGAL CONTACTS ON NEW LAWYER LAW


CLASSIFIED BY: Christopher Beede, Political/Economic Section
Chief , U.S. Consulate , Shanghai .
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)




1. (C) Summary: East China legal contacts are cautiously
optimistic that the new Lawyer Law passed on October 28 and
scheduled to be implemented on June 1, 2008 will increase legal
protections for Chinese lawyers. The law expands the rights of
lawyers to meet clients in criminal cases without supervision,
legalizes individual law practices and strengthens the ability
of lawyers to get access to files and records submitted during
trials. However, the law has a number of flaws, according to
our interlocutors. Lawyers can still be prosecuted for their
statements in court if the statements "harm national security,
slander others or disrupt order in court." Lawyers also can be
held accountable if their clients stage protests, leading some
lawyers to avoid housing demolition or mass dispute cases.
Interlocutors stressed that the law will only have "teeth" if
the procuratorate, local courts, and law enforcement officials
actively implement it and change their own internal regulations.
Legal contacts also observed that the rule of law atmosphere in
China has become tighter and reported that the government
cancelled at least two rule of law programs because of fears of
"foreign foes' perversion" in the Chinese legal system. End
Summary.

New Lawyer Law: A Law Without Teeth?
--------------


2. (SBU) On October 28, the National People's Congress passed a
new Lawyer Law which replaces the old Lawyer Law that had been
in effect since January 1997. The new law redefines the role of
lawyers by giving them a greater role in promoting a stable
society. In the previous law, lawyers were seen as businessmen
and did not have a role in promoting social justice. The new
law acknowledges that lawyers should protect justice and promote

equality in society. It will be implemented on June 1, 2008.
In the past few weeks, FSN Rule of Law Coordinator and
Political/Economic Section Chief solicited opinions and comments
from a wide range of lawyers, professors, and judges in East
China on the law.


3. (C) In a meeting on November 21, ROLC and Pol/Econ Section
Chief met with prominent Shanghai legal experts including
criminal defense lawyers and legal scholars. They are
cautiously optimistic that the law will provide more protections
to lawyers, but expressed concerns about the law's actual
implementation after June 1. Zhang Peihong, a criminal defense
lawyer from Shanghai Zhaijian Law, welcomed the new Lawyer Law.
He said the old one was widely criticized by lawyers as a
"Lawyer Punishment Law" under which hundreds of lawyers were
unfairly arrested during the past 10 years. Zhang was pleased
that the new law strengthened the rights of lawyers during court
proceedings. Specifically, it provides lawyers with immunity for
their statements in court and gives them more power to collect
evidence and witness testimony. Hu Daoqin, a partner at Cenlaw
& Partners, was also pleased with the law and noted that it
provides lawyers with more authority to meet clients in custody.
The new law allows for a lawyer to meet with a suspect or
defendant without the approval or supervision (Jian Ting) of the
public security organ, procuratorate or courts. The only
requirement is that the lawyer must present three documents to
the detention center: lawyers certificate, law firm approval,
and a letter from the client granting power of attorney.


4. (C) Fudan University Law School Professor Zhang Wusheng and
East China University of Law and Politics Professor Tong Zhiwei
agreed with the lawyers that the law improves the ability of
lawyers in representing their clients. They added that the law
also improves the ability of lawyers to get access to any
records or files that are submitted to the court during a trial.
They cautioned, however, that it is hard to tell whether these
improvements would be implemented and if the improvements will
affect the daily practice of lawyers, especially if there is no
cooperation from the police, courts and the procuratorate.
First, the law conflicts with the current Criminal Procedure Law
which states that when lawyers meet with criminal suspects in
detention, investigative organs can send personnel to be present
at the meeting, depending on the circumstances and need. The
lawyers and legal experts at the meeting noted reports in the
Chinese media that the Criminal Procedure Law will be amended
next year and hoped that this will resolve the conflict between

SHANGHAI 00000770 002 OF 003


the two laws. Second, in practice, access to clients is
governed not only by the provisions of the Criminal Procedure
Law but by the police's regulations that tend to be more
restrictive. These regulations need to be changed before there
is any actual progress on this issue. Zhang Peihong concluded
that without those coordinated changes by the police, courts and
procuratorate, the new Lawyer Law is just a "law without teeth."

Individual Law Practices
--------------


5. (C) The lawyers and legal experts with whom we met all
applauded the new Lawyer Law's inclusion of an article
legalizing individual law practices. According to article 16 of
the new law, "individual law firms" are permitted. Previously,
lawyers could not open their own firms and worked in large law
firms, which had at least three partners. In a meeting with
ROLC on November 19, Shanghai Li Xiaohua Law Firm Partner Li
Xiaohua explained that under the law there are three forms of
organization: state-owned, partnership, and individual.
"Cooperative" law firms which are only liable for debts that are
equal to its assets have disappeared. Li said that the
legalization of individual law firms is a result of experiments
in Shanghai and Beijing, in which individual lawyers were
allowed to open their own firms. These types of firms provide
lawyers with more freedom to take on cases and flexibility. The
new law requires that a lawyer must have at least five years of
experience in practicing law before opening his or her own firm.
Despite this restriction, Li expects that the number of such
firms will increase in many cities.

Legal Traps Remain
--------------


6. (C) While legal experts and lawyers support the new law
overall, they voiced concerns about some of the law's clauses.
Zhang Peihong said that although the new Lawyer Law reaffirmed
that lawyers are immune from punishment for their statements in
court, he worried that lawyers could still be prosecuted for
their statements because of a potentially easily manipulated
clause in the new law. The clause states that lawyers are
immune "except for speeches that harm national security, slander
others or disrupt order in court." "Harming state security" is
often used for politically-motivated prosecutions, according to
Zhang. He said it is difficult for criminal defense lawyers to
know whether what they say in a courtroom could harm national
security.


7. (C) The experts were also concerned about a clause in the
new Lawyer Law that explicitly prohibits lawyers from "inciting
and instigating plaintiffs to adopt illegal means such as
creating public disturbances and/or harming public order to
solve disputes." The experts said that on its face the
provision is not controversial, but in reality, it makes it very
risky for lawyers to represent protestors and mass dispute
cases, given how loosely these disturbances are defined in
practice. Zhang Wusheng pointed out that in China there are
many mass dispute cases related to land and housing demolishment
issues and it would be very easy for the government to accuse
lawyers in these cases of "creating public disturbances and/or
harming public order". Hu Daoqin said that his law firm
recently had to reject a housing demolishment case in Shanghai
because there was too much political pressure. Zhang Peihong
described the clause as a sword hung above the head of lawyers
who want to defend human rights and religious activists. Li
Chen, a partner at the Zhibang Law Firm in Nanjing, told ROLC in
a discussion on November 27 that because of a Jiangsu internal
regulation, he had to report to the Jiangsu Bar Association
plans of one of his clients to organize a protest against the
Jiangsu Provincial Government. Li felt conflicted by the
request since he thought that it was against a lawyer's
conscience and obligation to his client. In the end, he told
his client about the regulation before reporting the client's
plans to protest to the government. Li said that with such a
provision in the new Lawyer law, he expected more lawyers will
face his same dilemma.

Controls on Bar Associations Continue
--------------


8. (C) The lawyers and legal experts with whom ROLC spoke
believe that the Central Government has retreated on its initial
plan to grant bar associations more self-regulatory powers and
have left bar associations firmly under the control and

SHANGHAI 00000770 003 OF 003


supervision of judicial bureaus. Despite government efforts to
maintain strong control over bar associations, interlocutors
said that East China lawyers are trying to make the associations
more independent. According to Zhang Peihong, Shanghai lawyers
had planned to freely elect the president of the Shanghai Bar
Association instead of voting for the candidates appointed by
the government next year. The Shanghai Government squashed the
plan, but will allow Shanghai lawyers to freely elect the
Commissioner of the Shanghai Bar Association for the first time
next year. According to Li Chen, the Jiangsu Bar Association
was not able to pass its articles of association last year
because lawyers were not satisfied with the increase in
membership fees. Without the passage of the articles of
association, the Jiangsu Bar Association is not a legal entity.

Tight Rule of Law Atmosphere
--------------


9. (C) Interlocutors also voice concerns about the current rule
of law atmosphere in East China. They said that the current
political atmosphere for rule of law projects in China is not
positive and top leaders are wary of foreign influence on
lawyers. According to Zhang Peihong, a NYU Law School-sponsored
criminal defense lawyers training program that he attended in
2006 was stopped by the Central Government. There is a rumor
that President Hu Jintao personally asked that this program be
cancelled. Li Chen reported that a foreign law firm's training
workshop on private finance law in Hebei Province was recently
cancelled after President Hu wrote a letter that requested the
Ministry of Justice to be careful of "foreign foes' pervasion"
in China's legal system. (Comment: It is unclear where Li and
Zhang received their information on President Hu and whether
this information is credible. It is unlikely that Li actually
saw a copy of the letter. End Comment.)

Comment
--------------


10. (C) While it appears that the new Lawyer Law is a step
forward in providing lawyers with more legal protections,
lawyers continue to be vulnerable to political pressure. Real
change also depends on the courts, procuratorate, and local law
enforcement officials taking a proactive approach in
implementing the law and allowing the law to have teeth.
JARRETT