Law Council joins UN and IBA in concern for Chinese lawyers
Attributable to Law Council of Australia President Duncan McConnel:
- The Law Council of Australia expresses deep concern that more than five months after a crackdown on the legal profession commenced on 9 July 2015 (otherwise known as the ‘709 crackdown’), many lawyers are still missing, detained, held under residential surveillance or forbidden from leaving China.
- According to reports, more than 300 lawyers, law firm staff, human rights activists and family members have been affected since July 2015. 36 lawyers and activists are currently detained or being held incommunicado and 30 lawyers and activists are forbidden from leaving China. The crackdown on lawyers has been comprehensive, destabilising personal and professional lives.
- Prominent lawyers, such as Wang Yu (王宇), Li Shuyun (李姝云) and Sui Muqing (隋牧青) are being held in secret locations without access to legal assistance or their families. Chinese authorities have restricted access to information on these and many other cases.
- The independence of the legal profession must be protected. Lawyers must be able to work without fear of reprisal and their family members should be treated in a manner consistent with rule of law principles.
- The Law Council of Australia joins with the recent comments by the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) and the International Bar Association in expressing deep concern with the treatment of the legal profession in China. As CAT stated in its Concluding Observations issued last week, China should:
- stop sanctioning lawyers for actions taken in accordance with recognised professional duties;
- ensure the prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of all the human rights violations perpetrated against lawyers;
- adopt the necessary measures without delay to ensure the development of a fully independent and self-regulating legal profession; and
- undertake a review of all the legislation affecting the exercise of the legal profession in accordance with international standards, with a view to amend those provisions that undermine lawyers’ independence.
- The Law Council of Australia has raised, and will continue to raise, its concerns with senior Australian Government officials, including in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Law Council of Australia has encouraged representations to be made by the Federal Government to senior representatives in the Chinese Government, publicly and privately.
- Greater efforts should be made by the Australian Government to promote and protect the independence of the legal profession in China. The Law Council of Australia will ensure these issues are raised in the lead up to and during the next Australia-China Human Rights Dialogue, scheduled for early 2016.
- On behalf of the Australian legal profession, the Law Council of Australia will persist in calling upon the protections in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers to be respected, the CAT Concluding Observations to be implemented and the rule of law to be upheld in China.
Anil Lambert (media) | M: 0416 426 722 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.lawcouncil.asn.au