Lawyers do battle on reform’s front lines

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-10-10 22:30:05

Illustration: Liu Rui
Illustration: Liu Rui

The State Council Information Office issued a white paper on judicial reform Tuesday, reviewing China's judicial system and reform process. The white paper also stresses the role of lawyers in the reform process.

Lawyers, as a vital part of China's judicial system, can certainly help promote the future reform process during their practice of the law. But the premise of this is not to set lawyers in opposition to the judicial system.

In the courts, there are a few instances when judges do not rule in accordance with the legal process and so lawyers would voice their discontent and suggestions. Under China's current legal system, the case can be reheard.

However, some judges take lawyers' doubts and suggestions as a challenge to their authority and take actions against lawyers such as ordering them to leave the court.

If things continue this way, the conflict between lawyers and judges can only be escalated, which is no good for the judicial reform.

Protecting lawyers' rights is an important part in the reform process. Among professionals, it is widely known that there are a few unofficial restrictions, or tacit rules, that prevent lawyers from obtaining evidence or even meeting their clients who are being held in custody.

This is especially true in some criminal or administrative cases. Lawyers can practice their rights by abiding by relevant laws, but there is no explicit rule to protect their rights when their rights are violated.

Lawyers in China believe that the country's judicial system will improve, and we hope that before drafting new laws and regulations, relevant authorities could take lawyers' advice into serious consideration because we are practicing law on the front lines.

On the other hand, lawyers should bear in mind that they should not abuse their rights.

For example, audio or video recording of court proceedings is not allowed under the law. While some lawyers are not satisfied with what the judges say or what the procuratorate has done, they record the proceedings and upload them on the Internet. As a result, the relationship between lawyers and the legal authorities has deteriorated and turned into a vicious circle.

In recent years, there have been constant cases where active rights lawyers initiated campaigns against unconstitutional systems. A famous case is Xu Zhiyong, who campaigned in 2003 against China's extralegal detention of people who stayed in cities while lacking a residential permit.

Xu called upon the National People's Congress to check whether such forms of detention was constitutional after a university graduate died after being beaten in police custody. The system was abolished later that year.

Another well-known campaign is a current petition involving a number of lawyers to abolish China's reeducation through labor system, a process which does not currently have to go through legal procedure or a proper trial. Plans for the reform of the system are under discussion now.

The contributions of lawyers in promoting a more independent and transparent judicial system cannot be neglected. The status of lawyers is not only about that of a profession, but also indicates the extent to which the rule of law functions.

Honestly, lawyers' participation in the judicial system reform still lacks attention in terms of both theory and practice. We hope a consensus that all legal professions are equal could be reached, so that all parties, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers, can contribute to the reform process.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Wang Wenwen based on an interview with Lin Xue, a lawyer at Beijing Lianggao Law Firm.

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