Online behavior rules vex China’s lawyers

By Hu Qingyun Source:Global Times Published: 2014-6-18 1:13:02

The All China Lawyers Association (ACLA) may start punishing lawyers for any online misbehavior, according to two regulation drafts sent to the Global Times by lawyers, who said that any tightened restriction over online comments will be unacceptable.

The violations include posting improper comments about cases online to obstruct justice, defaming China's judicial and political system, or damaging litigants' reputation, read the drafts. 

Lawyers who violate the rules will receive a warning or be publicly condemned. If the violation causes severe consequences, the association will suspend the lawyer's membership for six months to one year or even expel the lawyer.

Wang Cailiang, a Beijing-based lawyer and vice director with the Administrative Law Committee of the ACLA, said that it is necessary for the association to better regulate lawyers, but it has taken the wrong direction.

"The main problem among lawyers is corruption as some tried to win more cases by bribing judges. Corruption has damaged our reputation the most rather than online comments," Wang said.

The association did not solicit opinions publicly but the drafts have been spread among lawyers after it was discussed by the executive board in May, Wang said. Many members from different subsidiary committees have submitted their opinions to the executive board.

The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post quoted Wang Lihua, executive director of the association, as saying that the drafts have yet to be approved, and the focus is not solely on regulating lawyers' online behavior.

The drafts also prohibit lawyers from publishing case-related documents online before a verdict comes into effect, which Wang said was not acceptable.

"Judicial authorities have called for transparency and now require verdicts to be disclosed online, including the verdict of the first trial which may be appealed," Wang said.

The Beijing Lawyers Association also has similar regulations for local lawyers, which became effective in March.

It has filed a case to investigate Zhou Ze, a lawyer who published legal documents relating to a libel case against a reporter who accused officials of misconduct via online posts.

However, some lawyers did violate the law when commenting online.

In January, Beijing-based lawyer Zhou Cuili, who defended a suspect in a gang rape case involving a minor who is the son of two famous military singers, was publicly condemned for revealing details of the closed trial online.

Many lawyers wrote on their Sina Weibo accounts that they should be regulated by laws rather than the ACLA, which should protect lawyers' rights rather than restrict them. 

However, Bi Yuqian, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, said that the ACLA has the right and responsibility to supervise lawyers and that self-regulation is necessary as China lacks sufficient laws to regulate online comments.

Newspaper headline: Leaks of case files to be punishable

Posted in: Law

blog comments powered by Disqus