The Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers Calls For a Halt to Recent Physical Attacks on Lawyers by Court OfficersLeitner Center for International Law and Justice in CHINAaid, February 07, 2011
The Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers today calls upon Chinese authorities to investigate and put an end to the recent upswing in physical attacks on lawyers being carried out by officers of the Chinese court system during hearings. China has repeatedly committed itself to the rule of law and the independence of the legal profession. The infliction of bodily harm upon attorneys at court has absolutely no place within the courts of justice; failing to hold those responsible to account fatally undermines the purpose, validity, and impartiality of the court system.
We understand the facts to be as follows: On the morning of January 24, 2011, lawyers Wen Yongquan [文永泉] and Liu Guiying [刘桂英] of the Jiaxu Law Firm [佳旭律师事务所] came to the Daoli District People's Court in Harbin City to defend a client accused of fraud. Rong Jingpeng [荣敬朋], Yuan Ziyi [苑紫毅], Li Hongjie [李宏杰], Zhang Shurui [章舒锐], Hao Shuang [郝爽], and Zheng Song [郑松], other lawyers and interns from the firm, also arrived; when they attempted to attend the hearing, a court officer told them there was no room. When Wen attempted to intervene and Rong began videotaping the proceedings with her phone, the court police attacked both of them. The court police proceeded to confiscate Rong's phone and Wen's legal license, beating the eight lawyers in the process and then detaining them.
Liu and Rong were both pregnant. As a result of the beatings, both were injured; Liu began to bleed and cramp, forcing her to end her pregnancy two days later.
While particularly repugnant, this is not the only such incident reported in recent months. We understand that on December 7, 2010, Beijing lawyers Dong Qianyong [董前勇] and Wang Quanzhang [王全章] were prevented from doing their work in court, and Dong was beaten, in Chang'an District People's Court in Xi'an City (Shaanxi Province). Dong and Wang were acting as criminal defense lawyers for a village leader who was challenging the local government. In another case, on September 2, 2010, Dong was pushed out of the courtroom and beaten severely by several court police officers, after he objected to a security check being carried out on his colleague Zhang Kai.
Physically attacking lawyers with impunity for actions taken as part of their professional functions is contrary to fundamental principles of the rule of law. By placing the lawyers who represent clients against the government in physical fear, such violence can only have a chilling effect on their willingness to fully and zealously represent those clients. Moreover, it runs afoul of foundational human rights, set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the right to the security of one's person, and the right to be free of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
Based on these reports, the Committee today sent a letter (enclosed) to the Ministry of Justice, calling upon it to investigate the recent abuses against lawyers. In its letter, the Committee called upon the government to uphold China's existing commitment to the rule of law and to ensure the effective protection of lawyers carrying out their professional functions.
The Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers (http://www.csclawyers.org) is a group of independent lawyers from outside China whose goal is to support lawyers in China in their quest to strengthen the rule of law there. The Committee, which is housed at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School in New York City, seeks to strengthen the role of lawyers and to promote their independence.
For more information about these issues, please go to www.csclawyers.org or contact Joy Chia at 212-636-7271.