10/3/16: Meeting with Chinese Lawyers

The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG), in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on China, met with lawyers from China to discuss the recent crackdown against the legal community in the country.

The main points raised during the meeting were as follows:

  • In recent years, China has made progress in improving its justice system, for example, fewer crimes now attract the death penalty.
  • However, the Government has been tightening its control on civil society, making it more difficult for NGOs and others to operate.
  • A crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists began in July 2015. Over 250 lawyers have been affected across various provinces.
  • Last month, 13 human rights lawyers and legal assistants detained since last July were formally arrested, ten for the crime of “subversion of state power”.
  • Recently, some lawyers have been forced to make televised ‘confessions’, where they have had to publically admit to wrongdoing.
  • In a statement in February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the authorities “too often reflexively confuse the legitimate role of lawyers and activists with threats to public order and security.”
  • Some scholars of China’s legal system refer to “zones of exception” whereby some categories of people are treated outside the criminal law or disproportionately.
  • The not-guilty ratio in criminal cases is around 0.06%.  The work of criminal defence lawyers remains very challenging.
  • UK Parliamentarians should press the UK Government to raise arrests of Chinese lawyers with the Chinese Government.
  • Statements made by the legal community and other international actors in response to previous arrests have made a positive impact on the ground in China.

The PHRG is continuing to follow developments in China. See EDM 859 tabled by PHRG Chair Ann Clwyd MP on this issue.