Full Text: Judicial Reform in China (18)

(Xinhua)

15:04, April 17, 2013

3. Protecting Lawyers' Rights to Practice

The protection of lawyers' rights to practice in the course of criminal litigation is essential to protecting the lawful rights and interests of the criminal suspect or defendant and ensuring that such cases are dealt with impartially. China is revising related laws to provide a legal guarantee for lawyers to overcome difficulties in meeting with the suspect or defendant, accessing to materials concerning the case and obtaining evidence through investigation.

The Law of the People's Republic of China on Lawyers, amended in 2007, supplemented and stressed lawyers' rights in the course of litigation, particularly criminal litigation. It stipulates that the representation or defense opinions presented in court by a lawyer shall not be subject to legal prosecution so long as they do not compromise national security, maliciously defame others or seriously disrupt court order. These measures have effectively promoted the exercise of the defense function of lawyers. From 2006 to 2011, lawyers throughout the country provided defense for a total of 2,454,222 cases, an increase of 54.16% over the period 2001-2005.

A timely meeting with a client in custody, access to case materials and obtaining evidence through investigation bear directly on the practice of the defense attorney in criminal litigation. The Criminal Procedure Law amended in 2012 specifies that, except for few cases, a defense attorney who holds a license for practicing law, a certificate of his law firm and a letter of attorney or an official legal assistance letter may meet a detained suspect or defendant. Such a meeting is not to be monitored. Starting from the date of the review by the people's procuratorate, a defense attorney may have access to, extract and copy filed materials concerning the case. A defender may apply to the relevant people's procuratorate or people's court for evidence of the innocence of the defendant or the insignificance of the alleged crime collected by the public security organ or the people's procuratorate. It also specifies that if a defender thinks the public security organ, the people's procuratorate, the people's court or their staff hinders him/her from exercising his/her litigation right, he/she has the right to make a petition/accusation to a people's procuratorate at the same level or at the next higher level. The people's procuratorate must review the petition/accusation in a timely fashion. If the petition/accusation is true, the people's procuratorate will notify the relevant department to make corrections to its acts.

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