The spokesperson for the annual session of China’s legislative body has called the term “human rights lawyers” controversial, as she discussed issues such as air pollution and the lawyers crackdown on Friday.

Speaking to the media ahead of the fourth session of the 12th National People’s Congress that is to commence on Saturday, spokesperson Fu Ying said that the cases concerning the lawyers have generated a lot of discussion and that the judiciary will deal with them in accordance with procedures, RTHK reported.

Fu Ying. File Photo: Apple Daily.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say that they disagree with the term,” Fu said, adding that it was a classification in the political sense. “Lawyers should be a role model when it comes to abiding by the law. They should act according to the state’s law of the lawyers, and they should respect the Constitution.”

“If lawyers knowingly break the law, they should also be punished under the law,” she said.

According to Fu, there are now over 300,000 lawyers in China, up from around 2,000 in 1979. Fu said that they play an essential role in ensuring the proper implementation of law and safeguarding social justice.

A poster calling for the release of the arrested lawyers. Photo: China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group via Facebook.

Beijing’s crackdown on human rights lawyers began on July 9 last year, with the arrests of human rights lawyer Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun. According to a UN statement in February, has detained about 250 “human rights lawyers, legal assistants, and activists”, although some have since been released.

Earlier, deputy chairman of the All-China Lawyers Association Zhu Zhengfu has called for an end to the country’s controversial televised confessions. Just last week, Beijing human rights lawyer Zhang Kai “confessed” to “breaking the country’s law, disrupting social order, endangering state security” on state television after offering legal counsel to churches targeted in a province-wide crackdown.

Air pollution problem: a balancing exercise

Fu also said that the government is under a lot of pressure to tackle the problem of air pollution and has heard the cries of the people in recent years, but the issue is complicated. Fu said that resolving such matters often come with a price and that a balance needs to be struck between individual, institutional and overall interests.

Smog in Shanghai. Photo: Wikicommons.

After three years of intense supervision and legislative work by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, and the State Council is about to introduce laws to control air pollution, Fu said.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.