110 lawyers have signed a petition calling upon China to rescind amendments to its Administrative Measures for Law Firms, a measure rumoured to be rolling out on November 1, according to Canyu, a Chinese human rights website.

The amendments will mean that law firms cannot “indulge” their lawyers and must prevent them from “forming groups, gathering signatures for petitions, issuing open letters, congregating online, vocally supporting or using the excuse of case study to create pressure, to attack, or to slander the judicial system.”

A Chinese court room.

Lawyers also cannot “without proper reason, fail to follow court orders to appear in court to participate in lawsuits, or go against court rules.”

‘Draconian’ measures

NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) called the revisions “draconian” in a statement. It said the amendments “will further restrict lawyers from exercising their professional duties in defending clients’ rights involved in high-risk political cases.”

CHRD also said that a Chinese human rights lawyer told it that “these measures are directed at human rights lawyers. In fact, authorities are catching up with the punitive treatment of the lawyers detained in the ‘709 Crackdown.’”

At a demonstration staged by detained lawyers’ family members and lawyers in the 709 crackdown. Photo: Twitter/CHRLCG.

Last year, China detained and formally arrested many human rights lawyers for “subversion of state power,” on July 9 and 10. Many lawyers remain in detention in what is known as the “709 crackdown.”

The lawyers’ petition statement said: “We believe that this is against procedures for creating regulations, severely violates the constitution, and goes against law and international legal documents. It also goes against the benefits of the country and citizens…. Therefore, it should be rescinded.” It criticised the authorities for failing to solicit public comments before introducing the amendments.

CHRD said that the provisions “will have an especially chilling effect on lawyers who may fear reprisals if they take on politically ‘sensitive’ cases.” Doing so may lead to the law firm dismissing the the lawyer, meaning that the lawyer can no longer practice, it added.

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Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.