New Regulatory Curbs on Lawyers Representing Protesters
December 12, 2006

This 71-page report details the “Guiding Opinions on Lawyers Handling Mass Cases,” which were introduced in March 2006, and discusses subsequently adopted local variants. The report explains how the Guiding Opinions let local authorities interfere in cases involving 10 or more plaintiffs, making it more difficult for the cases to get a fair hearing in court. Human Rights Watch said that the new regulations also discourage lawyers from talking to domestic or international media, require that they get their firms’ permission to take on such cases, and hold lawyers liable if disputes “intensify.”

The development of a strong, independent legal profession in China is critical to the country’s long-term stability.1 The Chinese party-state has repeatedly stressed the need to develop the legal profession as part of its stated commitment to rule of law, and extolled the role that lawyers can play in resolving social contradictions. Yet in March 2006 the authorities introduced new regulatory curbs on lawyers representing protesters and plaintiffs bringing collective lawsuits. These restrictions effectively deprive people with lawful collective complaints of meaningful legal representation, and risk instilling a sense of futility about legal avenues of redress that may exacerbate social unrest in the future. This is a significant development for the fate of legal reforms in China. This report analyses the new regulations and the background against which they were adopted.

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ISBN: C1815