The adoption of the ACLA Guiding Opinions immediately prompted the promulgation of comparable regulations at the local level in several municipalities and provinces, such as Henan, Guangdong, Shenyang, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou. Although some of these regulations have not officially been made public, media reports have disclosed all regulations requiring lawyers to seek instructions and report to local judicial bureaus when handling sensitive or mass cases.
Many of the local regulations appear considerably more explicit and restrictive than the Guiding Opinions. For instance, whereas the latter instruct lawyers to exercise caution in their dealings with foreign organizations, local variants state that without having received approval from the relevant departments, [lawyers] must not accept any interview with foreign media.112 Similarly, whereas the Guiding Opinions mandate that lawyers uphold a great sense of social responsibility, a local variation instructs that in cases that have a political influence the lawyer handling the case must respect political and propaganda discipline.113 Local regulations also widen the scope of mass cases considered sensitive by including catch-all clauses such as important cases designated by leadership organs114that is, the CPCor cases that have extensive influence in this province or for all the country, that attract a high degree of media attention, or that have a big influence on the actions of the government.115
Local regulations also make the criteria for imposing penalties on lawyers more explicit: [I]f a lawyer violates the political discipline, the propaganda discipline or causes problems in a mass case incident, he must be disciplined and receive a suspension penalty.116
On March 18, 2006, as the Guiding Opinions awaited promulgation, the Henan Judicial Bureau issued trial regulations on Strengthening the Supervision and Guidance for Lawyers Representation in Important and Sensitive Cases and Mass Cases.117 The regulations mandate that lawyers report to judicial bureaus when handling important, mass, or sensitive cases. These three categories include cases that affect the governments image, criminal cases involving high-level cadres, and cases involving collective interests that can reach 20 people or more.118
The regulations instruct judicial bureaus to strengthen their supervision of lawyers, and handle these cases with a high degree of political responsibility.119 The judicial bureaus are required to prevent lawyers handling sensitive cases from aggravating a situation, or using domestic or international media to inflame public opinion; to prevent the general public being incited to oppose the government, or to create problems through mass cases; and to prevent the use of proxy cases to attack the party or the judicial system.120
Lawyers handling important, sensitive, or mass cases must submit to the same requirements detailed in the national Guiding Opinions, such as reporting and informing judicial bureaus and government departments and accepting their instructions. The Henan regulations also state that lawyers associations in the province will organize trainings on how to handle the Guiding Opinions according to political discipline demands.
In April 2006, a month after the ACLA adopted the Guiding Opinions, the judicial bureau of Shenyang municipality, Liaoning province, issued regulations regarding the activities of lawyers in important, difficult, and sensitive cases.121 The Shenyang regulations established procedures for seeking instructions and submitting reports to the judicial bureau so as to comprehensively advance the role of lawyers in protecting social order and building a harmonious society.122The regulations went beyond what the Guiding Opinions mandate by imposing restrictions not just on mass cases but on the broadly defined sensitive cases.
In July 2006 the Shenzhen Municipal Judicial Bureau issued its Provisional Regulations on Lawyers in Handling Sensitive and Mass Cases.123 The regulations impose similar requirements as the Guiding Opinions on lawyers handling cases that can easily lead to social contradictions or influence social stability, such as violations of peoples interests by government departments.124 Mass cases are defined as cases that can influence the relation between the party and the masses such as disputes about land compensation, forced demolitions and evictions, enterprise restructuring, workers layoffs, illegal fundraising, elections at the grassroots level, and unpaid wages.125 In addition to reporting within three days of accepting sensitive or mass cases, lawyers must not use the media to bring pressure to bear on government bureaus or judicial organs.126
Lawyers have reported similar regulations for Hangzhou municipality and Guangdong province, although it is unknown whether they were issued before or after the ACLA regulations.127 They similarly instruct lawyers to report to the judicial authorities when they take mass or sensitive cases.
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In Henan province and Shenyang municipality the enactment of new regulations was accompanied by the organization of meetings with the judicial bureaus to convey the new requirements to lawyers. Such meetings, while a typical means of disseminating information about new laws, underscore the emphasis the government is placing on the issue. In Henan province, on April 19, a Work conference on strengthening the establishment of lawyers ranks, presided over by the party secretary and the head of the Judicial Bureau, was held in the provincial capital Zhengzhou to analyze and study the current state of affairs and problems that lawyers [in Henan] face, and strengthen their sense of professional responsibility.128 In Shenyang, a similar conference was held on April 14. The Shenyang Judicial Bureau reportedly established the system for reporting important, difficult and sensitive cases in order to realize the unification of legal, social and political outcomes.129
The promulgation of the national ACLA Guiding Opinions and the adoption of similar or broader regulations at the local level reflect a deliberate attempt by the authorities to respond to the increase in public protests by restricting access to legal and media channels through which protesters attempt to assert their rights. While it remains to be seen whether, as many Chinese legal experts predict, the governments strategy will ultimately lead to an escalation of protests and violence, these new regulations reflect the fragility of the CPCs commitment to the rule of law when Chinese citizens band together to air their grievances. The development of such limitations has also led to fears that local governments would be able to further extend and legitimize these restrictions to the courts, instructing them not to accept certain cases.
112 Shenzhen Municipality Judicial Bureau, Provisional Regulation on Lawyers Handling Sensitive and Mass Cases, June 29, 2006 [深圳市司法局: 关于律师代理群体性敏感案(事)件管理的暂行规定2006-06-29], http://www.szlawyers.com/ShowDetail.asp?ArticleId=2346 (accessed October 30, 2006), art. 7, point 2.
113 Henan Provincial Judicial Bureau, Trial Opinion on Strengthening the Supervision and Guidance for Lawyers Representation in Important and Sensitive Cases and Mass Cases, March 18, 2006 [河南司法厅关于加强对律师办理重大、敏感、群体性案件指导监督的意见, (试行) 2006-04-18], http://www.hnlawyer.org/show.aspx?id=2482 (accessed July 13, 2006), Section III, sub-section 1, point 2.
114 Shenzhen Municipality Judicial Bureau, Provisional Regulation on Lawyers Handling Sensitive and Mass Cases, June 29, 2006 [深圳市司法局: 关于律师代理群体性敏感案(事)件管理的暂行规定 2006-06-29], art. 2, point 8.
115 Henan Provincial Judicial Bureau, Trial Opinion on Strengthening the Supervision and Guidance for Lawyers Representation in Important and Sensitive Cases and Mass Cases, March 18, 2006 [河南司法厅关于加强对律师办理重大、敏感、群体性案件指导监督的意见, (试行) 2006-04-18], Section I, sub-section 1.
116 Ibid., Section III, subsection 1, point 4.
118 Ibid., Section I, sub-section 1.
119 Ibid., Section I.
120 Ibid., Section I, sub-section 3.
121 Judicial Bureau of Shenyang Municipality, Liaoning Province, Several Opinions on the Instruction and Reports of Shenyang Lawyers in Charge of Important, Difficult, and Sensitive Cases, issued April 19, 2006. [辽宁省沈阳市司法局: 沈阳市律师承办重大疑难敏感案件请示报告的若干意见2006-04-19 发起.]
122 Shenyang Lawyers Accepting Sensitive Cases Must Ask for Instructions, website of the Ministry of Justice, April 19, 2006 [沈阳律师承办敏感案件须请示, www.legalinfo.gov.cn, 2006-04-19], http://www.legalinfo.gov.cn/moj/lsgzgzzds/2006-04/20/content_3037 (accessed May 23, 2006).
123 Shenzhen Municipality Judicial Bureau, Provisional Regulation on Lawyers Handling Sensitive and Mass Cases, June 29, 2006 [深圳市司法局: 关于律师代理群体性敏感案(事)件管理的暂行规定, 2006-06-29], http://www.szlawyers.com/ShowDetail.asp?ArticleId=2346 (accessed October 30, 2006).
124 Ibid., art. 2, point 9.
125 Ibid., art. 2, point 4.
126 Ibid., art. 7, point 2.
127 Rights Protection Lawyers Restrained, Ming Pao (Hong Kong), May 18, 2006. [维权律师被套紧箍咒, 明报（香港), 2006-05-18.]
128 The Justice Bureau of Zhengzhou Municipality Convenes a Work Conference on Strengthening Lawyers Ranks, article posted on the website of the Zhengzhou Lawyers Association, April 19, 2006 [郑州市司法局召开加强律师队伍建设工作会议, 郑州律师网, 2006-04-19], http://www.zzlawyer.org/show.aspx?id=1265 (accessed May 26, 2006).
129 The Judicial Bureau of Shenyang Municipality Takes 5 Measures to Advance and Strengthen the Building of Lawyers Ranks, website of the Judicial Bureau of Shenyang Municipality, April 19, 2006 [沈阳市司法局采取五项举措推进和加强律师队伍建设, 中国沈阳普法网，2006-04-14], http://www.sypf.com/fzxw/sfdt/086.htm (accessed June 30, 2006).