China (February 2010)

In addition to repeatedly condemning the persecution and ill-treatment of lawyers in China through letters of intervention to Chinese authorities and the release of a 2008 public statement about the escalating human rights violations against lawyers in China, the Law Society of Upper Canada is releasing the following public statement:

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Suspension, Disbarment, Detention and Disappearance of Human Rights Lawyers in China

According to recent reports, the Justice Bureau of Beijing Municipality issued a notice stating that 53 lawyers' licenses were revoked for allegedly failing to apply for re-registration. The Bureau also issued a list of 24 Beijing-based lawyers who will not have their licenses reregistered. Some of the disbarred lawyers include prominent human rights advocates Li Heping, Li Xiongbing, Li Chunfu, Wang Yajun and Guo Shaofei. The suspension and disbarment of lawyers appears to be a tactic to deter lawyers from taking on politically sensitive cases.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is concerned that the arbitrary disbarment and suspension of human rights lawyers in China deters them from taking on human rights cases, prevents them from effectively defending their clients and weakens the independence of the judiciary, the bar and the rule of law.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is also concerned about recent reports that Mr. Gao Zhisheng, a prominent human rights lawyer, has disappeared. Gao Zhisheng was taken into custody in February 2009. It was recently reported that one of the policemen involved in the arrest told Gao Zhisheng's brother that he went missing while on a walk on September 25, 2009. There is great fear for his safety.

Lawyers continue to be arbitrarily detained and ill treated and in some cases tortured in police custody. The Law Society of Upper Canada has repeatedly condemned the persecution and ill-treatment of lawyers in China, including the treatment of Human Rights lawyers Gao Zhisheng, Zheng Enchong, Chen Guangcheng, Li Jianqiang, Teng Baio, Li Heping, by raising its concerns with the Chinese authorities about the ongoing human rights violations against lawyers.

International human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, state that judicial independence and human rights are necessary to advancing the rule of law.
The Law Society calls on the Chinese authorities to,

1. reinstate lawyers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked for taking on human rights cases and discontinue the practice of suspending or disbarring human rights lawyers based on political considerations or other arbitrary factors;
2. ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of arbitrary detention, torture or ill treatment or other human rights violations;
3. put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights lawyers in China;
4. take prompt action to ensure the immediate release and unconditional release of human rights lawyers when their detention is arbitrary and aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;
5. uphold the Constitution of the Republic of China and the rule of law; and
6. take immediate steps to promote the independence of the legal profession.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for some 41,000 lawyers in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.
The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in China in their effort to maintain the independence of the legal profession, to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law.