Human Rights in China is deeply concerned that the revised Lawyers Law (律师法), which came into force on June 1, 2008, is already falling short of its goal to "protect the practice of law by lawyers" because of flawed local implementation and the continued abuse by the authorities of China’s highly restrictive state secrets laws.
In an early test of the revised law’s enforcement, lawyers for two individuals detained by the police in Haikou, Hainan, were refused permission to meet with their clients after the local authorities declared that the case involved "state secrets," Human Rights in China has learned.
“The handling of this case by the local authorities shows that, despite recent legal reforms, the rule of law in China is trumped by the state secrets system,” HRIC Executive Director Sharon Hom said. “While laws are being promulgated, they are poorly implemented, poorly enforced, and conveniently ignored the moment an official invokes state secrets.”
The case involves Wang Minghui (王明辉) and Lin Shihuang (林师皇), detained by Haikou police on June 3 on suspicion of being in possession of writings critical of local authorities. While the Criminal Procedure Law provides that a detainee’s family must be informed within 24 hours of the location and reason for their detention, their families were not given this information. Defense lawyers in the case have also been prevented from exercising their right to meet with their clients and learn the facts surrounding their detention.
When the lawyers, Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵) and Cheng Hai (程海), tried to meet with their clients, arguing this was required by the revised Lawyers Law, the police instead barred them from doing so on grounds the case concerned “state secrets.”
Cheng filed an administrative lawsuit at the Xiuying District Court in Hainan Province, requesting the court to order the detention center to allow both lawyers to meet with Lin. On June 19, Cheng received a response issued on June 17 from the Hainan Xiuying District Court, stating that the detention center is an internal unit under the Public Security Organ and is not an appropriate defendant. Cheng plans to refile naming the Haikou Public Security Bureau as the defendant in Longhua District Court.
HRIC calls on the Chinese authorities to respect the rights of Chinese lawyers to do their jobs without official interference. The central and local authorities must not allow laws such as the state secrets and criminal laws to arbitrarily undermine the goal of “protecting the practice of law” of the revised Lawyers Law.
For more information on attacks on lawyers in China, see:
For more information about China’s State Secrets System, see:
For more information on HRIC’s Take Action Olympics Campaign on the Rule of Law, see: