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Public Statement: China (April 2008)

In addition to repeatedly condemning the persecution and ill-treatment of lawyers in China through letters of intervention to Chinese authorities, in April 2008, the Law Society released the following public statement:

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about Escalating Human Rights Violations against Lawyers in China

The Law Society expresses its deep concern over reports of escalating human rights violations against lawyers in China, culminating in official threats against Chinese lawyers offering legal aid to Tibetans. These threats undermine the independence of the legal profession and the objective of establishing the rule of law in China.

Reports indicate that hundreds of Tibetans were arrested in connection with the March 14 unrest in Tibet and the subsequent violent crackdown on the protests by Chinese security forces. As a result, on April 2, 2008, eighteenChinese lawyers made a public offer to provide legal assistance to the detained Tibetans

According to reports, authorities in China told the members of the group of lawyers, now numbering 21, that they should not involve themselves in the "Tibet incident." Authorities have questioned lawyers involved in the project, have put them under surveillance, and have tapped their phones.

The eighteen original lawyers who have signed on to provide the Tibetan detainees with free legal assistance are Cheng Hai, Guo Yan, Jiang Tianyong, Li Xiongbing, Li Dunyong, Li Subing, Liu Yajun and Wen Haibao, Mo Hongluo, Peng Jian, Sun Jianguo, Teng Biao, Tang Jingling, Wei Rujiu, Wu Hongwei, Zhang Hai, Zhang Jiankang and Zhang Jianguo.

The Law Society 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 and Li Heping, by raising its concerns with Chinese authorities. It deplores the recent ill-treatment of lawyers Teng Biao and Li Heping, who were allegedly abducted by unidentified men, and Zheng Enchong who was reportedly beaten by police officers.

The Law Society of Upper Canada urges the Government of China to,

  1. uphold the Constitution of the Republic of China and the rule of law, promote the free flow of information and the right to exercise freedom of expression;
  2. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all lawyers in the discharge of their legitimate professional duties;
  3. 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;
  4. guarantee that lawyers who are in custody will not be tortured or ill treated and have access to a lawyer, to family members and to necessary medical treatment while in detention;
  5. conform with basic principles of international law as provided in United Nations conventions and declarations, including the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers;
  6. put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders in China;
  7. ensure that human rights lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of arbitrary detention, torture or ill treatment, or other human rights violations.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for the more than 39,000 lawyers in the Province of Ontario, Canada. 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 efforts to maintain the independence of the legal profession and to promote the rule of law.

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