Dancing Handcuffed in the Minefield: Survival Strategies of Defense Lawyers in China's Criminal Justice System
40 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2008
Date Written: May 14, 2008
The tremendous difficulties that Chinese criminal defense lawyers face in their dialy work have been well documented by researchers in China and abroad. However, few studies have examined the coping strategies and collective action of defense lawyers in relation to powerful state actors (i.e., the police, procuracy, and court) in the criminal justice system. Based on over 50 in-depth interviews in five major cities and extensive archival research, this paper discusses the twisted and precarious legal practice of Chinese criminal defense lawyers in relation to the state criminal justice system. On the one hand, lawyers challenge arbitrary state power by defending the rights of hte accused in the criminal procedure; on the other hand, they have to rely on the state and judicial agencies to get business and protect themselves from persecution. This partially dependent lawyer-state relationship highly constrains the professional autonomy and mobilizing capacity of Chinese lawyers and significantly weakens their structural position in the criminal justice system. Their ambiguous position in the state system on social control also renders problematic their capacity for protection of basic legal freedoms of citizens.
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