China's Rule of Law Mirage: The Regression of the Legal Profession Since the Adoption of the 2007 Lawyers Law

52 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2011 Last revised: 23 Oct 2011

Date Written: Sept 30, 2011


For close to 30 thirty years, the Chinese government has repeatedly stated its commitment to developing a “rule of law” society. Integral to any rule of law society is an independent legal profession that can hold the state accountable for legal violations. But since China’s amendments to the Law on Lawyers, adopted in 2007 and seen on paper as encouraging a stronger legal profession, the Chinese government has done a complete about-face, seeking to limit the profession, tie it closer to the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, and eradicate the nascent “rights-defending” lawyers. Without a vibrant legal profession, especially “rights-defending” lawyers willing to directly challenge the State and protect citizens’ legally-guaranteed rights, China’s rule of law development is in jeopardy. The Chinese government’s lack of interest in promoting a vibrant legal profession and a meaningful rule of law society, however, has largely gone unnoticed by the world at large. In a new strategy, the Chinese government has adopted the rhetoric of “rule of law,” enforcing a series of highly technical and vaguely-worded rules that make the very day-to-day practice of law susceptible to punishment. Three cases this year, in which lawyers were punished for zealously advocating on behalf of their clients’ rights, reflect this new strategy. Under the cover of acting “in accordance with law,” the Chinese government can punish lawyers who seek greater independence and government accountability and still speciously maintain that it is a rule of law country.

Keywords: rights defending lawyers, Weiquan, China, public interest law, cause lawyering in China, Tang Jitian, Liu Wei, Li Zhuang, Xu Zhiyong, rule of law, weiquan, Lawyers Law, 2007 Amendments to the Lawyers Law, Lawyer's Law, rule of law, legal profession,China

Suggested Citation

Lynch, Elizabeth M., China's Rule of Law Mirage: The Regression of the Legal Profession Since the Adoption of the 2007 Lawyers Law (Sept 30, 2011). George Washington International Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 535, 2011) , Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth M. Lynch (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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