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【Forwarded Statement】Statement Regarding the Global Lawyers Forum by the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

The Global Lawyers Forum will be held on 9-10 December in Guangzhou. The China Human Rights Lawyers Group issues the following statement regarding the occasion:

 

  1. The name of the conference “Global Lawyers Forum” does not seem to be an accurate translation of its Chinese name “shijie lüshi dahui / 世界律师大会”, which we find to be a misleading move.

 

Globally there are already international conferences for the legal sector including the “World Bar Conference”, “the International Bar Association Annual Conference” and many more. The Chinese name of the World Bar Conference would precisely be the name of the upcoming event to be held in Guangzhou: “shijie lüshi dahui/世界律师大会”; while the direct Chinese translation of “Global Lawyers Forum” should have been “quanqiu lüshi luntan/全球律师论坛”instead. The host is evidently aware of the status and existence of the World Bar Conference, but still insisted on taking the current Chinese name to mislead people into believing that the Guangzhou conference would be of a similar reputation.

Wang Junfeng, the President of All China Lawyers Association, pointed out that the Forum in Guangzhou is a grand gathering under the guidance and support of the Ministry of Justice of the People's Republic of China. Such inaccuracy in the translation of the name is obviously not a problem with the standard of translation but a deliberate attempt to confuse the national media and the public with the impression that that the Guangzhou conference is something comparable to the reputable “World Bar Conference”. 

 

2. It is completely unnecessary to create this event given the amount of international lawyers conferences which already exist around the world. 

Given the love for meetings in Chinese society, and the huge “official” spending on hosting international conferences, we think that although the All China Lawyers Association is the host by name, but in reality, it is the Ministry of Justice directing the entire event, meeting for the sake of meeting. The more profound purpose would be to establish China as a heavyweight in the international legal sector, but given the widely-known status of China’s judicial system, it is probable that the conference will fail to achieve this goal.

 

3. Given China’s unique judicial administration, lawyer management and lawyers association system, the All China Lawyers Association bears a governmental or semi-governmental status, unlike its foreign counterparts, which seems to render it ineligible to host such a conference.

 

Lawyers Associations on all levels are founded with guidance from the authorities, and not autonomously by lawyers themselves. Lawyers are also forced to join these associations; hence membership is not voluntary. Presidents, vice-presidents, secretary-generals and deputy secretary-generals are all chosen internally by the authorities without a fair, just and open election, which means these representatives do not have the legitimacy granted by their own peers. These associations only focus on collecting the unreasonably high fees imposed on lawyers for their annual inspections, but fail to carry out their duty to protect lawyers’ legal rights – not only do they ignore violations of lawyers’ rights exercised by judicial bodies, they sometimes even participate in the crackdown and suppression of lawyers! Without the legitimate representation of Chinese lawyers, let alone lawyers worldwide, the All China Lawyers Association does not bear the eligibility and authority to host such a conference. We hope that participants such as the International Bar Association (IBA), the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), other lawyers associations and individual lawyers are able to consciously see the difference between the All China Lawyers Association and regular lawyers associations abroad.

 

4. The themes addressed in the conference avoid the most sensitive topics

 

China has decided to host this grand conference, yet set the theme on the micro and technical theme of “technical advancement and legal services”, effectively avoiding the discussion on Chinese constitutionalism and rule of law, and ignoring how Chinese laws are difficult to execute, lawyers’ rights have yet to be guaranteed, human rights lawyers being unreasonably suppressed, and other important issues. It’s like a sick man running away from the doctor, refusing to solve the problem at its roots.

 

After the shocking 709 Crackdown in 2015, we witnessed numerous human rights lawyers having their licenses revoked or invalidated in the past few years – the shadows brought about by the Crackdown is still very much present, and human rights lawyers are still facing serious suppression! With this backdrop, the Chinese judicial branch and the All China Lawyers Association hosting the Global Lawyers Forum is not only ironic and embarrassing, it is also a humiliation to the international legal community! The Ministry of Justice could easily manipulate the occasion and spread its propaganda, asking a few lawyers to represent Chinese lawyers in a public relations tour to try and dilute the negative international image caused by the 709 Crackdown.

 

We call on the international legal community, lawyers from different countries, and participants in the upcoming forum including the IBA, the CCBE, lawyers associations from around the world, and our colleagues from abroad to seriously reconsider their participation in this conference!

 

We hope that the international legal community would evaluate China’s rule of law and lawyers’ difficulties in professional practice in China in depth, and follow attentively any news of Lawyer Gao Zhisheng – who was one of the first human rights lawyers and is still incommunicado; lawyers Wang Quanzhang, Zhou Shifeng, Li Yuhan, Yu Wensheng, Chen Wuquan, Chen Jiahong, Qin Yongpei and other human rights lawyers and human rights defenders who are still currently incarcerated!