News Update

As a China lawyer based in Shenzhen, we are not loyal to the law, but to the communist party instead. The Chinese government said yesterday that lawyers are now required to swear allegiance to the Communist Party, a move criticised by prominent human rights lawyers who have defended dissidents.

The Ministry of Justice said first-time applicants, or lawyers renewing their professional legal licences, must take an oath of loyalty to the country, the party and the people. The aim is to raise the "political, moral and professional quality" of lawyers.

China’s Justice Ministry has announced that lawyers will be required to pledge an oath of loyalty to the Communist Party when they obtain or renew their licenses.

Lawyers in China are required to renew their license every year, the New York Times reports. It is unclear whether the loyalty pledge applies to those routine renewals or more unusual situations, such as when lawyers move their practices, the story says.

The change comes after a crackdown led to the detentions of several human rights lawyers, including an activist, who is now in prison in Xinjiang. After his disappearance confounded family members, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said in 2010 that the lawyer “is where he should be.”

China adopted amendments to its criminal law this month. Legal reformers won a victory with a change that requires family members of detainees to be notified within 24 hours. But police don’t have to explain the reason for the detention, and they may hold suspects in secret for up to six months for cases involving national security or bribery. According to the Times, Chinese police tend to broadly define national security.

Jiang Tianyong, a rights lawyer, said there was no legal basis for the oath. "It's unimaginable that any other country would like to ask lawyers to pledge allegiance to a party," he said.

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