China’s legal system faces isolationJun 12th, 2011 | By USAsialawNYU | Category: Friends of the Institute Printable format
This Letter to the Editor in response to Professor Cohen’s article of June 7 written by Hyeon-Ju Rho, former China Country Director for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative China Program, appeared in the South China Morning Post’s print and on-line editions of June 11, 2011.
China’s legal system faces isolation
A question implicit in Jerome Cohen’s article (“Turning a deaf ear”, June 7), is how foreign lawyers and lawyers’ associations can respond more effectively to the increasing repression of China’s “human rights lawyers”.
There is no easy answer, and foreign lawyers’ associations are utilising multiple approaches. In addition to the public letters and statements Mr Cohen mentions, these associations are also pursuing channels for ongoing and direct engagement with Chinese justice officials. For example, last week in Washington, the American Bar Association hosted the opening session of the US-China Legal Experts Dialogue, a focus of which was the importance of and mechanisms for protecting lawyers’ practice rights.
Opportunities for this type of dialogue are increasingly few and far between. Despite Chinese commitments in both the January 2011 and November 2009 US-China Joint Statements to increase co-operation in the field of law and exchanges on the rule of law, increasing surveillance of international organisations working on rule of law issues in China, and restrictions on Chinese lawyers’ ability to engage directly with international organisations on rule of law issues, continue to be staples of the current conservative political climate.
The result is a bifurcated system in which Chinese lawyers can participate with relative freedom in international commerce, but face increasing isolation from the international legal community when it comes to issues of rights.
The way forward is unclear, but it may involve international lawyers’ associations and law firms speaking with a more unified voice to demonstrate that the suppression of rights lawyers in China is not only a concern of a few scattered organisations, but rather increasingly places China outside the mainstream of a global legal community.
Hyeon-Ju Rho, former country director, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative China Programme