March 21, 2012
Lawyers required to swear oath of allegiance to Communist Party
As reported by Reuters,
China's Justice Ministry has ordered lawyers to take a loyalty oath to the Communist Party, in an unusual move that has drawn condemnation from attorneys worried about the government's attempts to rein them in.
The ministry issued a notice on Wednesday demanding that first-time applicants and lawyers who want to renew their licenses have to take the oath.
The story goes on to quote prominent lawyers Mo Shaoping, who calls it "inappropriate," and Pu Zhiqiang, who calls it "baffling."
Both of them condemn it. According to Mo, "If the oath says you must be faithful to the Communist Party and accept the leadership of the Party, that may exclude many other people in the legal profession who belong to other political parties or have other religious beliefs. . . . The oath will hurt the development of the Chinese legal system." According to Pu, the oath "will produce a conflict" among lawyers who want to be independent of the Party.
I think the oath requirement is at least interesting, and possibly important, as a manifestation of the Party's policy toward the legal profession and what it expects of lawyers. I have a hard time believing, however, that it's really going to cramp any individual lawyer's style. Many outspoken lawyers and legal academics are right now members of the Party, and presumably have taken some loyalty oath already. Yet this hasn't stopped them from speaking their mind. Nor do I think that there are a lot of would-be lawyers who will be deterred from taking the oath because they know their conscience will demand that they keep whatever promise of loyalty they make to the Party.
What this oath really shows, I think, is the complete bankruptcy of the imaginative faculties of those in charge of keeping society in line. We have just seen a recent roll-out of yet another Lei Feng campaign, as if this could have the slightest effect on the behavior of an increasingly cynical population. Now we see that whoever is in charge of these things apparently believes that having lawyers swear loyalty to the leadership of the Communist Party will actually cause them to be loyal to the leadership of the Communist Party.
Here's the full text of the oath, translated at Siweiluozi's Blog:
I volunteer to become a practicing lawyer of the People's Republic of China and promise to faithfully perform the sacred duties of a socialist-with-Chinese-characteristics legal worker (中国特色社会主义法律工作者); to be faithful to the motherland and the people; to uphold the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system; to safeguard the dignity of the constitution and the law; to practice on behalf of the people; to be diligent, professional honest, and corruption-free; to protect the legitimate rights and interests of clients, the correct implementation of the law, and social fairness and justice; and diligently strive for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics!
Here's the Chinese text:
Thanks to Siweiluozi's Blog for English translation and link to Chinese text.
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Now China can use the attorney's swearing-in to indict him or her if that attorney subsequently engages in acts defined as acting contrary to the leadership of the CCP, such as defending individuals who are dissidents but not committing crimes against the nation.
Posted by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung | Mar 22, 2012 9:41:49 AM
"What this oath really shows, I think, is the complete bankruptcy of the imaginative faculties of those in charge of keeping society in line. We have just seen a recent roll-out of yet another Lei Feng campaign, as if this could have the slightest effect on the behavior of an increasingly cynical population. Now we see that whoever is in charge of these things apparently believes that having lawyers swear loyalty to the leadership of the Communist Party will actually cause them to be loyal to the leadership of the Communist Party."
Well said. Sometimes one has to pause and look at these things in the face. Lei Feng ? This is like the Russians bringing back Stakhanov. Gosh.
Posted by: 臭老外 | Mar 22, 2012 11:01:50 PM
A prominent Chinese legal scholar and friend of ours said something very similar to me a couple of months ago. He said, after a recent visit to his laojia in rural China, that the CCP has effectively lost control of the countryside. He said that in his town, for example, people openly support FLG, that its supporters significantly outnumber the police. This is a point that I think deserves more attention than it gets: that the on-going state crackdown is not a necessarily demonstration of the continued strength of the party-state, but of that state's increasing frustration at being unable to understand and foresee, much less regulate, social outcomes.
Posted by: Mike Dowdle | Mar 23, 2012 4:35:18 PM
Many rights lawyers in China defending unpopular clients risk losing their practicing license just like Melissa Chan lost her journalist's visa for reporting in China.
Posted by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung | May 25, 2012 3:36:20 PM