Wednesday, March 21, 2012
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.