CHINA: Disciplinary sanction against lawyer Lu Siwei for defending a lawyer
Lu Siwei is a Chinese lawyer specialized in financial and criminal law. He has also handled human rights cases. In particular, he worked on the Pengxi County land seizure case and the June 4th wine bottle case. In the latter case, human rights activists had created and shared on social networks the label of a Chinese liquor bottle stating “June 4th 1989″. It was a pun with the name of the liquor to commemorate the Tiananmen Square pro-democratic demonstrations.
On April 24th 2020 the Chengdu City Lawyer’s Association, a section of All China Lawyer’s Association, disciplined Lu Siwei. The disciplinary committee of this state agency found that Lu Siwei had “violated the rules” of professional ethics and the disciplinary code.
The disciplinary proceedings are directed against him for representing another human rights lawyer, Chen Jiahong, who has been imprisoned since April 2019 for “inciting subversion of state power”. Chen Jiahong was arrested for criticising the government in a video broadcast on social networks. After Lu Siwei was able to visit him in December 2019, he revealed that his client had been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Mr Jiahong told his lawyer that he had been deprived of sleep, not properly fed, but also subjected to other forms of ill-treatment in an attempt to force him to admit his guilt.
This written “professional reprimand” will remain on Lu Siwei’s record and could have serious consequences during the lawyers’ annual review. Indeed, in order to practice their profession, Chinese lawyers need a licence subject to annual renewal. When renewing this licence, the judicial authorities examine the cases on which the lawyer has worked during the year. This annual inspection is frequently used to temporarily or permanently disbar lawyers defending cases considered sensitive, particularly cases involving fundamental rights. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders highlighted this practice in his July 2019 report on impunity for abuses committed against human rights defenders.
In addition, Lu Siwei was arrested on December 30th 2019 on his way to a Legal Seminar in Hong Kong. The immigration authorities then informed him that the judicial authorities had issued an exit ban against him.
In March 2020, a Guangxi court notified Lu Siwei that his client, lawyer Chen Jiahong, no longer wished him to pursue his defence. It is very likely that Chen Jiahong was pressured to take this decision. The Chinese authorities have on several occasions forced defendants/detainees to renounce their initial choice of lawyer. By keeping engaged lawyers away from the courts, the authorities are gravely obstructing the rights of the defence and the right to a fair trial. The disciplinary measures taken against Lu Siwei are a further intimidation against human rights lawyers so that they will self-censor themselves and refuse to defend cases that could be considered “sensitive” by the Chinese authorities.
The OIAD condemns the attempts to intimidate lawyers and especially the disciplinary action taken against Lu Siwei.
The OAID would like to remind the Chinese authorities that under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990) :
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (…)” (Principle 16).
“Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions” (Principle 18).
The OIAD urges the Chinese authorities and the Chengdu City Lawyer’s Association to withdraw its disciplinary sanction and abandon all charges against lawyer Lu Siwei.