The struggle of Chinese public interest lawyers to have their voice heard by their lawyers associations

by Jerome Cohen

According to this report, some public interest lawyers in China are now calling for abolition of the national lawyers professional group, the All China Lawyers Association, which is organized and controlled by the Ministry of Justice and has rarely lent support to lawyers attacked by the government.

In fact, there were efforts in the past to try to reform the lawyers associations in China, such as calls by some public interest lawyers in 2008 for the Beijing Lawyers Association to hold direct elections, in the hope of making the group more autonomous (see Jerome Cohen, "The Struggle for Autonomy of Beijing’s Public Interest Lawyers," April 2009). Obviously, the struggle is still ongoing today, especially given the current severe crackdown in which the local and national lawyers associations have not only remained silent but also continued to aid the government, for example, by not renewing the license to practice law of some lawyers unwelcome by the authorities.