In light of recent reports of the arrests, detentions, and interrogations of lawyers in China, the American Bar Association (ABA) at its Annual Meeting in Chicago this week highlighted the importance of supporting Chinese lawyers, maintaining progress on rule of law reform in China and continuing the ABA’s collaboration on that agenda.
China's ambition to achieve government under a just rule of law has been viewed as encouraging, particularly as set forth by last year's fourth plenary session of the Communist Party's central committee, by the statements of Chinese leaders and by the sincere efforts of legal officials, judges, prosecutors and legislators, as well as by the lawyers, law professors and NGOs with whom the ABA has long collaborated in China.
ABA leaders acknowledge that the development of a just rule of law is a continuing struggle in every nation, including the United States. ABA President William Hubbard remarked, "In all societies lawyers are essential to realizing rights enshrined in law, whether in the U.S. or China, and true progress requires the vigorous participation of dedicated and imaginative lawyers."
For the past 17 years the ABA has worked with Chinese partners in many fields important to China's national interests and social stability, including criminal justice, legal advocacy and ethics, legislative and judicial reforms, and reduction of domestic violence, and its Sections of International Law and Criminal Justice are planning major conferences in Beijing this fall. "The ABA has engaged in robust dialogue and exchanges on legal issues with justice sector colleagues in China over the past two decades, and we have been looking forward to continuing these exchanges," remarked Hubbard. Referring to the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue scheduled for August 13-14, and President Xi’s scheduled visit to the United States in September, Hubbard added, “The upcoming U.S.-China bilateral meetings will provide an occasion for both countries to recommit to conditions for sustaining further people-to-people and professional exchanges that enrich our citizens, and to recommit to the rule of law."
The ABA encourages the Chinese Government to permit lawyers to discharge their professional duty to assure achievement of the fair and just legal system that the Communist Party has promised to all its citizens. The ABA also urges the many foreign legal organizations, universities, NGOs and government agencies that have been cooperating with Chinese counterparts in advancing the rule of law to continue their collaboration, and encourages other foreign institutions that are objecting to the current treatment of lawyers in China to join in supporting those lawyers and cooperating with China.