China Sets Up Communist Party Committee For Lawyers, Tightens Grip On The Judicial System

China has set up a Communist Party Committee for lawyers aimed at implementing the instructions of the Party’s Central Committee.

The decision comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping consolidated his authority at the 19th National Party Congress that took place between October 18 and October 24.

On October 26 the Organization Department of the Chinese Communist Party (中国共产党中央组织部, ODCCCP) approved a proposal by the Ministry of Justice to set up a Communist Party Committee of the All China Lawyers Association (中华全国律师协会, ACLA) which will oversee the work of lawyers across China. Every law firm in the country will be required to have a Communist Party supervisory body.

At a press conference on October 31st Wan Junfeng (王俊峰), head of ACLA and deputy secretary of the new committee,  explained that by the end of 2016, lawyers’ associations in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, as well as Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, had already established Party organizations.

The number of Party members who are lawyers increased from 44,000 to 102,000 between 2008 and 2016, which amounts to 31% of all lawyers in the country. Among China’s 26,000 law firms, 16,500 already have Communist Party branches.

Since Xi Jinping took office in 2012, the Communist government has increasingly tightened its grip on the judicial system, stressing Party leadership and discarding the notion of separation of powers and of judges’ and lawyers’ independence from government or Party interference.

Since 2015 China’s authorities have arrested an estimated 710 lawyers in one of the worst crackdowns on human rights lawyers and activists in decades. In October alone, at least 321 lawyers, law firm staff, human right activists and family members were summoned, interrogated, arrested, forbidden to leave the country, held under house arrest, placed under surveillance, or have gone missing.

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