Lawyers must swear loyalty to the party
To become a lawyer on the mainland one must now swear an oath of support to the leadership of the Communist Party.
The Ministry of Justice recently set up the oath system for new lawyers, the Legal Daily reported yesterday.
The oath reads: 'I wish to become a lawyer of the People's Republic of China, and I guarantee to fulfil the sacred mission of a law worker of socialism with Chinese characteristics, be loyal to the country, be loyal to the people, support the leadership of the Communist Party, support the socialist system, protect the constitution and the authority of the law.'
The All China Lawyers Association had put an oath system in place in 2000, but it was not effectively implemented, a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying. The new system would help a lawyer 'strengthen his commitment' to the profession and help 'concretely elevate the political standards and professional ethics' of the mainland's lawyers.
A notice issued by the ministry said that swearing-in ceremonies would be held collectively for anyone who had obtained their permit to practice in the past three months.
Beijing lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said although the city's lawyers' association had held swearing-in ceremonies for new lawyers since 2000, the oath upheld the constitution and a lawyer had to promise to abide by the rules of the association. Liu said it was the first time 'political requirement' had been included in the oath. And the body responsible for enforcing it is now a government department.
Veteran criminal lawyer Zhang Sizhi said the oath was just 'formalism' and would not solve problems such as lawyers' declining morals and bad practices. 'The oath is just to further strengthen the guiding thoughts in recent years that the Communist Party will lead everything,' Zhang said. 'But as a lawyer, shouldn't one's first loyalty be towards the law, rather than a particular organisation?'
Since 2008, when Wang Shengjun became president of the Supreme People's Court, the courts have been asked to support the interests of the Communist Party, the people and the law. Law firms have been required to set up Communist Party offices if they have more than three party members. 'Not only will this oath be futile, it will further prompt negative feelings,' Zhang said.
Microbloggers also criticised the move. 'In the case of Li Zhuang, the Ministry of Justice did not stand on the side of the lawyers ... and this has broken our heart,' defence lawyer Si Weijiang said. 'Like love between a man and a woman, in order to have the heart of a man, what you need is not an oath, but love and efforts.' Li was jailed in 2010 for fabricating evidence during his defence of Chongqing crime boss Gong Gangmo. A second trial on a similar charge was abandoned.
Blogger Zhang Xingsheng wrote: 'If a case concerns a party official or unit, then wouldn't this oath be self-contradictory? If a lawyer must swear allegiance to a party, he should not be called a lawyer, but a defender of the party.'