PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 April, 2013, 10:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Outrage among lawyers after official calls them 'cowards'


Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui

A local Communist Party official’s denigration of lawyers as cowardly has caused uproar among legal practitioners in China.

Hu Shimin, in charge of legal affairs in Weishi county in Henan called lawyers, "cowards," for having to deal with local citizens petitioning his superiors. By exposing incompetence or corruption, petitioners can often embarrass lower level authorities.

“All these instances of petitioners causing social instability have been instigated by lawyers,” said Hu. 

His remarks, first posted by infuriated local lawyers on an online forum, quickly spread on Weibo along with a “solemn” four-point statement by the Weishi bar, stressing it was not filled with cowards.

The seven signatories said that they were all putting aside their legal licences until “the matter was completely resolved.”

A reporter with the Shaanxi Metropolitan News interviewed one of the lawyers, who said a county legal officer had agreed to meet them and discuss the issue. The original forum post has since been deleted. The signatories could not be reached for comment.

The lawyer’s declaration has caused an outpouring of support from colleagues across China.

Shenzhen-based lawyer Liu Pingfan called for an apology in a filmed speech shared on Youku, the Chinese equivalent of Youtube.

“Such a case is rare,” Qin Yongmin, a Henan-based lawyer, told the Post. “But there is prejudice towards lawyers, some officials even demonise us.” Only if officials had some legal knowledge, then they would be able to do their jobs properly, he said.

“Most officials heading legal affairs committees lack an understanding of the law and [need] an education in it,” Qiu Xuyu, a lawyer in Shenzhen, said.




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