The Beijing Lawyers’ Association will open an investigation into some of the attorneys who represented clients in the recent high profile Li Guanfeng gang-rape case on suspicion of having revealed “clients’ private information”, Chinese media reported.
The association said some of these lawyers might have also inappropriately exposed trial details and verbally attacked their counterparts during the trial, severely damaging their reputations within the profession, Beijing Daily said on Monday.
The decision came on the heels of the conviction of 17-year old Li Guanfeng, whose parents are famous People’s Liberation Army singers. Li was sentenced to ten years in jail last week for his involvement in the gang rape, with four others, of a young woman in a Beijing hotel in February.
Despite the trial being held in a closed courtroom because the defendants were underage, Li’s famous parents brought the case huge media and public attention.
Months prior to the trial, the defendants’ lawyers and legal consultants are suspected of using China’s vibrant social media to attempt to rally public support for those on trial by publicly revealing details of the case and making insinuations about the female victim.
Beijing lawyer Lan He, Li’s attorney, for example, in July announced in his blog that he had requested that the court investigate “certain persons’ for suspected prostitution.
On the other hand, legal consultant Tian Canjun who represented the victim made public before the trial began the repeated assaults, insults, rapes and threats she had suffered at the hands of the five defendants.
The association did not name any of the lawyers under investigation, but prominent Zhejiang lawyer Chen Youxi said in his blog that the investigation had been initiated by Li Guanfeng’s mother.
Li’s attorney Lan He was not available for comment on Monday.
Shanghai-based human rights lawyer Si Weijiang said it was quite normal for the association to conduct such an investigation if there was any evidence suggesting that its lawyers might have done something inappropriate.
“But the investigation must be careful,” he said in a telephone interview with the South China Morning Post on Monday. “Because it is difficult to define privacy as sometimes clients are willing to expose their private information to gain advantages during trials.”
“It is also about weighing the advantages and disadvantages [of doing so],” Si added. “Sometimes there are conflicts among defendants’ attorneys, as one defendant’s lawyer may exploit another defendant’s privacy to better serve his own client’s interest.”
When asked how he felt about the report that the association was conducting an investigation, Tian said he supported it.
“I am glad the association is doing it and will proactively help it with its investigation,” he said in his blog.