Criminal suspects will be allowed to meet their defense lawyers after initial interrogation by judicial organs even in cases related to State secrets, according to a draft amendment submitted to the top legislature on Friday.
The latest amendment to the Law on Lawyers, presented to the 29th session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) for second review, also stipulates that conversations between attorneys and suspects should not be monitored.
The current Criminal Procedure Law allows suspects to meet their lawyers after police interrogation, but does not provide any details. The Law on Lawyers has no relevant stipulations at all, leading to many suspects being unable to meet their lawyers because of police manipulation.
To tackle the problem, the first draft of the amendment, submitted in June, stated: "Apart from cases related to State secrets, criminal lawyers can meet clients after judicial organs conduct the initial interrogation or other coercive measures."
However, some standing committee members have argued that meeting a lawyer is a basic human right for all suspects.
"Therefore, we've decided to cancel the exception, and make the rule applicable for all circumstances," Wang Yiming, deputy director of the NPC Law Committee, said.
The second draft also kept some provisions from the first draft to make lawyers' jobs easier. For instance, it stipulates lawyers can collect evidence by themselves, or apply to prosecuting organs and courts to help collect evidence. They can also ask courts to force witnesses to testify.
The draft amendment also specifies that opinions expressed, and remarks made, by defense lawyers in court - provided they do not threaten national security or slander others - cannot give rise to prosecution.
"The amendment safeguards lawyers' rights, especially in criminal defense," Minister of Justice Wu Aiying said in her report to the NPC standing committee in June.
Another draft tabled for review on Friday, the emergency response law, made it mandatory for all companies dealing with hazardous chemicals to regularly check on their operations and map out emergency plans.
The draft said coal mines, construction sites and work units that produce, deal with, transport, stockpile and use explosive, combustible and hazardous chemicals or radioactive materials should establish detailed emergency plans and launch regular safety checks to rule out hidden dangers.
The top legislature on Friday also deliberated a draft law on employment promotion and a draft amendment to the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law.
Both laws, together with the draft emergency response law, are likely to be passed on Thursday.