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Procuratorate moves to protect rights of the accused
Updated: 2004-03-12 17:14

The Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) of China has introduced a new regulation to protect lawyers' rights in criminal litigation, which is regarded by law experts as a critical move to protect the rights of the accused.

The country's legislature is discussing the draft amendment to the Constitution which for the first time enshrines the protection of human rights.

"The accused will benefit most if lawyers can play a full role in criminal litigation. I think the regulation shows the country'sgrowing concerns for human rights," said Prof. Chen Weidong from the Law School of the People's University.

The SPP issued the regulation on Feb. 19 and solicited opinions from law experts and lawyers.

Lawyers' full participation in criminal litigation will help the procuratorates do their job better and contribute more to justice, said Sun Qian, Deputy Procurator-General of the SPP, at ameeting held here Thursday.

Chinese lawyers have long been hindered by difficulties in meeting detained clients, and obtaining documents and evidence.

"In half of the criminal cases I did, I was refused permission by the police or procuratorate to meet the client in custody," said Qian Lieyang, a lawyer with the Beijing Zhongfu Law Firm.

The regulation requires procuratorates to arrange meetings between lawyers and detained clients within 48 hours after the lawyer submits an application.

The topics of discussion between lawyers and their clients in such meetings is also clarified in the regulation.

"In the 15-minute meeting, I spent 5 minutes at least bargaining with the prosecuting attorney about what I could say tomy client," said Zhang Yansheng, a lawyer from Beijing-based Dayu Law Office, recalling a meeting with her client in custody in Xuzhou City of east China's Jiangsu Province.

"Now with the regulation I don't think there will be any bargaining," she said.

The new regulation allows lawyers to submit accusations of prosecuting attorneys violating laws and regulations to the procuratorates or higher procuratorates.

Prosecuting attorneys are required to take lawyers' advice during their probes and append the record of their opinion to the indictment. Before the regulation was issued, this would not be done until they started to check whether to submit the case for trial.

A number of lawyers are unwilling to represent clients on criminal charges due to great difficulty and low pay.

Zhang did three criminal cases last year. "I have done quite a lot compared with many other lawyers," she said.

"I hope the regulation will encourage more lawyers to take up criminal cases and improve the quality of their work," said Prof. Song Yinghui from China University of Political Science and Law.

Vice Minister of Justice Duan Zhengkun also pledged Thursday toset up a cooperation mechanism with the SPP to solve problems lawyers face in criminal litigation.

However, the regulation announced by the SPP will not completely ease lawyers' concerns since they are not only disadvantaged by the procuratorates but also the police and some administrations, Chen Weidong said.

The Law of Criminal Procedures has items on the rights of lawyers, but lacks details on how to ensure the rights are respected and penalties for violations, he said. "We need to improve the Law of Criminal Procedures."

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC),China's top legislature, has listed as one of its priorities in the next five years the amendment of the Law of Criminal Procedures, said Jiang Enzhu, spokesman for the second session of the 10th NPC at a press conference on March 4.

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