The government in Chengdu, Sichuan has retracted an administrative order which required all lawyers to report their overseas trips to authorities, reports Chinese digital media The Paper.
The order was issued on the website of the Chengdu Lawyers Association by the municipal justice bureau late November. The notice requested lawyers to report to local judicial authorities three days in advance if they were going abroad, taking part in seminars and forums, or if their law firms were about to receive foreign guests. This was to ensure the “safety and stability” of the legal industry in Chengdu, the notice said.
By Tuesday (December 1), the document had been taken down from the website. The Chengdu Justice Bureau later confirmed to The Paper it had retracted the order.
Lawyer Mao Lixin told The Paper that the government had no right to ask lawyers to report their foreign trips. “Even private trips have to be reported. What is the legal basis of this?”
Due to the vague Chinese wording, the lawyer was not sure if the authorities wanted lawyers to report the trips for approval or just notify the government of them.
Maya Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the Chengdu order was “not surprising at all.”
“Under President Xi, the government has tightened social control by targeting major ‘pillars’ of civil society, such as lawyers,” Wang said.
Beijing has launched a massive crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists this year. Hundreds of legal professionals and their families have been rounded up, with about two dozen still in detention, according to human rights organisations including Amnesty International.
Wang said she doesn’t know why the government retracted the order.
“China’s decision-making process lacks transparency and is arbitrary—but what is certain is that the government is not going to cease its increasing grip over lawyers in the near future,” Wang commented.