As most people are aware, in 1997 Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule. The change was supposed to allow Hong Kong to retain significant autonomy and freedom to elect local government - however, as the Chinese government has restricted that autonomy and freedom, many have protested what amounts to China ignoring the commitments made under "handover agreement" from Britain to China. More recently, many people have been arrested under China's "National Security Law." Of concern, specifically, to those of us who are lawyers has been the attacks on lawyers and legal scholars by the Chinese government. My colleague and friend, Dr. Julie Macfarlane, had a specific response to these events due to her past work in Hong Kong and her acquaintance with lawyers and law professors still there who have been subjected to abuse by the government of China. As a result, she reached out to me as a Board Member with CBA Alberta to see if I could perhaps seek a resolution of the Canadian Bar Association to add to the voices of many others demanding the Chinese government cease the oppression and abuse of lawyers and legal professionals in Hong Kong.
I was too happy to agree to do what I could to assist - and as a result, at the CBA AGM next week, we are hoping to put a motion forward to seek to demand that the Chinese government cease it's abuse of legal professionals. In support of that motion, I did draft short explanation of what we are asking for, and why, and as it is not available to non-CBA members, I am re-publishing it here:
Lawyers Speaking Out for Fellow Lawyers - Is There Anything More Fundamental to our Role with the CBA?
China is a member of the United Nations. It portrays itself as a member of the global community and wishes to do business as a partner in that community.
China is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, see here:
More specific to our interests a legal profession, China as a member of the United Nations affirms the Unite Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers - adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, Cuba 27 August to 7 September 1990.
Articles 16 to 18 of those Principals state:
16. Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
17. Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
18. Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions.
The Government of China, beyond a host of other human rights abuses, has breached these articles, and specifically has targeted lawyers and law professors for intimidation, sanction and allegedly torture for simply doing their jobs in advocating for those charged with offending China's "National Security Law".
For more detail see the release from the International Bar Association here:
And the report of the Hong Kong Free Press here:
As a member of the legal profession in Canada for some 35 years, it strikes me that where lawyers are threatened and punished for simply doing their job - wherever in the world that may occur - there is a threat to all lawyers.
I believe it is incumbent upon us, as lawyers in a free and democratic society, to stand up in solidarity to fellow lawyers suffering oppression and punishment in China. I would appreciate the support of those attending the AGM in voting in favor of this resolution.