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China legislature weighs giving criminal suspects more access to lawyers

[JURIST] A Chinese draft law on criminal suspects' rights to meet with defense lawyers after questioning has been broadened to include cases involving state secrets, according to Chinese state media. A set of reforms to China's Law on Lawyers [text, PDF] was initially presented [JURIST report] to Chinese legislators in June, but at that time it included a provision that "Apart from cases related to state secrets, criminal lawyers can meet clients after judicial organs conduct the initial interrogation or other coercive measures." The proviso was dropped in the new version of the law sent to the 29th session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) [official website, in Chinese] on Friday. A spokesman for the NPC Law Committee said that the change had been motivated by human rights concerns. Beijing has been especially sensitive to actual and potential rights-related criticism in the run-up to the scheduled 2008 Beijing Olympics [JURIST news archive; official website].

The draft legal practice law, the first amendment to the Law on Lawyers since its implementation in 1997, also gives lawyers more power to collect evidence by themselves, and to ask courts to force witnesses to testify. Lawyers are specifically protected by a provision giving them immunity from prosecution for opinions expressed or remarks made in court. UPI has more. China Daily has local coverage.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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