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China’s Global Lawyers Forum Cancelled Speech Calling for “Independence of the Bar and the Judiciary”

China recently hosted a Global Lawyers Forum in Guangzhou, claiming that more than 400 international participants had been invited. Among them, a representative of the International Association of Lawyers (UIA), who was originally invited to give a speech at the conference, had his speech cancelled at the last minute. UIA issued a statement expressing its dissatisfaction.

In the beginning, the Chinese authorities called this event in Chinese the equivalent of the “World Lawyers Congress,” but its official English name was “Global Lawyers Forum.” China’s official mouthpiece, Xinhua News Agency reported that the participants included more than 400 international judicial professionals from 57 countries, including the International Bar Association (IBA), the International Association of Lawyers (UIA), the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA), and the Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA).

The French-based International Association of Lawyers (UIA) issued a press release on December 17 to shed some light on an incident that Chinese media had not covered. The release stated that UIA President Jerome Roth was originally invited to give a keynote speech at the meeting, but the scheduled speech was cancelled after the content of the speech was submitted to the organizer in advance as had been requested.

UIA’s release shared part of Roth’s speech, which emphasized, “The unique role that both individual lawyers and bar associations play as privileged guardians and defenders of citizens’ rights and of the Rule of Law.” “We advocate for the independence of the bar and of the judiciary, without which there would be no Rule of Law.”

Roth’s speech also talked about the significance of the rule of law, including, “the accountability of political authorities of a nation to its citizens, the separation of powers, and laws that are publicly promulgated, equitably enforced, independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.”

UIA did not say in the press release whether the cancellation of Roth’s speech was because it sounded too harsh on Beijing.

At the end of the statement, UIA reiterated its concern over Chinese lawyers who had disappeared, were threatened, detained, and even physically and mentally abused during their practice of the law, and who were unable to defend their own rights through proper judicial channels.

Source: Radio Free Asia, December 19, 2019