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China Escalates its Control over Lawyers

The All-China Lawyers Association (ACLA) issued new regulations for lawyers and law firms banning them from discussing cases in public in the latest move to tighten control over lawyers.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) established the ACLA in July 1986 and placed it under China’s Ministry of Justice.  under the ACLA Charter Article 3. The ACLA follows Xi Jinping and the CCP’s leadership and practices law according to China’s socialist rule of law. All lawyers in China are members of the ACLA.

On October 20, 2021, the ACLA issued the “Rules on Prohibiting Violations and Speculation on Cases.” The Rules require that lawyers and law firms shall not “spread violations of the [CCP’s] party line, principles, and policies,” “oppose the leadership of the Communist Party of China,” or “incite complaints against the Party and the government.”

The new ACLA regulations also require that lawyers and law firms not hype up cases through joint signatures, open letters, and online gatherings to show solidarity. They also ban posting comments on cases on social media.

In addition, the ACLA stipulates that, for publicly heard cases, the undertaking lawyers shall not disclose or disseminate important information and evidence materials obtained through client interviews, file reviews, investigations, and evidence collection “that may affect the handling of the case.” For cases that are not heard publicly, lawyers cannot disclose or disseminate case information and materials.

However, some of these bans are causing grave concerns among rights lawyers in China.

Since July 9, 2015 (7-09), the police in over 20 provinces and cities throughout China have conducted a crackdown. They have arrested, summoned, criminally detained, taken away, disappeared, or interrogated hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers, civil rights activists, petitioners, and their relatives. The charges against them have included: “inciting subversion,” “disturbing a court order,” “picking quarrels, provoking troubles,” and many other examples. At least 280 people were detained during the crackdown.  The authorities banned them from the practice of law and continued to monitor and harass them after their release.

The CCP touted the 7-09 crackdown on lawyers as its significant achievement in 2015. During the following year’s 3rd Plenary Session of the 5th Session of the 12th National People’s Congress on March 12, 2016. Zhou Qiang, President of the Supreme Court, and Cao Jianming, President of the Supreme Procuratorate, made special mention of the crackdown.


1. The All China Lawyer Association, October 20, 2021

2. U.S. Department of State, July 8, 2021