China is to further separate its legal services sector from government departments in a bid to allow lawyers more autonomy, Minister of Justice Zhang Fusen said in Beijing Thursday.
"Bar associations at the provincial level will be divorced from the judicial administrative departments, and will be headed by practicing lawyers, rather than government officials," he told a national conference.
"Judicial administrative departments at the provincial level should not directly manage the affairs of law firms from now on," Zhang said.
Bar associations should play their roles in formulating regulations and codes of conduct for legal professionals, provide training and work for practicing lawyers, monitor their behavior and protect their legitimate rights, Zhang said.
Government bodies should encourage lawyers to expand their business into all sectors of the market economy, ranging from manufacturing, trade, logistics and consumer fields to high-tech and rising industries.
"The legal service agencies could also explore the new market in the fields of the country's political and social lives, providing effective legal services," Zhang said.
China now has about 110,000 practicing lawyers working in 9,000 law offices.
A national framework for the self-discipline of the legal service sector has been set up at all levels in China since the first national bar association, the All-China Association of Lawyers, was established in 1986.
(Xinhua News Agency December 27, 2002)