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New Rules Enshrine Lawyers' Rights

Lawyer Yang Anjin was expecting a long delay -- or even refusal -- of his request to meet his client who was in custody on criminal charges in Beijing's Chaoyang District.

But the day after he applied to the municipal procuratorate, his request was approved.

"It was almost impossible before," said Yang, of Jincheng Law Firm. "It would take lawyers days to get the approval and sometimes a refusal."

The Supreme People's Procuratorate issued a regulation to protect the lawyers' rights in criminal litigation on Feb. 19, dubbed the "23 items" by Wednesday's Procuratorial Daily.

One of the 23 items is to require procuratorates to arrange meetings between lawyers and detained clients within 48 hours after the lawyer submits an application.

The new regulation set a clear deadline for procuratorates to deal with lawyers' requests, which was a considerable improvement, said Jia Wuguang, secretary general of the All-China Lawyers Association (ACLA).

"Lawyers encounter three main difficulties in their jobs: the problem of meeting detained clients, reading documents and examining evidence," Jia said.

Some prosecuting attorneys would restricting the time of meetings, the number of lawyers that could attend, and the number of times lawyers could request to meet their clients, Jia said.

"I encountered so many hurdles when representing suspects in quite a few criminal cases," said Tian Wenchang, director of Beijing's King and Capital Lawyers.

The 23 items allow lawyers to submit accusations of prosecuting attorneys violating laws and regulations to the procuratorates or higher procuratorates.

The new regulation also requires prosecuting attorneys to take lawyers' advice during their investigations and append the record of their opinion to the indictment.

"I am happy to see the 23 items. They will be practical due to more clear regulations on lawyers' rights in litigation than before," Tian said.

However, the regulation announced by the Supreme People's Procuratorate will not completely ease the situation of lawyers, said Prof. Chen Weidong of the Law School of the People's University.

The laws have items on the rights of lawyers, but lack details on how to ensure them and penalties in the case of violations, Chen said.

Lawyers are not only disadvantaged by judicial organs but also by administrations, he said. "We need to improve the Law of Criminal Procedures and Law of Lawyers."

(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2004)

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