Liaoning Province Issues Regulations on Defense Lawyer Access to Clients in Custody

November 22, 2004

According to a Legal Daily report, Liaoning province has issued a new regulation on meetings between lawyers and criminal suspects. With exceptions for cases involving state secrets or organized crime, the regulation requires law enforcement agencies to respond in writing and arrange a meeting between a lawyer and a suspect within 48 hours of receiving a request for such a meeting. When a case involves organized crime, the agencies have five days to respond and make arrangements. In the case of a crime involving state secrets, the law enforcement agency must approve or reject the request within a five-day period (but need not necessarily arrange a meeting). The text of the provincial regulation is available here.

Defense lawyers complain that authorities often undermine the right to counsel enshrined in China’s Criminal Procedure Law by limiting or denying them access to their clients. A national regulation applicable only to China’s procuratorate was issued earlier this year and contained a similar 48-hour requirement for meetings between defense lawyers and their clients. Observers have complained that in practice, some procurators have “arranged” a meeting within 48 hours but set the meeting time for later, undermining the regulation’s apparent purpose of ensuring criminal suspects with timely access to defense lawyers.