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China's Ministry of Justice has outlined plans to allow experienced lawyers to set up private law firms under newly proposed legal reforms.
The country's legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, is studying draft amendments to its Law on Lawyers, which could lead to the first changes being made to the law since its implementation in 1997.
Under the proposals lawyers with more than five years' experience and no record of licence suspension will be permitted to set up their own private practices.
The proposals also outline plans to allow defendants and criminal suspects to have unmonitored meetings with their lawyers for the first time. Lawyers could also be permitted to collect evidence themselves and it is intended that they will not be legally liable for opinions and remarks made in court, providing the comments are not slanderous or do not threaten national security.
China's minister of justice Wu Aiying said China has more than 130,000 lawyers working across 13,000 law firms and that Chinese lawyers have provided legal aid in more than 5.2 million cases.