Red all over

Chinese lawyers relieved as Communist Party boss is arrested

The dramatic fall of Bo Xilai, former head of the Chinese Communist Party in Chongqing, has not only dominated the world’s news, but also allowed China’s lawyers to breathe a sigh of relief.

The story concerns hundreds of thousands of Chinese lawyers and dates back to late 2007 when Bo launched an anti-crime campaign. This resulted in more than 4,000 people being jailed, with their rights to legal representation and proper trials denied them. Many relatives of the victims sought out prominent Beijing lawyer Li Zhuang for advice. However, the lawyer was jailed and convicted of fabricating evidence in defending a client in Chongqing.

The controversial case has been debated widely in China’s legal community, as it reflects the challenging environment facing lawyers and the lack of judicial independence in parts of the court system.

Bo has since become infamous after being expelled from the party and linked to a number of deaths, including that of British national Neil Heywood. The scandal has prompted China’s legal profession to contemplate procedural justice and lawyers’ rights.

A litigation partner at a leading Chinese law firm told The Lawyer: “We [lawyers] are encouraged by Bo’s fall, which was widely expected, given his ruthless and lawless rule. He will have a taste of the wrongs he once committed.”

It will be interesting to see if Bo, under house arrest, will be afforded the luxury of representation in any legal action. More interesting still will be the identity of the lawyer instructed to take on the task.