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Cablegate: China Rule of Law: Improving Legal Efficiency

VZCZCXRO3315
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0806/01 1970751
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160751Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6270
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAWJA/DOJ WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000806

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USDOJ FOR CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN, OPDAT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KJUS CH
SUBJECT: China Rule of Law: Improving Legal Efficiency

(U) THIS DOCUMENT IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. IT SHOULD NOT BE
DISSEMINATED OUTSIDE U.S. GOVERNMENT CHANNELS OR IN ANY PUBLIC FORUM
WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONCURRENCE OF THE ORIGINATOR. IT SHOULD NOT BE
POSTED ON THE INTERNET.

1. (U) SUMMARY: In late June conversations with local judges,
academics, and lawyers in Guangdong Province, Embassy Beijing
Resident Legal Advisor Ronald Cheng discussed ways to improve the
efficiency of legal process, responded to inquiries about U.S. legal
culture, and the problems related to legal protections and client
access. Other issues discussed included judicial corruption,
witnesses who are compelled to appear in court, and the amendment of
China's Lawyer Law. END SUMMARY

Burdened with high caseloads, judges seek efficiency
--------------------------------------------- -------

2. (SBU) Twelve judges from the Foshan Intermediate People's Court
attended Cheng's June 27 presentation on U.S. criminal procedure.
The Vice President of Foshan Intermediate Court Lai Zining, a good
contact of the consulate's, who is forward leaning in his thinking
about the rights of the accused, said that judges were overwhelmed
with both investigative and procedural responsibilities. According
to the Foshan judges, the Intermediate People's Court had over 500
judges who handled 100,000 cases in 2006, more than ten percent of
which were criminal cases.

3. (SBU) During the discussion, judges inquired about methods used
in the U.S. legal system to balance the dual needs of efficiency and
justice. Of particular interest were the concepts of plea
bargaining (which the judges admitted would improve the efficiency
of the process, albeit at the risk of additional corruption), and
criminal discovery, especially the handling of late-disclosed
evidence at trial.

Academics curious about U.S. legal culture
----------------- ------------------------

4. (SBU) In their meetings with on June 27 and 28, academics from
the Law School of South China University of Technology (SCUT) and
Guangzhou Academy of Social Science expressed interest in
widely-publicized U.S. court cases -- those with sensational crimes
or lengthy litigations, and often involving celebrities, and which
were atypical in the U.S. legal system. Attendees also discussed
jury selection, probation, and early release. Professor Hou
Lingling of SCUT asked how a case like the recent Shanxi brick kiln
scandal, involving forced labor and child labor, would have been
handled in the United States. The members of the legal faculty
clearly admired the mature nature of the U.S. legal system and its
concepts of equality and governance by law.

Lawyers call for more rights and protections
---------------- ---------------------------

5. (SBU) During a visit to a medium-sized law firm in Guangzhou on
June 28 and roundtable meeting with eight criminal defense lawyers
from different law firms, Cheng heard complaints of unfair treatment
by judges and law enforcement. One former lawyer claimed that he
had received an eighteen-month prison sentence for "assisting in the
falsification of evidence." Lawyers debated the incidence of
judicial corruption in criminal cases, but agreed that corruption
did not affect the guilt determination; instead it affected the
length of imprisonment.

6. (SBU) The lawyers also lamented obstruction by law enforcement
bureaus during the investigation stage of a case. To meet with
clients, lawyers must first obtain approval from the prison
authority, a process which normally takes at least one week. Once
approved, meeting time is limited -- sometimes only ten to fifteen
minutes. The lawyers stated that such conditions made it difficult
to provide effective legal counsel.

7. (SBU) In Cheng's meeting with the Guangdong Bar Association on
June 29, Criminal Commission Director Liu Tao confirmed that
interference from law enforcement departments and a lack of legal
protection for lawyers were the primary obstacles faced by criminal
defense lawyers. Though Liu tried to limit the discussion to the
prescribed time of one hour, the enthusiasm of her colleagues in
asking questions about plea bargaining, mediation, discovery,
defense pre-trial investigation, and bail extended the meeting to
ninety minutes.

Unwilling witnesses
-------------------

8. (SBU) Judges, academics, and lawyers all commented on the
difficulty of compelling witnesses to appear in court. Chinese law

GUANGZHOU 00000806 002 OF 002


requires witnesses to appear in court, yet in reality only about ten
percent do so in criminal cases. (Lawyers claimed that the
percentage was lower, while judges and academics said the situation
had improved to twelve-or-thirteen percent.) Instead of enforcement
or other legal remedies, the prevailing practice in China is for
lawyers or judges to pressure family members, friends, neighbors, or
employers to persuade the witness to appear. Lacking a bailiff
system or the ability to call for local police to act on their
behalf, judges find it difficult to enforce rulings.

Amendment to the Lawyer Law
---------------------------

9. (U) China is currently in the process of amending its Lawyer Law.
When asked to predict how the amendment would affect them, judges
said that effects would be minimal, academics were interested in a
new regulation permitting solo private practice, and the lawyers
hoped to enjoy increased protection under the new law.

10. (U) This cable has been cleared by Embassy Beijing Resident
Legal Advisor Ronald Cheng.

GOLDBERG

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