The Chinese government’s continuing attacks on human rights lawyers rarely make foreign headlines these days. Monitoring, intimidating, disbarring and prosecuting activist lawyers have become routine in China. Even the tragic “disappearance” while in police custody of defense lawyer/political reformer Gao Zhisheng–now feared to be dead–hardly attracts attention.
It is also unremarkable for even non-political Chinese defense lawyers to suffer sanctions. The recent conviction of Beijing lawyer Li Zhuang for allegedly counseling his client to lie and bribe witnesses would not have been noted abroad if the case had not involved Chongqing’s extraordinary campaign to suppress organized crime.
By contrast, the Taiwan government’s new interest in curbing vigorous defense lawyers does constitute “news”. Although Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-Jeou recently took the occasion of the island’s Law Day to call for greater government efforts to promote judicial reform and human rights, his Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has been moving in the opposite direction.