Chinese Attorney Loyalty Oath Abandons Rule of Law

Chinese Attorney Loyalty Oath Abandons Rule of Law

Some members of the legal profession take for granted that the license to practice law is a grant of permission to do so by the government. In countries where the rule of law is paramount, there would be public outrage if one's political ideology became the litmus test for obtaining a license to practice.

Imagine in a de facto one-party U.S. state, the political party in power required all attorneys to adhere to the party's platform as a condition for obtaining or renewing a license to practice law. The independence of the bar and ultimately of the bench would be drastically compromised.  The rule of law under such conditions becomes subject to subversion by ideology.

Would an attorney be able to represent a client competently when the client's best interests ran counter to the agenda of the political party that determined whether the lawyer could continue practicing law?

Now imagine the same scenario in a country where the rule of law is rarely respected to begin with and human rights are routinely abused under the guise of national security as a means of party control of the populace.

This is not a hypothetical. China's Justice Ministry is now requiring all attorneys to swear a loyalty oath to the communist party as a precondition for obtaining or renewing licensure. Critics contend that the loyalty oath violates the country's constitution, but there is no impartial judicial body that would hear a case challenging the new oath requirement.

The driving motive for this loyalty oath appears to be the embarrassment caused to the Chinese government by brave lawyers who have been representing human rights activists and other dissidents. By exposing secret detentions, torture, and other dirty laundry of the Chinese Communist-controlled "government", these attorneys have apparently crossed the line. In fact, some of the attorneys have themselves been detained and suffered the same fate as their clients.

The Chinese government's ridiculous explanation for the new loyalty oath requirement is that it is necessary to correct "erroneous political tendencies." Presumably it is erroneous under the regime to protect human rights with the legal system instead of using the rule of law to impose tyranny.

When allegiance must be sworn to a political party and its ideology, this dishonors the rule of law, the legal profession, and irreparably damages the attorney-client relationship.   This is a far cry from swearing to uphold constitutional rights and principles, the procedural order of government and the courts, and the democratic process.

The international legal community should loudly condemn the Chinese government for such hypocrisy and misconduct. Governments, NGOs, and the media should expose the injustices perpetuated by this loyalty oath until those running China lose enough face that they abolish the loyalty oath.  The Western corporate world should also consider how their obvious and burgeoning business ties with the PRC reflect on their global corporate citizenship and their perceived respect for the very rule of law that allows them to prosper in their homelands. 

Recommended Reading

China issues new regulation requiring lawyers to swear allegiance to Communist Party, PRI (Mar. 23, 2012)

China Requires Lawyers to Pledge Oath to Communist Party, ABA Journal (Mar. 23, 2012)

China Requires Lawyers to Swear Their Loyalty to Communist Party, Bloomberg (Mar. 22, 2012)

China Orders Communist Loyalty Oaths for Lawyers, VOA News (Mar. 21, 2012)

Lawyers in China to swear allegiance to Communist Party, BBC News (Mar. 21. 2012)



  • 03-25-2012

I am a Chinese lawyer, I'm not asked to do such a thing. I don't know where the news comes from, but we do need help from the outside world to help China change to a better world. The most important, we need to help ourselves, just as a weatern saying said, God help those who help themselves. If you really care about China and Chinese people, maybe ther better way to give some help is help the Chinese who really need help, and leave the politics alone.Thanks.