Bar News - April 7, 2006
Concern Over Beijing Lawyer’s Arrest
The International Law Section of the NHBA authorized the section leaders to mail the following letter to the Republic of China’s Ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong.
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
The New Hampshire Bar Association International Law Section (NHBA) wishes to express concern over the treatment of Gao Zhisheng, a rights lawyer in Beijing. The December 13, 2005, New York Times reported that the judicial bureau and internal secret police intended to force Mr. Gao to hand over his law license and his law firm’s operating permit, ostensibly because Mr. Gao’s offices had moved location without filing the proper papers. In the US, such minor oversights are easily correctable. However, it is widely reported in the world press that this threat to Mr. Gao was made because he represented clients unpopular with local authorities and attempted to shine light on alleged governmental abuses.
Inasmuch as you are interested in building an honest, professionally managed, and trustworthy legal system in China, we cannot help but feel that such heavy-handed measures as prohibiting Mr. Gao from being able to question the way local officials do business can only undermine confidence of foreign investors and cause concern by the international legal community. Such measures also raise questions as to the sanctity of contracts, the lawyer–client relationship, and general commitment for the rule of law.
The NHBA is an association of over 5,000 lawyers which believes that justice must be accessible, in the words of our late Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Kenison, “to the humble as well as the powerful, for the poor as well as the rich, for the minority as well as the majority, and for the unpopular as well as the popular.” As lawyers—international and local—we know that much of the life we value is only possible because of a system of common rules that are applied to the strong and weak alike, reliably and predictably. When individual authorities are allowed to operate above the law or on the basis of personal whims, a legal structure cannot long stand.
The New Hampshire Bar Association International Law Section calls upon you to investigate the action of the local authorities described in the Times article and give assurances that Attorney Gao may be able to practice his chosen profession of law without intimidation, threats, or favor.
George C. Bruno, Section Chair
Susan T. Goff, Vice Chair
William D’Allessandro, Clerk