A Sword and a Shield

Posted by Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Sept. 26 – It’s rarely we feature a review of other published China books (other than our own) on China Briefing, mainly as we expect our readers to know what to read about China, and secondly, blogs that do this already tend to be overly critical of other authors and content. We prefer to allow readers to make up their own minds without needing us to be objective or pass comments about other people’s work.

There is one book, however, that has just recently appeared in Hong Kong, published by the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group or CHRLCG for short. The group and website are blocked in China, but their book “A Sword and a Shield” is a worthy introduction to how the legal system works in China, and not just concerning human rights.

The back cover does a great job in explaining the contents, so I quote as follows:

A Sword and Shield: China’s Human Rights Lawyers provides an understanding of how China’s legal system works in the context of the political reality of today’s China. This collection of articles by prominent legal academics and practitioners provides valuable insights into the roles lawyers have played in China’s legal system and the constraints they have encountered since China’s legal reforms in the early 1980’s. From a ‘barefoot lawyer’ protesting coercive family planning in Shandong to a hunger striking campaigner for religious freedom in Beijing to public interest advocates who forge rights consciousness through consumer protection, China’s legal practitioners have contributed to the radical transformation of China’s legal and social landscape over the past 20 years. Suppressed, beaten, imprisoned, disbarred, China’s human rights lawyers have continued their struggle, becoming in the process not only pioneers in their profession, but also to larger social progress in China.”

The book is useful beyond human rights issues as it also explains the restrictions on legal representation in criminal cases, and the role of lawyers in the weiquan emerging rights movement in China.

It’s available in both English and Chinese from good Hong Kong bookstores and from the CHRLCG website directly. A review from Lexis Nexis is here.

Even though human rights may not be on your business’s agenda, the book does an excellent job of describing the lack of transparency in China’s law and the State’s ability to override its own constitution. Foreign investors and their legal counsel would do well to take the contents on board.

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