Law firms will face administrative punishment if they allow their lawyers to hype up cases and incite people to attack the judicial system and stir public discontent with the government, said a latest revised regulation.
But lawyers reached by the Global Times said that the regulation is too strict and the standards are too vague, which will hinder the development of legal profession.
The revised regulation, released by the Ministry of Justice on September 6, stipulates that law firms will face administrative punishment if they instigate or organize people to stage protests in front of government organs to pressure authorities and disrupt public order; jointly release open letters and mobilize support online to attack the judicial system; and spread opinions that refute the Constitution, endanger national security, or incite public discontent with the Party and government.
The punishment includes fine, suspension of business or cancellation of the business license.
Yuan Yulai, a lawyer at Zhejiang Zhixing Law Firm and member of the All China Lawyers Association, told the Global Times that "the revised regulation goes against legal profession."
Lawyers should be allowed to express different opinions in different ways. The regulation, which bans them from appealing in various ways such as on Weibo, will do no good to the administration of justice.
Echoing Yuan, Wang Zhengyu, deputy director of the Center for Public Policy Research at the China University of Political Science and Law, said that the regulation restricts lawyers' rights to voice different opinions, and that the standards are too vague.
However, Hong Daode, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that lawyers could express their opinions based on evidence and legal facts instead of hyping up the case or misleading the public with biased stories.
"The verified facts should be publicized after the trial, rather than before or during it, otherwise it serves no other purpose than provoking the public," Hong added.
"The amendments are based on incidents that took place in recent years which had a bad impact on the society as well as the legal profession," Hong said.
Zhou Shifeng, chief lawyer at Beijing-based Fengrui Law Firm, was convicted of "subverting State power" and sentenced to seven years in prison on August 4 by the Second Intermediate People's Court of Tianjin, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Fengrui Law Firm was broken up in July 2015 after it was found to be serving as a platform for a "criminal gang" which disturbed social order, Xinhua reported in July 2015.