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Law Council of Australia


Trial of Mr Wang Quanzhang

17 Janaury 2019

In this letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Law Council President, Arthur Moses SC, calls for China to be held accountable for detaining human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang without charge.

27 December 2018

Dear Minister


I write in relation to international concerns for human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang. As you may be aware, Mr Wang was one of several hundred legal activists arrested in July 2015 as part of the “709” crackdown and is currently on trial in a closed court in China for alleged subversion of state power. Mr Wang has been detained for more than three years without contact with his family and reportedly without legal representation for much of this time.

The injustice of Mr Wang’s case has received worldwide attention. The United Nations Human Rights Office has reportedly called on Chinese authorities to “abide by China’s human-rights obligations and ensure his due process rights are respected”. A spokesperson for the office said “there are serious human rights concerns about the way Wang Quanzhang’s case has been handled so far, including today’s closed-door proceedings – which we understand marked the first time he has seen a judge since he was detained more than three years ago” (source).

The Human Rights Commission of the Geneva Bar Association issued an Open Petition Letter on 10 December calling for Mr Wang’s release. On 18 December the Hong Kong Bar Association issued a statement calling on those conducting Mr Wang’s trial to ensure the full and proper implementation of “due process and to respect established fundamental human rights of PRC legal professionals and citizens”. The Law Society of Hong Kong has raised similar concerns, requesting China to respect the legal system. On 26 December Amnesty International called for the “sham trial” charges against Mr Wang to be dropped and for his immediate and unconditional release to go home to his family.

The Law Council believes that Australia has an important role to play in promoting and defending the rule of law and human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. Accordingly, we respectfully ask the Australian Government make diplomatic representations to China as a matter of urgency to ensure a fair and transparent trial for Mr Wang. Such representation would be consistent with the Australian Government’s decision in March 2016 to be a signatory to the Joint Statement on the Human Rights Situation in China at the 31st session of the Human Rights Council.

Legal representation must be available to every citizen, not just the powerful or the popular. Solicitors and barristers defend the rights of all. This means that sometimes lawyers are called upon to act for unpopular persons or persons who a Government alleges to have broken the law. These lawyers should not be regarded as subversive or promoting the law being broken by merely representing a person who is accused of such matters. In accordance with the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of the Lawyers, it is vital for every nation to have an independent legal profession that can practice without fear of reprisal. This is critical to ensure that not only is justice done, justice is seen to be done.

The Australian legal profession and the Australian community have a keen interest in promoting and defending the rule of law internationally and in encouraging a Chinese legal system that is robust, fair and impartial.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Arthur Moses SC
Law Council of Australia



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