Beware: Your Chinese Lawyer Owes Loyalty to the Chinese Government, Not to You or to Your Company

Interesting article in the most recent issue of James Zimmerman’s monthly newsletter. Zimmerman is the author of the China Law Deskbook. His article is on “The Issuance of the Notice of the Decision on the Establishment of the System of Lawyers Oath” which was very recently promulgated by China’s Ministry of Justice.  In layman’s terms, this notice sets out the oath required of all China licensed lawyers:

I swear to faithfully fulfill the sacred mission of legal workers in socialism with Chinese characteristics. I swear my loyalty to the Motherland, to the people, to uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system, and to protect the dignity of the Constitution and the laws. I swear to practice law for the people, keep industrious, professional honest and corruption free, safeguard the lawful rights and interests of clients, maintain the right implementation of the law, uphold social fairness and justice, diligently strive for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Zimmerman rightly notes that this oath is mandatory for Chinese lawyers working for Chinese law firms. and that a lawyer that refuses this oath will be denied a license to practice law.

Your Chinese licensed lawyer has taken this oath.

Zimmerman goes on to point out that this oath makes clear that Chinese licensed lawyers are not fully independent and “their expressed loyalty – and notwithstanding their personal views – is first and foremost to the State.”  He then discusses how this oath is “interference at best” and makes a Chinese lawyer’s “ethical standards” vastly different than that of American lawyers. See China Lawyers: Due Diligence is Required. This lack of lawyer-client loyalty is why so many Western companies refuse to use Chinese licensed lawyers unless absolutely necessary

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