Scotland's advocate group demands action on Chinese sanctions and urge international action

Scotland’s advocate group has demanded action on Chinese sanctions in a joint statement with UK legal professionals.

The Faculty of Advocates for Scotland have signed a letter condemning the sanctions issued by the Chinese Government against barristers.

Other groups signing the letter include the Bar Council of England and Wales, the Bar of Ireland, and the Bar Council of Northern Ireland.

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It follows challenges against the People’s Republic of China against lawyers representing clients who discussed the human rights violations against the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang Province.

Roddy Dunlop is Dean of the Faculty of Advocates
Roddy Dunlop is Dean of the Faculty of Advocates

At least one million Muslim minority Uighurs are held in Chinese government-run detention centres, which has been declared a genocide by the UK House of Commons.

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The letter says: “The Chinese state, as well as Chinese citizens and their businesses, benefit as much as anyone from a functioning international legal order.

"We call on the PRC government to review these sanctions, which call into question its commitment to the rule of law, as well as its status and reputation as a reliable partner in international trade and commerce.

“Measures which target lawyers who are complying with their professional obligations, simply because their work attracts the disapproval of the Chinese government, are also a threat to the global legal community.

“We therefore call upon national and international Bar associations to condemn the imposition of these sanctions as an unjustifiable interference with the professional role of lawyers and an attack upon the rule of law internationally.”

Derek Sweeting QC, the chair of the Bar council, said: “We must be robust and call out this attack for what it is – a threat on the work of lawyers globally and on the rule of law. Providing independent legal advice is the fundamental role of lawyers.

"There should be no place for the use of bullying and punitive measures by a state because it disagrees with a legal opinion.”

Responding to the letter, Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael said: “It is difficult to imagine another country in the world today that would react in this way to lawyers doing their job.

"It illustrates the desperation of the Chinese Communist Party to keep its genocide secret, but the world already knows and the longer the Chinese government denies it the worse things will be when they eventually have to admit it.”

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said: "The sanctions announced by the Chinese Government against lawyers and their family members is another clear demonstration of the direction of China under Xi Jinping.

"The Chinese Government has chosen to target lawyers who are complying with their professional obligations. Such interference is a threat to the global legal community and must be widely condemned.

"We must not lose sight of the gross human rights violations taking place in China. Whole communities have been destroyed, families have been separated and people have been forced into detention centres. We all have a responsibility to speak out against this persecution."

The Chinese Government has repeatedly denied genocide is occurring, despite condemnation across the international community.

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