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CHRLCG Appeal: Support Chinese lawyers to provide voluntary legal aid to victims of contaminated milk powder

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http://www.chrlcg-hk.org/?p=322

25 September 2008
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG)
www.chrlcg-hk.org

As of 24 September, 124 mainland Chinese lawyers from 22 provinces have signed up to offer voluntary legal aid to the victims of contaminated milk powder products since the news of the first toxic milk powder case broke out on 11 September. As of 22 September, more than 50,000 infants have been found at risk of contracting kidney stones, according to Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China. About 12,000 of the children have been hospitalized.

The voluntary lawyers’ group, initiated by prominent Beijing human rights lawyer Li Fangping, is a good sign for mainland Chinese lawyers to develop public interest lawyering in China. It is also encouraging to see that more and more lawyers are joining to help the victims.

However, some lawyers have been warned by judicial departments to stop taking up these cases. The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group is worried that this kind of pressure would force some lawyers to withdraw from providing voluntary legal aid service to the victims. It would bring a negative effect on China’s emerging development of protection of public interests.

Background information

On 11 September 2008, the Gansu Provincial Health Department first revealed that there were 59 infants with malfunctioning kidneys and one of them died because of eating a same brand milk powder. On the following days, a number of similar cases were reported in Hunan, Hubei, Shandong, Shanxi, Anhui, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Henan, Hebei and other provinces. The epidemic situation attracted the attention of a group of lawyers who are concerned about public interests. They initiated to provide voluntary legal aid service to the victims and they called on other lawyers to join them. As of 24 September 2008, 124 Chinese lawyers from 22 provinces have signed up to join the voluntary action.

As of 22 September, more than 50,000 children in mainland China have been found with symptoms of contracting kidney stones and at least four died after taking milk powder containing melamine, an industrial chemical. More cases have been reported across China while some other cases are also reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore where imported mainland-produced dairy products. At least 22 companies have been involved in the contaminated milk powder scandal, including famous mainland Chinese brands Sanlu, Mengniu and Yili.

Please write appeal letters to the All-China Lawyers Association, calling on the government-backed lawyers association to implement its duty to support and protect the lawyers who are providing voluntary legal aid service to the victims. You can use the following sample letter.

Sample appeal letter

Send to:
Yu Ning
Secretary General,
All-China Lawyers Association,
602 Kailong Building,
No.2 Chaoyangmenneibei Street,
Dongcheng District, Chaoyang District,
Beijing,
People’s Republic of China
Postal code: 100700
Tel: +86 (010) 64010507, 64049539
Fax: +86 (010) 64049539
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

Wu Aiying
Minister of Justice
No. 10 Nandajie,
Chaoyangmen,
Beijing,
People’s Republic of China
Postal code: 100020
Tel: +86 (010) 65205114
Fax: +86 (010) 84772883
Email: [email protected]

cc:
Lan Hong
Director,
International Section,
All-China Lawyers Association
Tel: +86 (010) 64060212
Fax: +86 (010) 64060207
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

Please also bcc a copy to us ([email protected]) for our record.

Dear Mr. Yu and Minister Wu,

I am writing to express my concern about the situation of contaminated milk powder in China and I appreciate very much that a group of lawyers have volunteered to provide free legal aid service to the victims.

I am certain that their efforts can help further develop public interest lawyering, which is an important element of the rule of law.

But I am also very worried to hear that some lawyers are pressured by local judicial authorities to stop taking up any cases related to toxic milk powder. I hope that your association can look into the matter and ensure that lawyers are free from any pressure in exercising their professional duties. According to Article 10 of the Constitution of the All-China Lawyers Association and Article 46 of the PRC Law on Lawyers, one of the duties of the lawyers association is “to support members to practise according to laws and protect members’ legal rights.”

Thank you very much for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
[signature]

Sources:

“Litigation could lead to unrest, say cadres”, South China Morning Post, 23 September 2008

“PRC Ministry of Justice issues documents to stop lawyers taking up toxic milk powder cases,” Radio Free Asia Mandarin Service, 25 September 2008 (Chinese)

“Ministry of Health: Toxic Milk Powder Affect Over 50,000 Babies,” BBC News Chinese Service, 22 September (Chinese)

“Hebei authorities stop lawyers taking up compensation cases related to toxic milk powder,” Radio Free Asia Cantonese Service, 22 September 2008 (Chinese)

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China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG) is a non-profit organisation based in Hong Kong SAR. It targets on advocating for the protection of the rights of human rights lawyers and legal rights defenders in China. It was established on 20 January 2007 by prominent human rights lawyer and legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan, legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing, barristers Cheung Yiu-leung, Ho Wai-yang, Linda Wong and Hectar Pun, solicitors John Clancey and Chong Yiu-kwong, and journalism professor To Yiu-ming. The initial funding of this group valued at HK$1.2 million per year is generously provided by Sir Joseph Hotung.

Tel: (852) 23881377, Fax: (852) 23887270, Email: [email protected], Website: www.chrlcg-hk.org

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