[JURIST] China's National People's Congress [official website] Sunday began considering measures to codify legal ethics, improve criminal suspects' access to defense lawyers and evidence, and allowed experienced lawyers to establish individual private law firms. The reforms, which guarantee lawyers the right to meet defendants in all cases with the exception of those involving state secrets, were proposed by the Ministry of Justice [official website] and will most likely be approved. The proposals also prohibit the state from conducting surveillance of the defendants meeting their lawyers, and grants defense lawyers legal immunity for statements in court provided that statements do not constitute slander or threaten national security.
Lawyers with more than five years experience and no record of license suspension will also be permitted to establish individual private law firms. Legal ethnics prohibiting lawyers from representing clients if they have a personal conflict of interest will also be specifically codified for the first time in China [JURIST news archive]. The proposed reforms to China's Law on Lawyers [text in English; HRF backgrounder] if approved, will be the first amendments to the law since its implementation in 1997. Xinhua has more.