The four professional bodies of barristers and advocates of the United Kingdom and Ireland have issued a joint condemnation of the sanctions announced by the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) against barrister members of the legal profession and their "immediate families".
The sanctions followed a legal opinion by four barristers for lay clients, who then published that opinion. The opinion related to legal issues arising from alleged human rights violations by PRC authorities against the Uyghur population in the Xinjiang region.
In a joint statement, the Bar Council of England & Wales, the Faculty of Advocates, the Bar Council of Northern Ireland and the Bar of Ireland declared that the imposition of sanctions on lawyers for providing a legal opinion "clearly contravenes the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers which state (at para 18) that 'lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions'".
The statement continued: "The naming in the sanctions of a barristers’ chambers, which comprises some 95 other barristers who practise from the same premises but as independent legal practitioners, is a further indiscriminate attack on legal professionals. It is inconsistent with respect for the rule of law.
"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."