China: Compulsory loyalty oath by lawyers to the Party versus the Rule of Law?

In China, a loyalty oath to The Party must now be taken by all new lawyers entering practice, and by lawyers renewing their licence to practice. Here’s one transation of the oath:

“I volunteer to become a practicing lawyer of the People’s Republic of China and promise to faithfully perform the sacred duties of a socialist-with-Chinese-characteristics legal worker (中国特色社会主义法律工作者); to be faithful to the motherland and the people; to uphold the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system; to safeguard the dignity of the constitution and the law; to practice on behalf of the people; to be diligent, professional honest, and corruption-free; to protect the legitimate rights and interests of clients, the correct implementation of the law, and social fairness and justice; and diligently strive for the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics!”

The need to juxtape this with China having just completed the task of reducing its laws to a compendium, with the stated intention of instituting “the rule of law”, will be obvious to those who are concerned with either the rule of law or the position of the legal profession in the scheme of things.

Yet, how do we even begin to juxtapose what is clearly the subjugation of the legal fraternity in China to the State, with China’s stated intention to institute the rule of law, in a day and age where, although the importance and the perview of “the rule of law” is recognised across the board, there is no proper definitions of the concept or its subject matter, and where every Tom, Dick and Harry of a philosopher, politician and other, utilizes the concept differently, so that anyone entering the debate cannot be sure they are on the same page, let alone even on facing pages, as anyone else.

As long as there is no agreement about fundamental questions about the rule of law, consideration of anything – such as the import of the above loyalty pledge lawyers are now required to make in China to the rule of law – can only become more grist for casuistic pontification that will lead us tangentally away from each other.

It is nigh time that the concept of the rule of law be given heuristic value by its proper definition. Things are going down in the modern world, not only China, that makes this endeavour well overdue.

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