Editor: President Yu, would you give our readers something on the background and history of the All China Lawyers Association?
Yu: The All China Lawyers Association, the ACLA, was founded in July of 1986. The legal profession was reestablished in China in the year 1979, but during the early years there was no unified association of lawyers on a nationwide basis. Administration and management of the profession was undertaken by the Department of Justice of the central government. With the process of reform and the opening of China to the outside world, however, it was deemed appropriate to establish an organization that would oversee the legal profession, particularly with respect to the self-discipline and self-management of its members, promote career development and reform among the ranks of Chinese lawyers, safeguard the legitimate rights of parties in a legal matter, promote social justice and fairness, and focus the efforts of the legal profession on the construction of our country's legal system. This has been part of China's ongoing support of democracy and the rule of law.
At present, the ACLA has approximately 130,000 members, most of whom are licensed lawyers. Under our statutes, law teachers from colleges and universities who possess the appropriate qualifications can be registered as part-time lawyers and admitted to membership in the ACLA.
The functions of the ACLA include establishing and maintaining the administrative standards of the legal profession, oversight of continuing education for lawyers, the safeguarding of rights under law, and the representation of the Chinese legal profession in international exchanges.
Organizationally, the ACLA consists, most importantly, of the Congress, which is its highest authority. The Congress is responsible for making, and amending as necessary, the rules of the organization and the regulations by which the rules are implemented. The Congress deliberates on and determines the policies that govern the legal profession. In addition, the Congress hears the report of the ACLA Council, which is the standing body of the Congress, and has responsibility for electing, and removing, the executive membership of the Council. According to the rules currently in place, the Council is responsible to the Congress. Finally, the Secretariat of the ACLA is responsible for carrying out and implementing the decisions and resolutions of the Congress and the Council, a task that it undertakes through several special committees. The Professional Committee of the Secretariat, for one, is responsible for drafting the performance standards applicable to lawyers and for oversight of continuing education in the profession.
Editor: Please tell us about the responsibilities of the President of the ACLA.
Yu: The President is responsible for chairing the Congress, which mean convening and presiding at Congress meetings, setting meeting agendas, supervising the implementation of Congress decisions through the actions of the Council and, in general, representing the ACLA in its relationships with other organizations, both foreign and domestic.
One of the principal challenges that the President faces derives from the distance that still remains to be covered by the legal profession in our country. There is a great deal to be done to enhance the basic competence of the profession, the operational environment of lawyers requires considerable improvement and the organizational framework of the profession - bar and professional associations at all levels - is yet to be constructed. Since June of 2005 the position of President of the ACLA is a full-time undertaking, which reflects a commitment to address all of these challenges.
Editor: Please tell us about the ACLA's relations with the Ministry of Justice?
Yu: The Ministry of Justice is charged with responsibility for the administration and management of the country's judicial system, for oversight with respect to the activities of law firms - both foreign and domestic - and for the supervision of the legal structure of the country generally. Within that structure, the ACLA is charged with overseeing the administration of the legal profession, with particular reference to its self-disciplinary functions and the other matters I have addressed. From time to time the Ministry of Justice invites the ACLA to participate in the drafting of regulations with respect to the qualification of lawyers, the supervision of law offices, and the like.
Let me add that, pursuant to China's Lawyers Law, the ACLA is responsible for the continuing legal education of the legal profession. Judges are not members of the ACLA, however, and their continuing education requirements are set by the Ministry of Justice.
Editor: Please tell us about your efforts to establish relationships between the ACLA and other national bar associations, particularly the American Bar Association.
Yu: The ACLA attaches great importance to its relations with lawyers' associations overseas, including the American Bar Association. We have agreed to sign a Memorandum of Cooperation with the ABA, which is meant to codify and formalize many years of cooperation and friendship between the two organizations, including the exchange of delegations, participation in a variety of conferences and seminars in each other's countries, serving together in many capacities with international bar and professional associations, and so on. These activities play an important role in building mutual understanding between the legal profession in our country and in other countries. They also contribute to enhancing the competence and skill of our lawyers, to furthering the development of the profession in our country and to promoting democracy and the rule of law.