In this joint proposal, 121 lawyers and legal professionals ask the State Council to amend article 374 of the Procedural Regulations for the Handling of Criminal Cases by Public Security Organs to ensure the right of lawyers to meet with detained clients is not arbitrarily deprived on the grounds of “national security.” The letter follows decisions by the Zhengzhou authorities to bar lawyers from meeting with detained human rights defenders on the grounds that the detainees' suspected crimes involve actions that “harmed national security.”
Article 37(3) of the Criminal Law gives public security authorities the power to prohibit a lawyer-client meeting if the person detained is suspected of having committed a “national security” crime. However, the detainees in question are under criminal detention on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place,” which is not a “national security” crime as defined in the Criminal Law. When questioned by the lawyers, the Zhengzhou police cited article 374 of the Procedural Regulations as the legal basis for their decision. The signatories state that the Zhengzhou police's citation of Article 374 of the Procedural Regulations as the legal basis for categorizing a “public disturbance” crime as a “national security” crime amounts to an expansive re-interpretation of Article 37(3) of the Criminal Law, which is unlawful under the Law on Legislation.