When Beijing imposed sanctions on the Essex Court Chamber, a group of prominent barristers practiced from there, it was not only at the center of the British legal establishment. It achieved a victory in its fight to silence international domestic criticism of its domestic criticism, especially its policy against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Lawyers say the sanctions could affect China whatever firm chooses to offer in their international arbitration. Solicitors can think twice about directing an Essex court, an expert in commercial and financial litigation, arbitration and public international law for Asian work.
Analysts also warned that it could lead to self-censorship in the UK legal industry, and that companies and chambers would not be wary of associating with anyone who works on behalf of China’s critical groups or individuals.
“This is so horrible – it has had a chilling effect on chambers and law enforcement agencies that people would be very concerned about talking to China,” Beijing said, adding that top rights barrister Barnes Helena Kennedy said the Essex court’s simultaneous sanctions.
China Prohibition announcement Late last month, a number of UK MPs, academics and individuals, including the Essex Court, sued for “permanent interference” in their comments about Xinjiang, where more than 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained since 2013.
The move freezes the China-based assets of the targets, and bans named individuals and their family members from entering China, including Macao and Hong Kong, and doing business with Chinese individuals or entities.
China did not specify which barristers in the Essex Court would be affected, or why the chambers were targeted. But barristers from the four chambers have previously given legal opinions to nonprofit clients involved in the Xinjiang massacre.
China denies carrying out the genocide and instead says it is providing “vocational education” in an area where they say it faces the threat of terrorism.
The Essex Court soon after the ban was announced Move a news item About the opinion from its website and published a statement that sought to keep the majority of its members away from advice. “No other member of the Essex Court Chamber was involved or responsible for this consultation,” the chambers said.
Chinese state media welcomed the response. A headline in the China Daily newspaper read, “Barristers in retreat in lie against Wiggers.”
Due to rights concerns, including H&M and Nike, China is pressuring global businesses to boycott cotton produced in Xinjiang. However, he had little hope that such a strategy would be applied to British legal institutions.
The head of an international law firm in Hong Kong said of the Essex Court’s sanctions, “It overtakes your breath.” “It’s a long arm of a government intervening in another country.”
“Today, it’s approved Essex Court Chamber members,” Guy Sandhurst, former chairman of the Bar of England and Wales, wrote on the website of the QC Society of Conservative lawyers. “But tomorrow it could be Clifford Chance, Freshfields or any other big city chamber of law firms or barristers that intentionally or otherwise object to the Chinese state.”
Alan Bates, a British barrister, said lawyers could now be more cautious about providing legal aid to China-critical firms and be aware that their words could harm the work of their colleagues. “People may be willing to bear the cost themselves [but] They can reconsider when the cost falls on colleagues, ”he said.
A barrister in the rival UK Chamber said they had already been told not to speak publicly about the matter when deciding how the Essex court would respond. “I regret it,” he said. “I don’t think you’ve dealt with bullying.”
Several chambers have posted statements in support of the chamber. A man inside the Essex court told the Financial Times that they suspected the other chambers “did not want to throw themselves into the firing line” but warned that they may not be immune.
“The Essex Court set the first chamber subject to these sanctions. . . But it may not be the end, ”the man said.
Derek Sweeting, chairman of the UK Bar Council, described China’s move as an “attack on the rule of law”.
Prior to the ban, Essex Courts had a council of more than 40 barristers and 44 queens, including a Singapore branch. But within two days of the announcement of the sanctions, Bed, an international arbitrator with Asian experience, left the NGQC chambers and joined the Bedford Row. The move was seen as unusual because the chambers were not as well known as commercial arbitration as its former base.
Subsequently, the Singapore branch of the Essex Court, which included Toby Landau QC and former Singapore Attorney-General VK Rajah, completely disbanded and said its members would apply for the formation of a new chamber. Landou is also hoping to leave the London chambers, according to a person familiar with the matter. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The barrister of the rival chamber said the sanctions would not only affect Hong Kong and Singapore’s arbitration work with Chinese firms, but also Caribbean legal work because the ultimate beneficiaries of several of the firms involved were Hong Kong businessmen.
Matthew Gearing, the newly-appointed chair of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center, hopes to join the Essex Court Chamber, but he told the Financial Times last week that he was “monitoring the situation”.
Among the top sets there is already discussion among the rival chambers of Peking Spree. “This is a bodily injury to a very institutional chamber institution as a form of collective punishment,” said one UK lawyer.
“The problem with the Essex Court is that they are so lucrative in the international market and the fair proportion of that work is Chinese,” said another chamber. “They were market leaders in all chambers in building a practice in Asia, so the impact is likely to be huge. Damaged, Singapore barrister gone. There will be more casualties. ”