TAIPEI: A Chinese attorney representing a Hong Kong activist was stripped of his license by China on Friday January 15.
Lu Siwei, who represented one of 12 Hong Kong activists who tried to flee to Taiwan, was revoked his license by the Sichuan Provincial Justice Department in a formal notice on Friday.
Ten of the twelve activists captured at sea in August were sentenced in December to between seven months and three years in prison by a court in Shenzhen for illegally crossing the border and organizing illegal border crossings.
They are part of an exodus of Hong Kong residents after Beijing introduced a tough new security law that they say destroys the western-style civil liberties of the territory. Dozens of activists have been arrested or imprisoned since the law was passed in response to anti-government protests that began in 2019.
The law has been condemned by European nations, the US, and others.
READ: Hong Kong Police Arrest 11 on Suspicion of Assisting Activists with Escape Attempts: Reports
Beijing says the legislation allows Hong Kong “to enjoy more social stability, economic development and greater freedom.” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the 12 activists “elements trying to separate Hong Kong from China” not democratic activists.
Beijing, which requires lawyers to swear allegiance to the ruling Communist Party, has tightened controls on the profession. Other lawyers have been denied permission to represent defendants in politically sensitive cases. Some were locked up.
In a statement last week, the Chengdu bureau of the Sichuan Justice Department said Lu had violated laws on professional legal conduct. It accused him of posting comments online that “had a negative impact on society”.
READ: Chinese court hears case of activists who allegedly fled Hong Kong to Taiwan amid protests
Also last week, Ren Quanniu, another lawyer for one of the 12 activists, was informed by the Zhengzhou office of the Henan Justice Department that he might lose his license. He was told that comments he made in court “had a negative impact on society”. His hearing is pending but is considered a formality.
On Wednesday, Ren and a small group of devotees came to assist him at the hearing on Lu’s license in Chengdu. They were forcibly separated by the police, and Lu was taken in alone, Ren said.
Both Lu and Ren were hired by the activists’ families, but were unable to see their clients during the entire legal process.
“You didn’t even let me in the front door, let alone the door to the administrative area where you handle the paperwork,” said Ren of his attempted first visit to a police station in Shenzhen, where the Hong Kong activists were picked up by authorities .
During his second visit, he was informed that his client had already consented to a lawyer appointed by the court.
Throughout the trial, the activists’ families protested that they could use the lawyers they chose instead of the lawyers appointed by the court.
READ: Two mainland China lawyers working with Hong Kong activists face license revocation
Lu was often invited to meetings by the local Chengdu Department of Justice office where officials from the office told him to leave the case.
Neither Lu nor Ren gave in. “Why should I quit if there is no legal reason for me to quit? How can I explain myself to the family? “Ren told The Associated Press.
A person at the local Justice Department office in Chengdu initially asked the AP to call back. Later calls went unanswered. Calls to the Zhengzhou Ministry of Justice office went unanswered.
The two lawyers have picked up sensitive cases in the past and navigated the murky and murky waters of defending people who are viewed by the authorities as political targets.
Ren has been handling cases related to Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that China has labeled a cult and which is the subject of persecution, after its followers protested in 1999 in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Most recently, he represented the convicted citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for four years in prison for attempting to cover the situation in Wuhan City during the coronavirus pandemic outbreak early last year.
Lu, a professional insurance attorney, has worked on cases of harsh attacks on human rights lawyers and activists led by President Xi Jinping, which began in 2015. Lu defended the prominent human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, who criticized Xi.
Still, no one was prepared for how sensitive the case of the 12 activists would be.
“You can’t punish anyone. Can you punish the European media? Can you punish Pompeo? They can only take it from us because we are lawyers on the mainland, “Lu said.