Mainland Chinese lawyer Lu Siwei, who tried to defend the ‘Hong Kong 12’ in their trial, was stripped of his practicing license by Chinese judicial authorities after being accused of making disparaging online comments that negatively impact society.
Lu had his license revoked by the Sichuan Provincial Justice Department in a formal notice given on Friday, just days after receiving a notification that his license was being reviewed by the local judicial affairs bureau.
Also last week, Ren Quanniu, another lawyer for one of the 12 activists, was notified by the Zhengzhou office of the Henan Justice Department that he could lose his license.
Ren was told that comments he made in court had caused a “negative impact on society”. His hearing is still pending, but is seen as a formality.
Both Lu and Ren were hired by families of the 12 Hong Kong activists, but were blocked from seeing their clients throughout the legal process.
“They wouldn’t even let me in the front door, much less the door to the administrative area where you deal with the paperwork,” Ren said of his attempted first visit to a police station in Shenzhen, where the Hong Kong activists were taken by authorities.
On his second visit, he was told that his client had already agreed to a court-appointed lawyer.
Throughout the case, families of the activists protested that they should be able to use lawyers they selected instead of the court-appointed lawyers.
Ten of the 12 activists caught at sea in August were sentenced by a Shenzhen court in December to prison terms ranging from seven months to three years for illegally crossing the border and organizing illegal border crossings.
They are part of an exodus of Hong Kong residents trying to flee to Taiwan following Beijing’s imposition of a tough new security law in the city.
Since the law was introduced in response to anti-government protests that began in 2019, dozens of pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers have been arrested or detained in Hong Kong.
In a notice last week, the Chengdu office of the Sichuan Justice Department said Lu had violated laws on professional legal conduct. It accused him of making comments online that had a “negative impact on society”.
Beijing, which requires lawyers to swear an oath of loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, has tightened control over the profession. Other lawyers have been stripped of their licenses for representing defendants in politically sensitive cases. Some have been imprisoned.
On Wednesday, Ren and a small group of supporters showed up at the hearing for Lu’s license in Chengdu to back him. They were forcibly separated by police and Lu was taken inside alone, Ren said.
Lu has been summoned often by the local bureau of the Justice Department in Chengdu for meetings in which the bureau officials told him to leave the case.
Neither Lu or Ren backed down. “Why should I quit when there’s no legal reason for me to quit? How can I explain myself to the family?” Ren told The Associated Press.
The two lawyers both have a history of taking on sensitive cases, and of navigating the fraught and murky waters of defending people who are deemed to be political targets by authorities.
Still, neither was prepared for how sensitive the case of the 12 activists would be.
“They can’t punish anyone else. Can they punish the European media? Can they punish Pompeo? They can only take it out on us because we are lawyers in the mainland,” Lu said. (Source: CNA)