A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate was stripped of his license amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory.
Lu Siwei (盧思位), who represented one of 12 Hong Kong advocates who tried to flee to Taiwan, had his license revoked by the Sichuan Provincial Department of Justice in a formal notice given on Friday.
Ten of the 12 activists caught at sea in August last year were last month sentenced by a court in Shenzhen 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 following Beijing’s imposition of a tough National Security Law they say is destroying the territory’s Western-style civil liberties.
Since the law was introduced in response to anti-government protests that began in 2019, dozens of pro-democracy advocates have been arrested or detained.
The law has been denounced by European nations, the US and others. Beijing has said the legislation allows Hong Kong to “enjoy more social stability, economic development and greater freedom.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) called the 12 advocates “elements attempting to separate Hong Kong from China.”
Beijing, which requires lawyers to swear an oath of loyalty to the Chinese 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.
In a notice last week, the Chengdu office of the Sichuan Department of Justice said Lu had contravened laws on professional legal conduct.
It accused him of making comments online that had a “negative impact on society.”
Also last week, Ren Quanniu (任全牛), another lawyer for one of the 12 advocates, was notified by the Zhengzhou office of the Henan Department of Justice that he could lose his license.
He was told that comments he made in court had caused a “negative impact on society.”
His hearing is pending, but is seen as a formality.
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.
Both Lu and Ren were hired by families of the advocates, 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 advocates 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 advocates protested that they should be able to use lawyers they selected instead of the court-appointed lawyers.
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.
Lu and Ren did not back 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 reporters.
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