China Moves to Punish Lawyers Hired to Help Hong Kong Activists

HONG KONG — The Chinese language authorized authorities have threatened to revoke the licenses of two legal professionals employed to assist a gaggle of Hong Kong protesters who have been arrested final yr whereas making an attempt to flee to Taiwan by speedboat.

Ten of the activists were convicted last week by a court in the mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen of unlawful boundary crossing and sentenced to jail phrases starting from seven months to a few years. Two different members of the group who have been minors on the time of their arrest in August have been returned to Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese language territory.

For Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition, the case has highlighted fears of the Communist Celebration-controlled authorized system on the mainland and the dangers it poses to town’s tradition of an independent judiciary.

Many of the group confronted expenses in Hong Kong related with antigovernment protests in 2019, together with arson, rioting, assaulting law enforcement officials and weapons possession. One member, Andy Li, was beneath investigation on suspicion of violating the national security law imposed on Hong Kong final yr. They have been arrested by the Chinese language Coast Guard on their technique to Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its territory, and detained on the mainland.

The 2 legal professionals, Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, have been employed by members of the family of the activists however have been barred from representing them. As a substitute, the defendants have been compelled to depend on government-appointed legal professionals.

The 2 legal professionals have taken on many delicate circumstances. Mr. Lu was formally reprimanded after representing one other human rights lawyer in 2019 who had brazenly criticized the Chinese language management. Mr. Ren lately represented Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist sentenced last week to four years in prison for her reporting on the coronavirus outbreak within the mainland Chinese language metropolis of Wuhan.

Mr. Ren obtained a discover from the Division of Justice in Henan Province, the place he’s licensed, saying he confronted disbarment over his dealing with of a 2018 case through which he represented a member of Falun Gong, the banned non secular group. He stated that case was most definitely an excuse.

“The direct motive is unquestionably associated to the Hong Kongers’ case and Shanghai Zhang Zhan case,” he stated in an audio message.

A letter despatched to Mr. Lu by the Division of Justice in Sichuan Province, the place he’s registered, stated he was accused of “repeatedly publishing unsuitable language on-line,” with out providing particulars. He stated he deliberate to request a listening to, and known as the authorities’ case in opposition to him “inexplicable suppression and persecution.”

The Chinese language authorities have for years used annual licensing necessities to intimidate legal professionals concerned in delicate circumstances, wielding the specter of disbarment to punish those that don’t again down.

Mr. Lu and Mr. Ren have been every given three days to rearrange hearings over their licenses, however Mr. Ren stated he had little hope of a profitable enchantment.

A gaggle representing members of the family of the activists stated they believed the timing of the actions in opposition to the 2 legal professionals indicated that they have been “clearly revenge for his or her involvement” within the Hong Kong case.

“For his or her daring to go in opposition to the powers that be, and persistence in upholding the rights of the twelve, the authorities have resorted to ending their skilled profession and reducing off their livelihoods,” the families said in a statement.

The households have stated they hope to go to their imprisoned kin as quickly as attainable, however to this point have obtained little data from the state-appointed legal professionals.

Tiffany Could contributed reporting.

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