China to prosecute lawyers who supported activists from Hong Kong

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Authorities are threatening to withhold the legal licenses of two lawyers who helped a group of 12 escape to Taiwan

Chinese authorities threatened to put an end to the careers of two lawyers who supported 12 activists who tried to flee Hong Kong to Taiwan last August, 10 of whom were sentenced last week by a Chinese court to prison terms. Ren Quanniu – who also represented Wuhan citizen journalist Zhang Zhan – and Lu Siwei were told on Monday by local judicial departments that authorities are preparing to revoke their

The authorities accused both of breaching laws, citing Ren’s handling of a case involving Falun Gong practitioners in 2018 and alleging that Lu made “inappropriate remarks on the Internet.” In a statement, Ren said that more than a dozen masked individuals pretending to be from the Henan judicial authority stormed his office on Monday. He dismissed the charges as a “shameless plot” and professional persecution, calling on the authorities to withdraw and apologize for their actions.

Lu, whose social media accounts were suspended, accused the officials of abusing their authority and said he would have a hearing arranged. He advised the officials to establish a better relationship with the lawyers or they would “surely drop a stone on their own feet. “The families of the Hong Kong defendants, noticing the timing, said the disciplinary measures against Ren and Lu were “obviously revenge” and intended to threaten others. The authorities have resorted to ending their professional careers and cutting off their livelihoods, because they have dared to stand up to those in power and persistently advocate for the rights of the “Because they dared to stand up to those in power and persistently advocate for the rights of the ‘Twelve,’ the authorities have resorted to ending their professional careers and cutting off their livelihoods,” they said in a statement. “The Chinese authorities are using Lu and Ren’s case as an example to threaten other human rights lawyers so that no one will dare to get involved in politically sensitive cases anymore. This removes the last obstacle preventing Chinese authorities from prosecuting dissidents at will, using the law as a pretext.” Zheng and the Hong Kongers’ high-profile prosecutions attracted international criticism. During the 76-day lockdown last year, Zhang was arrested for “seeking controversy and causing trouble” over her reports from the town of Wuhan.

Since going on hunger strike, she was shackled and force-fed in prison and maintained her innocence, her lawyer said.

In August, the 10 Hong Kongers were among a party of 12 detained by the Guangdong Coast Guard while attempting to escape by boat to Taiwan. They were held without contact with the outside world in a detention center in Shenzhen and refused access to lawyers employed by their families, including Ren and Lu. Two minors from the party were released to Hong Kong custody last week, while the remaining 10 were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from seven months to three years. “In the process of promoting the rule of law, human rights lawyers speak for the grassroots of society, and the cases they represent are in line with moral and legal principles, but they are often targeted for retaliation by official bodies,” it said. Chinese authorities have a history of targeting human rights lawyers, including the mass raid and interrogation of about 250 in 2015, some of whom were reminded of.

Last month, a court dismissed an appeal against Yu Wensheng, a lawyer who had openly called for constitutional amendments, including multi-candidate elections, for a four-year jail term.

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