An outspoken mainland Chinese lawyer appointed by the family of one of 10 Hong Kong fugitives jailed in Shenzhen last week for illegally crossing the border called moves by authorities to revoke his licence and that of another legal representative “baffling suppression”.
Sichuan-based human rights lawyer Lu Siwei told the Post he was furious about the lack of investigatory procedures before he and Ren Quanniu were informed by separate provincial judicial agencies that their licence to practise could be revoked in three days.
The latest development came as three family members visiting Shenzhen in the hope of seeing their jailed loved ones decided not to launch an appeal against the sentences.
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Lu, whose Wechat account was blocked on Monday, said he was told about the move over his licence by a representative of Sichuan’s Department of Justice on Monday morning via a letter sent to his law firm.
“Our investigation has discovered that you have repeatedly made inappropriate remarks on the internet, the time range and messages involved were large,” the letter, seen by the Post, said.
It said the authorities planned to revoke his licence as an “administrative punishment” and he had three days from Monday to request a hearing.
Hours later, authorities in Henan province told Ren, after a meeting with staff at his law firm, that his licence could also be revoked, but for a different reason – an alleged violation of a mainland law regulating practising lawyers when he handled a case in 2018 related to a cult organisation.
“The nature of the breach was serious. This has done serious damage to the image of the legal profession, and had adverse impacts on society,” the lawyer was told in the letter.
Neither letter mentioned the lawyers’ involvement in the case of 12 Hong Kong fugitives intercepted by the Chinese coastguard in August while attempting to reach Taiwan in a bid to avoid charges at home tied to 2019’s anti-government protests.
Lu was appointed by the family of Quinn Moon, who was sentenced to two years in prison last week by the Yantian District People’s Court, and Ren by the relatives of Wong Wai-yin, jailed for seven months. Eight others were given sentences ranging from seven months to three years’ prison. Two underage suspects were returned to Hong Kong police.
Ren and Lu were among the mainland lawyers who defied warnings from the authorities to drop the appointments and complained in person to the Yantian Public Security Bureau and Yantian People’s Procuratorate about being barred from meeting the detainees.
Lu, who was earlier warned against speaking to the press, wrote open letters criticising the plight of the Hongkongers.
In response to the latest move, Lu said he was shocked and furious and would request a hearing to complain about the absence of formal investigation procedures before the revokement.
“I’ve done nothing since my practice as a lawyer against the ethical requirement and the rules of conduct. The planned punishment by the Sichuan authorities is a baffling suppression,” he said.
Moon’s sister, who appointed Lu, said through a concern group the lawyer provided objective advice to her family without “saying anything bad about the country”.
“Those government-appointed lawyers have not disclosed their identities to the families and have talked to us in fewer than five sentences. Are they ‘normal lawyers’ who conform to standards?” she said.
The relatives who hired Ren thanked the Zhengzhou-based lawyer for insisting on his representation despite threats and believed the revokement would be “a loss for Chinese citizens”.
A mainland lawyer familiar with the matter said the authorities were displeased with Lu’s repeated criticisms to the Hong Kong press about the plight of the detainees.
“Revoking a license is equivalent to giving a death penalty to a lawyer. This document has been widely circulated in the legal community on the mainland to serve as a warning,” he said.
Lu also represented Chinese dissident poet Wang Zang and his wife, Wang Li, who were charged with subverting state power in July.
That case was passed to the Intermediate People’s Court of Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture in Yunnan last month. Lu had said that because of its vague definition, the subversion charge was often used to suppress free speech.
A concern group which has been assisting the families of the 12 Hongkongers issued a statement on Facebook, accusing the mainland authorities of “taking revenge” for the lawyers’ involvement in the politically sensitive case. “For daring to go against the powers that be, and their persistence in upholding the rights of the 12, the authorities have resorted to ending their professional career and cutting off their livelihoods,” it said.
In a statement, another body, the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, demanded the authorities withdraw their proposed punishment for the pair, saying both Lu and Ren had been striving for justice for Chinese citizens through proper channels of access to the judicial system.
Meanwhile, three family members of the Hong Kong fugitives, who travelled to Shenzhen on Sunday, have decided not to launch an appeal against the ruling, according to former legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick.
Chu said they gave up on the move as they did not have access to appeal channels, adding that the trio were undergoing a three-week quarantine in Shenzhen that would end on January 24.
The defendants themselves have 10 days to launch their own appeals against their sentences.
“Under the law, only the accused can lodge an appeal. Since [the family members] can’t get in touch with the defendants, there’s nothing they can do about the appeal,” he said.
“They have decided to move on, and all they want now is simply to visit the defendants.”
Chu said after completing their quarantine, the three would attempt to visit their relatives if they were still detained at the Yantian district detention centre.