China Reportedly Threatens Retaliation Against Hong Kong Activists’ Lawyers

(Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Font Size:

Chinese authorities are reportedly threatening two lawyers hired to help a group of Hong Kong protesters arrested last year while trying to flee to Taiwan. 

Chinese legal authorities have threatened to revoke the licenses of the two lawyers, Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, whose clients were convicted in late December in Shenzhen of illegal boundary crossing, according to the New York Times (NYT). The ten convicted activists reportedly received sentences ranging from seven months to three years in prison.

Two other members of the group who were minors were returned to Hong Kong after their arrest in August, NYT reported. (RELATED: REPORT: China Uses Private Companies To Process Stolen Data)

Family members of the activists hired the two attorneys, but the lawyers weren’t allowed to represent their clients, according to NYT. The defendants were instead made to use government-appointed defense attorneys.

Lu had been previously reprimanded for taking the case of another lawyer in 2019 who had criticized Chinese Communist Party leadership, NYT reported. Ren represented Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was recently sentenced to prison for reporting about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan

Ren was reportedly told by the Department of Justice in Henan Province he could be disbarred over a 2018 case in which he represented a member of the banned spiritual group Falun Gong, but he said that reasoning is just a cover for a political attack against him.

“The direct reason is definitely related to the Hong Kongers’ case and Shanghai Zhang Zhan case,” he told NYT. 

Lu recently received a letter from the Department of Justice in Sichuan Province accusing him of “repeatedly publishing unsuitable language online,” according to NYT. He reportedly called the case “inexplicable suppression and persecution.”

Lu and Ren were each given three days to prepare for hearings to defend their licenses, but have little hope for success against the Chinese government, which frequently uses annual licensing requirements to intimidate lawyers, according to NYT. (RELATED: Japan’s Prime Minister Insists Summer Olympics Will Still Happen Amid Rise In COVID-19 Cases)

Many of the activists involved in the recent case were reportedly connected to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019. They faced a variety of charges including rioting, arson, assaulting police, and weapons possession, NYT reported.

One member of the group, Andy Li, was suspected of violating a security law implemented by the CCP in Hong Kong last year, according to NYT. The protesters were reportedly captured by the Chinese Coast Guard as they fled to Taiwan via speedboat.