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China pulls license of lawyer for activist

by HUIZHONG WU THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | January 17, 2021 at 3:57 a.m.
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2020, file photo, university students put up posters to demand of releasing the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities, at "Lennon Wall" in the University of Hong Kong. Lu Siwei, who represented one of 12 Hong Kong activists who tried to flee to Taiwan, had his license revoked by the Sichuan Provincial Justice Department in a formal notice given Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his license amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory.

Lu Siwei, who represented one of 12 Hong Kong activists who tried to flee to Taiwan, had his license revoked by the Sichuan Provincial Justice Department in a formal notice given Friday.

Ten of the 12 activists caught at sea in August were sentenced by a Shenzhen court in December 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 after Beijing's imposition of a tough new 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 activists have been arrested or detained.

The law has been denounced by European nations, the U.S. and others.

Beijing says the legislation allows Hong Kong to "enjoy more social stability, economic development and greater freedom." Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the 12 activists "elements attempting to separate Hong Kong from China," not democratic activists.

Beijing, which requires lawyers to swear an oath of loyalty to the ruling Communist Party, has tightened control over the profession. Other lawyers have been stripped of their licenses for representing defendants in politically sensitive cases, and some have been imprisoned.

In a recent notice, the Chengdu office of the Sichuan Justice Department said Lu had violated laws on professional legal conduct. It accused him of making comments online that had a "negative impact on society."

Also recently, Ren Quanniu, another lawyer for one of the activists, was notified by the Zhengzhou office of the Henan Justice Department 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 in alone, Ren said.

Both Lu and Ren were hired by families of the activists, 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.

On his second visit, he was told that his client had already agreed to a court-appointed lawyer.

Throughout the case, families of the activists protested that they should be able to use lawyers they selected.

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.

Neither Lu nor Ren backed 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 The Associated Press.

FILE - In this Dec. 28, 2020, file photo, a pro-democracy activist holds a placard to demand the release of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities to demand the release of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities outside the Chinese central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his law license on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 28, 2020, file photo, a pro-democracy activist holds a placard to demand the release of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities to demand the release of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities outside the Chinese central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his law license on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
In this photo taken by Ren Quanniu, Ren Quanniu, right, and other supporters of lawyer Lu Si Wei pose for a group photo in Chengdu in southwestern China's Sichuan Province, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his law license on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory. (Ren Quanniu via AP)
In this photo taken by Ren Quanniu, Ren Quanniu, right, and other supporters of lawyer Lu Si Wei pose for a group photo in Chengdu in southwestern China's Sichuan Province, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his law license on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory. (Ren Quanniu via AP)
FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2020, file photo, pro-democracy activists Leung Kwok-hung, left, and Raphael Wong Ho-ming holding placards, demand the release of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities as they march to the Chinese central government's liaison office, in Hong Kong. A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his law license on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021,  amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory. The placards read "Never forget our brothers" and "Hope 12 Hong Kong activists come home soon." (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2020, file photo, pro-democracy activists Leung Kwok-hung, left, and Raphael Wong Ho-ming holding placards, demand the release of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities as they march to the Chinese central government's liaison office, in Hong Kong. A Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist was stripped of his law license on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, amid efforts by Beijing to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory. The placards read "Never forget our brothers" and "Hope 12 Hong Kong activists come home soon." (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
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