Chinese authorities may have appointed two “state” lawyers for a Hongkonger detained in Shenzhen while trying to flee to Taiwan on a boat, according to a human rights lawyer.

Lu Siwei told reporters on Wednesday that his second attempt to access his client – one of the 12 Hongkongers held in Yantian District Detention Centre – failed. He said he arrived at the centre at around 1:30 pm and, after around two hours, a police officer told him a meeting between Lu and his client would not be held and that his client had appointed two different lawyers.

lu siwei lawyer
Lu Siwei. Photo: screenshot.

Lu said he thought the lawyers could be “state-appointed” but could not confirm their identities, adding he should be allowed to meet the detained person to verify the claim.

The officers left the scene without processing his request, he said: “The case has become complicated.”

Twelve Hongkongers boarded a speedboat in Sai Kung on August 23, en route to Kaohsiung in Taiwan. They were intercepted by Chinese marine police and detained on the suspicion of crossing the border illegally.

The arrested group included pro-democracy activist Andy Li, who Hong Kong police arrested on August 10 under the newly-enacted national security law, which criminalises subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and interference with infrastructure, including transportation.

Four members of the radical frontline protester group “Dragonslayers” were on board, local media reported. Hong Kong police earlier arrested multiple of its members on suspicion of involvement in homemade bomb cases related to last year’s anti-government protests.

china coast guard marine police
China Coast Guard.

Chinese lawyers for the other detained Hongkongers all failed to meet their clients, according to i-Cable.

Another lawyer, Ren Quanniu, told HKFP his client meeting request was denied. He said an officer from China’s Ministry of Justice attempted to dissuade him from pursuing the matter because it was “too dangerous.”

Ren earlier told Stand News he would try his best to follow up on the case.

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.