Chinese authorities may strip two human rights lawyers of their practising licence following their involvement in politically sensitive cases last year. Lu Siwei had been involved in the case of the 12 Hong Kong fugitives while Ren Quanniu had helped a citizen journalist who had covered the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
In a letter informing Lu of administrative punishment proceedings against him released Monday, the Sichuan province’s Department of Justice accused him of “publishing inappropriate speech online.”
Lu had been involved in the case of the “Hong Kong 12”. A Shenzhen court ruled last week that the fugitives had illegally entered Chinese waters whilst trying to flee to Taiwan following the 2019 protests.
“Upon investigation, this department found that you have published inappropriate speech online on multiple occasions – the considerable length of time with a vast number of posts have seriously harmed the image of the lawyer profession and caused a negative impact upon society,” the notice read.
The letter stated that the department planned to revoke Lu’s practising license as “an administrative punishment” but did not specify the offending online statements.
Later on Monday, Ren also received a similar notice from authorities informing him of their intention to revoke his licence. Ren had represented citizen journalist Zhang Zhan who was jailed for four years last week for her coverage of the Wuhan Covid-19 outbreak. In a notice from the Henan province’s Department of Justice, authorities cited alleged wrongdoing from 2018.
According to mainland Chinese law, both lawyers are entitled to provide a statement and file a defence. They required to officially request for a hearing within three days, at the end of which they will be deemed to have given up the right to plead their cases.
Lu had been appointed as the legal representation for Quinn Moon by his family members. Moon was was given a two year sentence last Wednesday for organising an illegal crossing.
Two minors among the 12 were returned to Hong Kong while the remaining ten were given prison sentences ranging from seven months to three years. Lu had told reporters that he had been denied access to Moon in September.
The group had been arrested by mainland Chinese authorities after they attempted to flee to Taiwan on a speedboat last August. One of the ten prisoners, Andy Li, had been arrested under the security law two weeks prior.
The group’s family members and right groups had repeatedly called on Chinese authorities to allow the 12 access to legal representation of their choosing. The 12’s closed door trial last week drew criticism from foreign governments and activists.
Correction 15.02: An earlier version of the article misrepresented Lu as the government-appointed lawyer for Moon. He had been initially appointed as legal representation by his family members.