A group of Chinese human rights lawyers were reportedly taken away by police when they tried to attend a hearing for fellow lawyer Lu Siwei, who is facing the revocation of his practising licence. Lu was involved in the case of the 12 Hong Kong “speedboat fugitives.”
His hearing was held in Chengdu, Sichuan on Wednesday morning, where he was expected to answer to the allegation of “publishing inappropriate speech online.” The authorities earlier accused Lu of “seriously harming” the image of his profession and causing a “negative impact” upon society.
According to mainland lawyer Chen Jiagang on Twitter, police took away at least six people near the Sichuan Provincial Department of Justice, including legal practitioners Chen Keyun, Wen Donghai and Wei Shuiping, as well as Xu Yan, the wife of jailed lawyer Yu Wensheng. The representatives of Lu, Cheng Hai and Xie Yanyi were also shut out.
NowTV cited sources as saying the lawyers were taken to a police station.
Chen posted a Twitter video which appeared to show officers surrounding a group of human rights lawyers and other individuals, asking them not to take photos. They were also barred from approaching the justice department’s building.
“The roads surrounding the Sichuan Provincial Department of Justice have been blocked, guarded by dozens of Communist police and plainclothes. Lawyer Lu Siwei was kidnapped into the justice department and information is unclear,” Chen tweeted.
At around 6 pm, Chinese lawyer Bao Longjun wrote on Twitter that Chengdu police had released most of the lawyers who were taken away earlier, except Wen.
Lu was retained by the family members of the 12 Hongkongers who had been detained in China since last August after trying to flee to Taiwan on a speedboat. Most individuals on board were facing criminal prosecution for offences linked to the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests. Activist Andy Li, arrested under the Beijing-imposed national security law, was also among the dozen detained.
The ten adults in the group were convicted of crossing the border illegally and organising an illegal border crossing. They were given jail sentences ranging from seven months to three years by Chinese authorities in December last year.
Two teenage detainees were not prosecuted after the Shenzhen court said they admitted their wrongdoing. They were handed over to authorities in Hong Kong, where they still face trial for charges including conspiracy to commit arson and possession of offensive weapons.