Chinese officials have warned the mainland lawyers of the so-called Hong Kong 12 that their licenses to practice might be revoked.
The lawyers, Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, were barred from representing their clients arrested last August who were forced to take government-appointed lawyers.
The legal system in mainland China is controlled by the ruling Communist Party.
Ten of the Hong Kong 12 were sentenced on Dec. 30 at a court in the southern city of Shenzhen after being been detained in mainland China since attempting to leave Hong Kong by speedboat in August.
Two of the activists were sentenced to two- and three-years’ imprisonment. The eight others were sentenced to seven months. Two of the Hong Kong 12 who were under 18 at the time of their arrest and were handed over to the Hong Kong police on Dec. 30.
Media reports said most of those on board the vessel fleeing to Taiwan were already facing charges linked to the huge pro-democracy protests that swept Hong Kong last year.
Family members and supporters of the Hong Kong activists said the threats against the lawyers were the result of their “daring to go against the powers that be.”
“Lawyers Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, who have been helping the case of the 12 Hong Kong youths, have both received notices of proposed revocation of their lawyer licenses on Jan.4, 2021 and 31 Dec. 31, 2020 respectively,” the families and supporters said in a statement.
It is not the first time, however, that the two legal practitioners were involved in cases that are deemed politically sensitive in China, reported The New York Times.
In 2019, Lu was reprimanded after representing another human rights lawyer who had openly criticized the Chinese leadership. A letter sent to Lu by the Department of Justice said he was accused of “repeatedly publishing unsuitable language online.”
The lawyer planned to request a hearing, saying the case against him is “inexplicable suppression and persecution.”
Ren, meanwhile, represented Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist sentenced last week to four imprisonment for reporting on the coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan. Ren also received a notice from the Department of Justice in Henan Province, warning him of disbarment over his handling of a 2018 case involving a Falun Gong adherent.
“The direct reason is definitely related to the Hong Kongers’ case and Shanghai Zhang Zhan case,” he said in an audio message, reported The New York Times.
The report said that both were given three days to arrange hearings over their licenses, but Ren said he had little hope of a successful appeal.
“Faced with pressure from the municipal, provincial and national levels, these human right lawyers nonetheless accepted the families’ instructions and took up this highly politically sensitive case,” they said.
“Even while they were faced with unreasonable obstruction by authorities in Shenzhen and Yantian at every turn, these lawyers are steadfast in defending the fundamental rights of the 12, upholding professionalism and integrity, and revealing the unfair and unlawful practices of the authorities along the way.”