Beijing Orders Closure of Chinese Law Firm Tied to Hong Kong Activists

A Chinese law firm linked to the defense of one of 12 pro-democracy activists who allegedly attempted to flee Hong Kong for Taiwan has been ordered to disband, a development that reflects tightening constraints on rights lawyers in China. Human rights lawyer Ren Quanniu, who represented one of the so-called Hong Kong 12, confirmed to VOA Mandarin that authorities told him to close the Henan Guidao Law Firm, located in China’s Henan province, of which he was a partner. The activists took to sea in August after FILE – A university student puts up a poster to demand the release of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities, at a “Lennon wall” in the University of Hong Kong, Sept. 29, 2020.Lu’s license was revoked in January for intending to represent one of the 12 Hong Kong activists. He told Radio Free Asia that “at the very least, the Hong Kong case was a very important factor” for his travel ban.  Chen Jiangang, a U.S.-based Chinese human rights lawyer, told VOA that the restrictions placed on the two lawyers reflect the limitations Beijing is placing on rights lawyers who practice in China.  Chen fled China in 2019 after being warned he would “disappear” if he continued to represent the daughter-in-law of former Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang, who has been serving a life sentence since his conviction in 2015 for bribery, abuse of power and “deliberately disclosing national secrets,” according to China Daily. “Lu doesn’t even have freedom of movement,” Chen said, “For human rights lawyers in China, they are not only being deprived of working opportunities, but they face real danger just by defending their clients. I know multiple lawyers currently in jail just for doing their job.” History of repressionA U.N. human rights expert in December 2020 expressed dismay at the treatment of human rights defenders and lawyers in China, saying they continue to be charged, detained, disappeared and tortured five years after the start of a crackdown on the profession under the guise of national security concerns. “Since the so-called ‘709 crackdown’ began on July 9, 2015, the profession of human rights lawyer has been effectively criminalized in China,” said Mary Lawlor, U.N. special rapporteur.According to Human Rights in China, Beijing has been using a combination of bureaucratic and procedural roadblocks and illegal tactics to deprive lawyers of their right to practice their profession. These tactics include pressuring law firms to dismiss or warn lawyers who handle “sensitive” cases to drop the representation; publicly smearing the lawyers, their firms, their colleagues, and their families; and threatening lawyers’ family members.

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