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China strips licence from second lawyer for Hong Kong activists

China strips licence from second lawyer for Hong Kong activists

In this photo taken by Ren Quanniu, Ren (right) and other supporters of lawyer Lu Siwei pose for a group photo in Chengdu in southwestern China's Sichuan province, Jan 13, 2021. (Photo: Ren Quanniu via AP)

TAIPEI: A second Chinese lawyer who represented a Hong Kong activist was stripped of his licence on Tuesday (Feb 2) as Beijing attempts to crush opposition to its tighter control over the territory.

Ren Quanniu, who represented one of 12 Hong Kong activists who tried to flee to Taiwan, said he had his licence revoked by the Henan Provincial Justice Department.

Ten of the 12 activists caught at sea in August were sentenced by a Shenzhen court in December to prison terms ranging from seven months to three years for crossing the border illegally and organising the crossings. The two other activists are minors.

READ: Hong Kong police arrest 11 on suspicion of aiding activists' escape attempt - Reports

Thousands of Hong Kong residents have fled the territory since Beijing's imposition of a tough new security law that some say is destroying the territory's Western-style civil liberties.

Since the law was introduced in response to anti-government protests that began in 2019, dozens of activists have been arrested or detained.

The Henan Judicial Department held a hearing on the licence revocation on Friday in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, according to other lawyers who turned up to support Ren. They were not allowed into the hearing.

READ: US, Canada, Britain, Australia condemn Hong Kong arrests of activists

Ren is the second lawyer to have his license stripped by the authorities for handling the activists' case. Two weeks ago, judicial officials in Sichuan took away the licence of Lu Siwei, another lawyer on the case.

Ren was told that comments he made in court in a case in 2018 defending Falun Gong practitioners had caused a "negative impact on society", according to a notice from the Henan Justice Department that he showed to the Associated Press.

An official who answered the phone at the Henan Justice Department declined to comment on the case, saying they did not deal directly with media.

Ren has years of experience in handling human rights cases in China. He has defended people affiliated with the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement which China has labelled a cult and is the subject of persecution after its followers protested in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1999.

Most recently, he represented citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was sentenced to four years in prison last December for attempting to report on the situation in the city of Wuhan during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic early last year.

Source: AP/dv


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