China to strip human rights lawyers of licenses

Chinese authorities have notified two human rights lawyers that their licenses to practice may be revoked, following their involvement with Hong Kong activists who attempted to flee the territory to Taiwan last year.

The lawyers, Ren Quanniu and Lu Siwei, tried to help the pro-democracy activists and students by representing them in a trial, or meeting them in detention at the request of their families.

The activists were arrested last year while trying to flee to Taiwan by boat and were sentenced to prison last week.

The lawyers' request to represent the activists at the trial was rejected.

The Chinese authorities cited their handling of court trials in the past and their online posts as reasons for stripping them of their licenses. The authorities said the lawyers have seriously damaged the reputation of their profession.

In a telephone interview with NHK, Ren said he felt increasing pressure from Chinese authorities after he accepted the request from the activists' families in October.

He also said it is obvious that his involvement in the latest case played a role in the decision to revoke his license. He added it was unjust persecution of a lawyer, despite a lack of relevant legal provisions.