Lu Siwei, a human rights lawyer who has represented 12 Hong Kong people, is restricted from leaving the United States at Shanghai Pudong Airport on May 8, 2021. (Photo credit: U.S.-based human rights lawyer Yang Jiangang’s Twitter account)
Lu Siwei, a human rights lawyer who represented the 12 Hong Kong people, was restricted from leaving the United States at Shanghai Pudong Airport on May 8, 2021, as he prepared to travel to the United States. Afterwards, he told the Voice of America that if he could not leave, he would stay and “build the motherland” and seek legal rights through the rule of law. Commentators say that human rights lawyers who have been suppressed often have no way to sue the government, and that the overall practice environment for lawyers is deteriorating.
Blocked from leaving Shanghai
According to Lu Siwei, on May 8, he was scheduled to take a Delta flight to Seattle to begin the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program in Shanghai. However, he was detained by airport security at Shanghai Pudong Airport for two hours, during which time he was prohibited from using his cell phone and was restricted from using his personal freedom. The border control officials reportedly gave the reason that he might “endanger national security and interests,” so the State Council authorities decided not to allow him to leave the country.
Lu Siwei is a well-known human rights lawyer in China who has handled sensitive human rights cases such as the Chengdu wine case in commemoration of June 4, 1989, and the incitement case of Yu Wensheng, and provided legal assistance to 12 social activists in Hong Kong in August 2020. In early 2021, the Sichuan Provincial Department of Justice revoked his lawyer’s license and imposed border controls on him for violating his professional conduct and for making comments online that “negatively impacted society.
Lu Siwei told VOA that he was not sure when the authorities ended his border control. During that time, he was blocked by authorities from going to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to obtain a visa. Although he argued that this was illegal, police warned him that if he insisted on going, the authorities had a plan in place and he would not even be able to go to Chengdu Shuangliu Airport. This time, however, Lu Siwei’s successful arrival in Shanghai and readiness to board the plane indicate that he managed to escape the siege by Sichuan’s state security and obtain a visa to the United States, only to have Chengdu’s state security rushed to Shanghai immediately upon hearing of his departure and took control of him at the last minute.
“Stay and build the motherland”
Lu Siwei believes that his purpose for going to the United States was legitimate. He said, “This (Humphrey) program would have been a normal visiting scholar exchange program, and many Chinese officials were participating in this program, including from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, so I thought it was strange that I wasn’t allowed to go …… I thought it would be a good idea to go out as a private exchange to learn more about the situation and to promote friendship between China and the United States, but they (the authorities) didn’t think so.”
According to the Chinese official media China.com, the U.S. State Department’s Fulbright, Humphrey, International Visitor and Peace Corps programs are a series of public diplomacy programs that have strengthened the understanding of U.S. society around the world and played a role in improving the image of the U.S. state, and China is an important target country for U.S. public diplomacy.
Photo: Chen Jiangang, a Chinese human rights lawyer in the United States
Chen Jiangang, a Chinese human rights lawyer living in the United States, told Voice of America, “At first we had a fantasy that if the Chinese Communist Party had a little bit of sense, maybe they could let visiting scholars leave the country, let human rights lawyer Lu Siwei leave the country, study and visit the United States, so that they could show an attitude and ease the tense diplomatic relationship between the United States and China. humane and rationalized considerations and preconceptions will almost always be disappointed.”
Chen said that even though this idea is naive, it was tried after all. At a time of growing tensions between the U.S. and China, Chinese diplomacy under Xi Jinping tends to be war-wolfish, and Lu Si-bit’s refusal to leave the country can be expected.
When asked about his next steps and whether he was still prepared to negotiate with the authorities over exit restrictions, Lu Siwei said he had no leverage to do so, except for a possible administrative lawsuit. He added that there is no need to try other ports of exit now either, as the situation is the same everywhere: “I can only stay and build the motherland and earn some money before I do.”
Deteriorating practice environment
Chen Jiangang stressed that too many things like this have happened over the years. The Chinese Communist authorities do not allow someone to leave the country without any procedures, and no one will accept complaints against the administrative actions of the state authorities, human rights activists, dissidents and other such citizens have lost their basic human rights and are completely kidnapped by the Chinese Communist authorities.
Previously, Lu Siwei said in an interview with a RTHK program that he did not regret his choice of human rights cause: “There is no way you can regret it, that’s the way fate has arranged it, only to accept it frankly.”
Lu Siwei also said that without a lawyer’s practice certificate, he could still work as a legal advisor in the future, but only regretted that he could not continue to be a voice for his clients in court.
Analysts point out that, unlike the arrests taken in the past, the Chinese Communist authorities have now switched to a repressive strategy; it is increasingly revoking lawyers’ licenses administratively and requiring the law firms concerned to dissolve themselves. However, the scope and intensity of the crackdown continues to increase, contributing to a deteriorating and dangerous environment for lawyers to practice in China.