Hong Kong lawyers have joined an international chorus of criticism over the arrest and detention of their mainland counterparts amid Beijing's crackdown on legal professionals and rights activists. At least 228 rights lawyers, law firm employees and activists have been taken away, detained or had their movements restricted since the crackdown began on July 10, the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group says. The Hong Kong Bar Association yesterday voiced its "deep concern" over reports of harassment of human rights lawyers. "In a society that upholds the rule of law, legal professionals must be allowed to carry out their professional duties in defending their clients without fear. The right of their clients' choice of legal representation must also be protected," the association said in a statement. It "calls upon the relevant mainland authorities strictly to conform to due process in the course of investigation and enforcement actions, respect the fundamental rights of legal professionals, and refrain from harassing and, without good cause, arresting or detaining legal professionals," the statement said. Meanwhile a group of prominent barristers in the city, including 13 former Bar Association heads, will today launch an international signature campaign over the crackdown. "We are afraid these actions will have a chilling effect… We hope the mainland government will stop the harassment of legal professionals," said Kumar Ramanathan, a former association chairman. "We would like to show our solidarity and support," to colleagues over the border, he said. Stephen Hung Wan-shun, president of the Law Society of Hong Kong, said the solicitors' organisation would discuss the matter on Tuesday. In the latest development, the Associated Press reported that Bao Zhuoxuan, the 16-year-old son of two prominent lawyers, was banned from leaving the country to study in Australia. His mother, Wang Yu, and her husband, Bao Longjun, are both missing and are believed to have been detained after the crackdown began on July 10. Four of the five mainland lawyers the Sunday Morning Post tried to call for reaction yesterday could not be reached. The only one who answered, Beijing-based rights lawyer Li Fangping, said he noted the association's statement but it was "very, very inconvenient" for him to comment.