Hong Kong – 12 protesters caught fleeing Hong Kong in a speedboat last month have not been allowed to call their families. He is denied bail without charge at a Chinese detention center. He is barred from meeting the rights lawyers appointed by his relatives.
Soon, they will face criminal charges related to their escape, and they are expected to do so in the mainland’s justice system.
In Hong Kong, they have become a powerful reminder of the very deep-seated anxiety that led to large demonstrations last year and the most serious challenge to Communist Party rule in decades. The protests targeted a proposed extradition law that, after leaving, exposed city residents to trial on the mainland, where the courts are controlled by the party.
“This is what we feared when we protested against the extradition bill, so that the people of Hong Kong could be sent to China in a completely different system well known for not following their own laws Is, “said Beatrice Lee, sister of Andy Lee, a worker who was one of the people aboard the boat.
Concern about Beijing’s tight grip on Hong Kong has only intensified when the Communist Party implemented comprehensive national security legislation in the region in June to punish politically defined crimes such as sabotage. Mr. Lee was arrested in August under the new law, and released on bail.
More than 200 Hong Kong protesters are believed to have fled to Taiwan, where activists are believed to have led in the past year. Going there by sea has become very risky, and the smugglers who once broke the route are no longer willing to participate, so some members of the group – 11 men and one woman – according to two people Learned to drive a boat on his own. Details of his escape attempt but were not directly included.
Another 17-year-old guard, Liu Tsz-man, who was arrested by police in Hong Kong last year on an arson conspiracy, never told his family that he planned to flee. But looking back, there were signs.
According to his brother, a few days before his disappearance, Mr. Liu was an unusually good son. The teenager had gone out early in the morning to wait in line for a table at a dim breakfast spot, a task that usually fell to his father. He also went out of his way to buy cigarettes for his father. Then, suddenly, he was nowhere to be found.
The group started on August 23 from Po Toi O, a fishing village in a rural part of the north-east of the region, the Hong Kong government said in a statement on Saturday, about information revealed by mainland police. The Chinese Coast Guard stopped the boat about 45 miles southeast of Hong Kong Island around 9 am.
“When the news reported this, they were not named, only those arrested,” Mr. Liu’s 23-year-old brother, Jason Liu, said in an interview. “Then the police showed up at our door.”
The 12 are now being held in a detention center which is a 15-minute walk from the mainland border with Hong Kong in Yantin, a district in Shenzhen City, China.
According to the Hong Kong government, he is expected to be formally arrested by prosecutors in Shenzhen in the coming days on charges of illegally crossing the border. An immigration offense carries a sentence of up to one year in prison or a maximum of seven years, if they have received such an attempt. China Foreign Ministry official has Detainees described as separatists – To clarify the political lens by which officials are looking into the matter.
It is not uncommon for detainees on the mainland to be held for long periods without bail or access to lawyers and relatives, especially in politically sensitive cases. In Hong Kong, police cannot detain a person for more than 48 hours without charge, and detainees have the right to choose their own lawyer.
Liang Xiaojun, a human rights lawyer in China hired by Mr. Li’s relatives to represent him, said he and three other lawyers were told by the family of detained people at the Yentian Detention Center that their clients had previously He had chosen his lawyer. . Police in China sometimes force defendants to accept state-selected lawyers to prevent rights lawyers from making strong defense in court.
“I am disappointed with the current situation,” Mr. Liang said in an interview.
Mr Lee, 30, a computer programmer who loves playing video games and reading Japanese graphic novels, joined the protest movement last year. He volunteered with the group Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong, to carry out international campaigns to support the movement. He became more famous when he helped organize a group of foreign poll monitors for local Hong Kong elections in November.
Mr Lee was arrested last month under the National Security Act on suspicion of “collusion with a foreign country or external elements”. He also faces possible charges of illegally possessing ammunition, apparently related to the tear gas cartridges he spent, police bullets and other materials used by police.
Pro-democracy lawmakers and activists have pressured Hong Kong authorities to push the Chinese government to return the detainees. Some activists have tried to organize protests in support of 12 on China’s National Day holiday on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong said the demand for his release was “absurd”, calling supporters of the detainees “the black hand behind Hong Kong’s disasters”.
Hong Kong authorities have emphasized that most of the 12 detainees were charged with serious charges related to explosives, arson, rioting, police and weapons possession. City leader Carrie Lam said last week that the group would first face justice on the mainland, before the Hong Kong government assisted in their repatriation.
But their relatives are concerned about the abuses they may face on the mainland, where forced confessions and other violations are common.
Ms. Lee, Andy Lee’s sister, said, “There are a lot of stories of atrocities, citing the cases of Hong Kong people who were held in China, in which Simon Cheng, a British consulate employee, said that the Chinese He was hanged by security agents. ” In a stretched posture and deprived him of sleep. “What happened inside during their detention is about their accounts, that’s basically my fear.”
The secrecy surrounding the detractors raises concerns that this year’s sweeping anti-democracy movement will radically change the city’s freewheeling political culture.
After the security law came into force, officials postponed legislative elections for a year, citing concerns about the coronovirus epidemic. But opposition lawmakers accused the government of trying to avoid a threshold of establishment candidates, like last November’s elections, and made brief arguments to resign in protest. This week, at least 15 of them said they would remain in the legislature, while three others decided to leave.
The erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy has become a major point of deterioration in relations between China and the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has expressed concern about detaining protesters on the boat and called on officials to ensure due process for the group, which he called “Hong Kong’s democracy activists”.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying responded to this Tweeted that 12 “Not democratic activists, but elements attempting to separate Hong Kong from China”.
His statement angered many family members, who responded that their relatives were not separatists, and they were entitled to a fair trial regardless of their political beliefs.
“As long as your voice is different from the government, they will say we are pro-independence,” said Yin Chan, the mother of 30-year-old surveyor Lee Ts-yin, who was on the boat. “We are not asking for freedom. We want a just society.”