HONG KONG—The attorney and girlfriend of a Chinese dissident who is a permanent U.S. resident have called on Hong Kong officials to investigate why he was detained and transferred to police in southern China last year.
Lawyer Li Jinjin urged Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang on Monday to explain how Zhou Yongjun, 42, had “disappeared” in Hong Kong in September 2008.
Li asked why Zhou, a permanent U.S. resident and on track to become a naturalized citizen, was secretly sent to China from Hong Kong.
He also criticized the Hong Kong government for assisting “a dictator regime to persecute freedom fighters.”
At a news conference, Albert Ho, chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, urged Tsang to make available police records of Zhou’s case and request his release as soon as possible.
“This is a possibly serious infringement of Zhou Yongjun’s rights, which are guaranteed in the Basic Law,” Ho said.
Former student leader
Zhou was a prominent student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement in Beijing.
In April of that year, Zhou was seen around the world in photos kneeling on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in a plea for China’s communist leaders to heed student calls for political reforms.
Zhou was arrested in the massive crackdown on student protesters that followed in June 1989 and was jailed for two years.
He subsequently lost his enrollment status as a student as well as his registration as a Beijing resident.
In 1992, Zhou fled to Hong Kong and then traveled to the United States.
He moved to New York City and eventually settled in Los Angeles, where he lived with his girlfriend, Zhang Yuewei, and young daughter.
At Monday’s press conference Zhang Yuewei asked for public support in the investigation of Zhou’s case.
“Following the devastating earthquake in Sichuan of last year, Zhou Yongjun’s 80-year-old parents longed for their son as their health was failing and his father had a stroke,” she said.
Zhang said Zhou had tried unsuccessfully to bring his parents to the United States or Canada to meet with them.
She said Zhou’s application to the Chinese consulate for a passport was rejected and an application that his sister submitted on his behalf was also turned down.
“Desperate to see his parents before they died, he finally ‘bought’ a passport,” Zhang said.
Last September, Zhou travelled to Hong Kong from Macau using a false identity, but was detained and transferred by Hong Kong officials to police in Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong province.
Charges of ‘fraud’
Zhou’s whereabouts were unknown until authorities formally told his family about his arrest and detention by authorities in China’s southwestern Sichuan province last May.
Authorities in Sichuan’s Suining city said Zhou had been accused of “financial fraud,” charges which Zhou denies.
One of Zhou’s lawyers has said his client has been tortured in detention and has been denied family visits.
It is unclear why Zhou wasn't sent back to Macau—his port of origin into Hong Kong—or to the United States.
Hong Kong’s immigration department typically returns visitors whose travel documents fail to meet requirements back to their place of embarkation, according to the government.
Authorities in Hong Kong declined to comment on Zhou’s case.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 but retains separate political, legal, economic, and immigration systems.
Hong Kong lacks a deportation and removal treaty with China.
Zhou tried to visit China once before in December 1998 but was arrested in Shenzhen and spent more than two years in a labor camp.
He returned to the United States in 2002.
Original reporting by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Ping Chen. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.