China sought to intervene in Germany's handling of political asylum applications from two pro-independence activists from Hong Kong, RFA has learned.
Ray Wong and Alan Li were granted political asylum by Germany in May after skipping bail in Hong Kong pending charges of rioting during a 2016 street protest known as the "Fishball Revolution."
The move prompted a strong protest from the city's chief executive Carrie Lam.
"After getting clearance to read the files, my lawyer found a number of emails sent by the German refugee agency referring to the fact that the Chinese government had contacted Germany in around May or June 2018," Wong told RFA.
"They were trying to get involved in the case, and trying to stop Germany from approving our asylum applications," he said. "I'm pretty sure that both the Chinese government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government knew about our case as early as June 2018."
Wong, who was taking part alongside Li in an event in Berlin marking the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, also warned about the consequences for activists of any nationality in Hong Kong, once plans to allow renditions of alleged criminal suspects to China are implemented.
"The amended law will effectively legalize kidnapping," Wong said. "Once the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance become law, that will break down the firewall between Hong Kong and mainland China, and will herald the death of 'one country, two systems'."
"That's what it will do from Hong Kong's point of view," he said, adding that the Hong Kong government will have the power to send anyone, including foreign nationals just passing through the city, to China to face criminal charges at the ruling Chinese Communist Party's request.
"If passed, it will be the death of Hong Kong," Wong said.
Opposition to the plan
Judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, rights activists, business groups, and journalists have all expressed vocal opposition to the plan, which will allow China to request the extradition of an alleged suspect from Hong Kong based on the standards of evidence that currently apply in its own courts.
The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is mainland China, which currently has no formal extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
Opposition groups are planning a demonstration against the amendments on June 9.
Activists say that the separation of legal jurisdictions under the “one country, two systems” framework governing the 1997 handover to China has worked until now to protect the human rights of Hong Kong residents.
Hong Kong's secretary for security John Lee confirmed on Wednesday that the city authorities still hope to pursue Wong and Li.
"The police will continue to pursue the two suspects who have absconded in this case," Lee told reporters. "The court will handle the case on the basis of facts and circumstances."
Call to examine, consult
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Law Society, which has a reputation for being pro-Beijing, issued an 11-page opinion on the extradition amendment, saying that there are insufficient protections for alleged suspects in its current state.
The Law Society called on Lam's administration—which has cancelled the bill's scrutiny process in the Legislative Council (LegCo)—to first examine the bill in detail and consult the public in a comprehensive manner, rather than rushing to amend the law.
Lam met with more than 70 consular representatives at government headquarters on Wednesday, including the U.S. Consul General and representatives of foreign chambers of commerce.
Diplomats and lawmakers from several countries have also expressed fears that their nationals could run afoul of the legal changes, and be transferred to mainland China where there would be scant protection for their human rights.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Tam Siu-yin for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.