Twelve Hong Kong citizens aged 16 to 33 are being held on suspicion of "illegal immigration" at the Yantian Detention Center in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. They were intercepted by the China Coast Guard after they tried to escape by speedboat to the democratic island of Taiwan last month. All 12 are suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong, according to the city's security bureau, with 10 of them wanted for manufacturing or possessing explosives, arson, rioting, assaulting police officers, or possession of offensive weapons. As of Sept. 21, none of the attorneys retained by their families was able to meet with their clients. Some lawyers are concerned that, as in China for sensitive cases, the 12 Hong Kong citizens will be represented by government-appointed defenders, and their cases will never be tried publicly.
Hong Kong Security Bureau chief John Lee Ka-chiu told Hong Kong media Sept. 19 that all 12 Hong Kong detainees have “chosen” lawyers from a list of attorneys provided by authorities to represent them. The Security Bureau has followed up with mainland China to request for contact information of the chosen lawyers so that families of the detainees can contact them – but the families have expressed objection to the “appointed lawyers.” Sichuan human rights lawyer Lu Siwei, who was hired by one of the Hong Kong detainees’ family, told RFA that none of the lawyers retained by the families have been able to meet with their clients as of Sept. 21. “I will make a request with the police bureau and the Procuratorate for their explanations. This is the only thing we can do now. Nothing else. I am sure there is pressure from above,” Lu said.
RFA spoke to Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests, about the plight of the Hong Kong 12. Following are his remarks, edited for clarity:
“The current situation is that the Hong Kongers wanted to escape from a prison, because as dissidents, they are being persecuted by a dictator. Under such circumstances, I think it is only right for anyone, any political force to lend a helping hand. In the (1989) Yellow Bird Operation, there was local Hong Kong support (to receive democracy activists escaping China), whereas in this current case, the twelve Hong Kong citizens acted on their own, and there was no logistical support from the expected destination. Therefore, it is not quite the same as the Yellow Bird Operation.
The arrested Hong Kong citizens are truly ‘enjoying citizen treatment in the Mainland China.’ There is no justice nor fairness. We the dissidents of mainland China have been there and done that. We all know too well about what effects those treatments can have on people’s mental and physical wellbeing. Their arrests serve as warnings to the tens of thousands of young people in Hong Kong to further crush their spirits. It creates an atmosphere of terror that makes you feel insecure and in danger, and it makes you fall apart on your own.
The families of the twelve detainees should continue to communicate with the lawyers, media, and even human rights organizations and keep the cases open and transparent to gain international support.
The Chinese Communist Party police will tell you, ‘Do not make a scene. Nothing good will come out of being noisy. Do not make the case well known.’ But let me tell you, if you do not make the case well known, it is more likely that your loved one will be punished and pay a greater price for their actions. From the aspect of diplomatic maneuvering, there is also hope. All countries should get involved. What’s happening in Hong Kong exemplifies the erosion of human rights and rule of law."
Reported by RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Min Eu.