HONG KONG – The aftermath of the 12 Hong Kong activists who fled the city and were detained in mainland China continued last week. Hong Kong attorney Daniel Wong Kwok-tung was released after 40 hours in police custody.
71-year-old Wong was arrested along with ten others for allegedly helping Hong Kong activists escape the city in August. Wong told a local media news conference that he was “at a loss” as to why he was arrested.
“I will stay in my role with my expertise, do what I should and what I believe deeply,” said Wong when he was released on bail.
On August 23, 12 Hong Kong activists, who were under criminal investigation into anti-government protests, were arrested by Chinese authorities on suspicion of illegally crossing the border at sea after attempting to flee Hong Kong by boat to Taiwan. All have been detained in mainland China.
On December 30th, ten of the twelve activists in Shenzhen, China, were sentenced to between seven months and three years in prison. The two youngest detainees were sent back to Hong Kong.
Timeline: The Impact of National Security Law on Hong Kong
Here is a timeline of developments since China introduced national security laws in Hong Kong this year
While detained, family members of the detainees were not allowed to visit, while the Chinese authorities reportedly prevented family members from attending lawyers as their legal representatives.
Hong Kong human rights organizations said these were examples of human rights violations.
Du Song, executive director of China’s human rights group (CHRLCG), said the detainees were “treated unfairly in the legal process.”
“They cannot appoint their own lawyers, the family cannot meet the detainees, and officials have made full use of the Criminal Procedure Act and border control during Covid19 to exclude the family from the hearing,” Song told VOA.
“We have found that those mentioned do not meet international human rights standards at all,” he said.
The case comes at a time of further legal scrutiny in Hong Kong and China.
Last week, a Chinese human rights lawyer who handled the case of the 12 activists was recently revoked. Lu Siwei was one of two human rights lawyers selected by the families, but was not recognized by the Chinese authorities and refused access to the accused.
Earlier this month, US human rights attorney John Clancey was one of 55 people arrested in Hong Kong in July for links to Democratic primary elections.
Song believes the future of Hong Kong’s legal system is threatened by the implementation of a controversial national security law and pressure from Beijing.
“Condemned by vague articles in the national security law, it does not satisfy the word ‘one country, two systems’. The time now is the darkest period of the Hong Kong judicial system. The rights of lawyers in Hong Kong could one day be an important issue, ”he added.
After the UK returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement was signed, giving Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” until 2047. The city has unseen Communist Party (CCP) freedoms in mainland China, which is ruled by the Chinese.
Following the anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, Beijing passed the National Security Law that banned violations such as subversion and succession. The law provides maximum sentences for life imprisonment and was the catalyst for political action in the city. Street protests have stopped while activists have been arrested, jailed or fled the city.
Hang Tung Chow, a Hong Kong attorney and vice president of the Hong Kong Alliance, believes the problem is that the 12 activists were prosecuted in the first place.
“The usual cases are to send them back after administrative detention that would not last longer than 15 days.
I think they (authorities) wanted to set an example for these people to stop the Hong Kong people from doing this again, ”Chow told VOA.
Chow also believes that Hong Kong residents in the city should have no illusions about who they are up against.
“I think Hong Kong people need to face the fact that it is the Chinese authorities that they are dealing with now, not just the Hong Kong authorities. I would say it’s a call to reality, ”Chow added.