HK12 face tyranny, treachery and trial
WTPOHK previously reported the case of The fishy tale of 12 Hong Kong activists arrested at sea by China. The group of Hong Kong (HK) residents — the youngest just 16years old— was caught by the coastguard 70 kilometres (40 miles) southeast of the SAR on August 23 2020, before being transferred to police in Shenzhen. They have been formally accused of charges linked to crossing a border illegally which could carry a sentence of up to seven years in jail. Some of the 12 detained are holders foreign passports.
Despite repeated international calls to release the detainees, or to at least return them to HK, a court hearing finally went ahead just a few days after Christmas.
Even pleas addressed to HK CE Carrie Lam to ensure the safety and good health of her own citizens being held across the mainland border in Shenzhen had fallen on deaf ears. More than 150 parliamentarians from 18 countries had called on HK Chief Executive (CE) Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) to intervene to ensure justice for the 12 people detained. The parliamentarians wrote: “In your role as Chief Executive, it is incumbent on you to intercede on behalf of these young people to ensure that they are guaranteed justice,” the parliamentarians said in the letter released late on Tuesday.“To continue to fail to do so would be a gross abdication of your responsibility to serve the people of Hong Kong and ensure their well-being and safety.”(Taipei Times, 3 December 2020)
HK CE Carrie Lam was asked at a weekly news conference if she could ensure that the 12 would be afforded human rights safeguards such as presumption of innocence, fair trial and legal representation. She indicated in her reply that "We do not have the legal basis to do the things that you want us to do." (Malay Mail, 22 September 2020)
Relatives of the detainees were told by Chinese government-appointed lawyers that a video hearing will take place Monday afternoon 28 December at Yantian District People’s Court in the southern city of Shenzhen, according to the Save 12 HK Youths campaign. The family of one of the group detained in Shenzhen, activist Andy Li, tweeted on social media on Friday:
“As with other politically sensitive cases, obviously they rushed for the Christmas period so as to minimize international backlash.” (HKFP, 26 December 2020)
It was earlier announced that there would be two trials: one for two of the defendents who are underaged; and another for the other 10 defendents.
The case of the HK12 continues to cause concern.
Reportedly, “From the outset, the Chinese government has been adamant in preventing all forms of contact between the detained and their families. Lawyers hired by the families were barred from meeting with the detainees while lawyers of unknown identities were assigned by the Chinese authorities to ensure total control over the legal proceedings. The Chinese authorities are once again abusing administrative measures and using pandemic control as the pretext to prevent families from attending the court hearings in person in time. Meanwhile, the media reported that the Shenzhen court has proclaimed the cases ‘classified’ and prohibited reporters from attending the hearings, thus rendering them de facto secret trials.” (Forbes, 28 December 2020)
Despite the fact that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the 10 Hong Kongers “are being prosecuted according to the law”, emerging reports raise red flags in relation to the issue of fair trial. Human rights advocates have been calling upon the international community to monitor the trials. As a British politician, Lord Alton of Liverpool, emphasized: “Justice requires open and transparent proceedings. Show trials and kangaroo courts deny access to lawyers and families and are a mockery of justice. The rule of law is not the same as rule by law.” (Forbes, 28 December 2020)
The hearing began as scheduled on Monday afternoon and a convoy of vehicles were seen departing around four hours later. The Yantian District People's Court said sentencing will be at a later date. It's not known why a more specific date for sentencing could not be given by the court at the time.
Court officials stayed tight-lipped about the case, and the trial -- like many in China's opaque legal system -- was not open to foreign reporters or diplomats.
Western Diplomats from Britain, the US, Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Canada who had come to observe the trial had to wait outside the Yantian District People's Court in Shenzhen as all the seats were "taken".
At least two of the group detained could face around seven years in jail for organising the attempted escape from a city where democracy activists last year led massive protests against Beijing's rule.
Some of the group detained by mainland authorities were already facing prosecution in HK when they had fled the city after a draconian national security law was imposed there by China. (International Business Times, 28 December 2020)
Amnesty International said there was little chance the group would receive a fair trial.
"They have so far been deprived of their basic rights, including the right to defend themselves through legal representation of their own choosing," Amnesty Hong Kong's Programme Manager Lam Cho Ming said in a statement. (SBS News, 28 December 2020)
WTPOHK believe that the family of the HK12 have been treated with disrespect by mainland authorities. According to Reuters news reports, they had asked to be given notice 20 days before the trial, that it be broadcast online, that foreign diplomats be allowed to observe and all records be made public.
Chinese authorities have denied family and their lawyers access to the 12, insisting they be represented by officially appointed lawyers.
The relatives reiterated on Monday their request to be allowed to speak to their loved ones.
"Our hearts are heavy," the wife of detainee Wong Wai-Yin told reporters outside the HK Immigration Department. (Yahoo News, 21 December 2020)
Two representatives of the families handed a petition letter to an immigration officer in HK, urging the authorities to arrange for them to attend the trial in Shenzhen. Photo: RTHK
Unlike in HK, where the justice system is supposedly independent and based on common law, mainland courts are loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and are not known to challenge the party's accusations. Convictions are generally considered a foregone conclusion and reported conviction rates are close to 100%.
Back in September 2020, two pro-democracy HK lawmakers who have been helping the families of 12 young Hongkongers detained on the mainland after being captured condemned Beijing's move to brand the activists as "separatists".
Council Front lawmaker Chu Hoi-dick said he believed the 12 are now destined to be used as bargaining chips in foreign affairs, noting that the separatism claim was made by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in response to a social media post by a US State Department spokesperson. "The moment family-appointed lawyers were denied [opportunity] to see some of the detainees, it could be expected that the Chinese Communist Party has designated the 12 people as highly sensitive cases," Chu wrote in a statement. Further, Chu said no matter how serious a "label" Beijing places on the 12, the Communist Party cannot explain why they have been stripped of their right to meet their lawyers, as stated in criminal procedural laws on the mainland. (RTHK, 13 September 2020)
While many people around the globe increasingly realise that it's time to decouple CCP from China and to 'cut the head off the snake', freedom fighters in HK are paying a heavy price-especially with their loss of freedom, either as exiles or inmates. (CNN, 21 December 2020)
The British Foreign Minister, Dominic Raab has called on China to "uphold the rule of law and conduct trials in a fair and transparent manner." File photo Reuters. RTHK
Li Yuxuan, one of 12 HK residents indicted in Guangdong province for 'illegally crossing the border' by attempting to flee HK, is shown in an undated photo. RFA
Relevant reading in WTPOHK bogs:
NEWS links and UPDATES:
China's Justice Ministry Orders Defense Attorneys to Drop Hong Kong 12 Cases, RFA,
China Indicts Hong Kong 12 For 'Illegal Border Crossing', RFA, 16 December, 2020
Families of Shenzhen detainees ask to attend trial, RTHK, 21 December 2020
Families of 12 Hongkongers decry sentencing delay, RTHK, 28 December, 2020
Raab slams mainland's 'secret' trial of HK detainees, RTHK, 29 December 2020
'Shenzhen detainees to hear their fate on Wednesday', RTHK, 29 December 2020
With outcome of trial still unclear, here’s what we know about the 12 Hong Kong fugitives detained in Shenzhen, MSN, 29 December 2020