Relatives of Arrested Hong Kong Activists Accuse Government of Lying About Surveillance

October 8, 2020 Updated: October 8, 2020

HONG KONG—Relatives of some of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained by Chinese authorities at sea more than six weeks ago as they tried to flee by boat to Taiwan have accused the Hong Kong government of lying about the circumstances surrounding their arrests.

The detainees, who are accused of crimes tied to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year, are being held in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen after mainland authorities intercepted their boat and accused them of illegal border crossing.

China‘s foreign ministry has called them “separatists.”

The families said they had obtained the flight path of a Hong Kong government plane showing it was monitoring the boat, which led them to suspect that local authorities had helped Chinese officials.

They didn’t say how they obtained the data.

“Explain whether the police have deployed fixed-wing aircraft for aerial surveillance; give a full account of the conspiracy to send the 12 Hong Kongers to China,” the group said in a statement on Oct. 8.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said this week she won’t comment on the “actual operational details except to reinforce … that the [Hong Kong] police has absolutely no role to play in this particular case.”

The father of detainee Cheng Tsz-ho, 18, held up a placard outside Government Flying Service headquarters that read: “Government lied, return my son back to me,” while the wife of detainee Wong Wai-yin, 30, displayed a sign that said: “Give me the truth, release my husband.”

The detainees’ case has grabbed international headlines and human rights groups have raised concerns. The families say the detainees have been denied access to independent lawyers.

More than a dozen police stood guard as the relatives staged a peaceful protest, with live television footage showing some being stopped and searched by officers.

The Hong Kong government has said it can’t interfere on behalf of the detainees, who must face legal proceedings in China before they can come home, though it says it is willing to provide “feasible” assistance to their families.

By Jessie Pang and Anne Marie Roantree