Relatives of 12 Hong Kong People Arrested by China Demand Access for Own Lawyers

September 20, 2020Updated: September 20, 2020

HONG KONG—Relatives of some of the 12 Hong Kong people arrested by China at sea last month demanded the city’s government check on their condition and ensure that lawyers appointed by the families and not the Chinese regime can meet with them.

The 12 were arrested on Aug. 23 for illegal entry into mainland Chinese waters after setting off from Hong Kong in a boat bound for self-ruled Taiwan.

All were suspected of committing crimes in Hong Kong related to anti-government protests that erupted last year. Ten had been charged, released on bail and not allowed to leave the former British colony, and all are now being detained in neighboring Shenzhen.

Relatives of some of the detainees held a news conference outside the Hong Kong police headquarters on Sunday to express their frustration with local authorities.

“We want our son back… Even though we can’t visit him, at least give us a photo or letter from him to confirm that he’s there,” said the father of one detainee, Li Tsz Yin.

The relatives also asked police “to give an account of the date, time, place and process of the arrest” and whether there were any injuries or casualties, and the Marine Department to release radar records of the day of the arrest.

In a statement late on Sunday, Hong Kong police said authorities had reviewed the marine traffic records from Aug 23 and “did not find sign of any China coast guard vessels entering or staying in Hong Kong waters.” It said marine police records would not be released to the public.

“Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) are now maintaining close communication with the mainland law enforcement department to obtain the latest update of the case and take timely follow-up actions. No further information has been received so far,” the statement said.

Earlier, the detainees’ family members said the Hong Kong government “only shirked responsibility and confused the public with mere excuses.”

“However, up to now, the lawyers appointed by the families have been refused (the chance) to meet with the detainees. In other words, the conditions of the so-called arrested persons are still known only to the Chinese authorities,” a statement said.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam voiced discontent with the group being characterized by some as “democratic activists being oppressed,” saying they were running away from the law. Lam said they would have to be “dealt with” by mainland authorities, but pledged to provide “feasible” assistance.

Police in Shenzhen said last Sunday they were suspected of illegal entry, their first public comment on the matter. The same day, China’s foreign ministry labelled the group as “separatists.”

By Jessie Pang and Scott Murdoch