Asylum-run 12 denied lawyers

Local | Michael Shum 10 Sep 2020

A mainland lawyer was not allowed to meet one of the 12 Hongkongers arrested at sea while allegedly attempting to flee to Taiwan as the suspect "already had legal representatives."

Human rights lawyer Lu Siwei was appointed by the female suspect's family and carried with him a document to prove it. However, he was not allowed by authorities to meet the suspect. They said she already had two lawyers -believed to be appointed by the authorities.

Lu said he arrived at Shenzhen's Yantian district detention center yesterday afternoon but security bureau officers denied him access to the suspect.

"I am still attempting to visit my client to verify the arrangement after officers returned the documents I submitted and refused to talk to me again," Lu said.

The 12 protesters were intercepted on August 23 by Guangdong coastguards while allegedly attempting to flee to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to seek political asylum. They have been remanded at Yantian for more than two weeks.

Yesterday was not Lu's first attempt to visit his client. He failed to gain access on Saturday. He was told to provide a notary to prove the relationship between his appointee and the suspect, but he said there is no such rule in the mainland's law.

Lu said earlier all the lawyers representing the 12 Hongkongers have failed to visit their clients, including Ren Quanniu, another human rights lawyer.

Ren told Hong Kong media yesterday that the justice bureau warned him after a failed attempt to meet his client on Monday.

"The justice bureau told me not to take this case, saying that the suspect was involved in a very serious case, and reminded me to be extremely careful," Ren said.

Executive councilor and National People's Congress deputy Ip Kwok-him said yesterday that although mainland laws allow defendants access to lawyers, authorities have to validate the lawyers' identities to prevent the cases from being "hyped."

Ip said yesterday the 12 should be charged with illegal immigration within 37 days from the day of arrest, but not national security charges.

"As they are arrested for crossing the boundary illegally, and already face national security charges in Hong Kong, there is only a small chance of them to be charged with the national security law in the mainland," Ip said.

"An illegal immigrant usually gets a year's imprisonment, but a 'snakehead' - who organizes the illegal crossing - could be sentenced to life," he said.

According to mainland laws, criminal detention can last up to 37 days, which means the 12 will either be brought to court or be released before the end of the month.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said that absconding Hongkongers were usually repatriated without being charged.

To said mainland officials should deport the group back to Hong Kong if they find that the group had no intentions to enter the mainland to commit crimes.

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