Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says the dozen Hongkongers detained in Shenzhen intended to shirk legal responsibilities and should not be portrayed as suppressed activists.
Lam's comments yesterday referred to the 11 men and one woman arrested by Guangdong coast guards on August 23 while en route to Taiwan by speedboat.
One was involved in a case relating to the national security law, while the others faced charges tied to the unrest.
Speaking before an Executive Council meeting, Lam said the essence of the incident was that the 12 were detained on suspicion of crossing the boundary illegally.
"Obviously, the case is within the mainland's jurisdiction, so it's very appropriate that mainland law enforcement is handling it according to, of course, mainland laws." she said.
"I want to set the record straight, as some local or foreign persons are trying to divert attention by describing the 12 as repressed democracy activists." Lam said the government would provide feasible aid to residents suspected of breaking the law outside the SAR, without giving details.
Families of the 12 have called for them to be sent back to Hong Kong for trial and claimed that lawyers they hired were barred from meeting the detainees.
But Exco member and barrister Ronny Tong Ka-wah believed the government "really has nothing it can do."
"I'm really sorry, but we have no legal grounds to interfere with other jurisdictions' judicial procedure," Tong said yesterday, noting that the mainland did not sign the International Bill of Human Rights that guarantees one's right to counsel.
Meanwhile, one detainee, Wong Wai-yin, was scheduled to appear in Fan Ling magistrates' courts yesterday for allegedly making explosive substances.
Principal magistrate Don So Man-lung ordered that Wong's HK$750,000 deposit be confiscated, and the warrant for his arrest remain effective.