For the families of detainees, pro-democracy lawmakers and student unions, Beijing's charges violate the "presumption of innocence". Detained in a Shenzhen prison, the 12 pro-democracy activists, including a minor, cannot communicate with the outside world or meet their lawyers. For pro-democracy groups, they could become pawns in the US-China row.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Yesterday’s accusations of "separatism" by China’s Foreign Ministry against 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, arrested last month off the coast of Guangdong, are "ridiculous," the brother of Tang Kai-yin, one of the detainees, told a Hong Kong radio.
For him, and the student unions at 12 local universities and colleges in the former British colony, the ministry’s statement goes against the "presumption of innocence", the cornerstone of the city’s common law system.
The detainees, 11 men and one woman, are currently held in a Shenzhen jail. The Chinese Coast Guard announced their arrest on 28 August, noting that at the group was on a speedboat, most likely headed to Taiwan to seek refuge.
One of those arrested is Andy Li, a pro-democracy activist arrested on 10 August together with the publishing magnate Jimmy Lai under China’s new Hong Kong security law.
The others took part in the anti-government protests that broke out more than a year ago in Hong Kong. Some of them are on trial for alleged offences committed during the protests.
On Saturday, at a press conference, family members asked the Hong Kong authorities to bring the 12 activists home.
Pro-democracy lawmakers urged Hong Kong authorities to intervene to secure the legal rights of the detainees. But last night, Hong Kong authorities said that they would not intervene in the case.
The families of those arrested said they have no news of their loved ones, one of whom is 16. They complain that Chinese authorities, in violation of China’s own laws, is preventing family-appointed lawyers from meeting their clients. Some lawyers have also been pressured to give up the case.
Three of the detainees have health problems, and family members are unable to communicate with Chinese officials to get necessary medicines to them.
Tang Kai-yin's family said that the young man has asthma and they don't know anything about his current condition. “Right now, I don't even know if he is alive or dead,” said Tang Kai-yin's mother.
For pro-democracy lawmaker Chu Hoi-dick, the 12 activists risk becoming victims of the ongoing clash between Beijing and Washington.
He notes that the accusation of separatism came after the US State Department said that the arrests signal the deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong.