More than 150 lawmakers from 18 countries have issued an open letter to Hong Kong’s leader, demanding she ask Beijing in the interests of justice to immediately transfer back the 12 city fugitives detained in mainland China.
It has been more than 100 days since the dozen – all of whom are wanted in connection with last year’s anti-government protests – were arrested at sea by the Chinese coastguard while attempting to flee to Taiwan in August. They have been held in a Shenzhen detention centre ever since.
Last week, police in the southern Chinese city handed the case to prosecutors to rule if they should move ahead with criminal proceedings against the Hongkongers, who stand accused of entering waters illegally or organising an illegal border crossing.
In an open letter published on Tuesday, 155 lawmakers from countries including the United States, Britain, Australia, Germany and Japan, urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to raise the case with Chinese officials in Beijing to ensure the detainees were guaranteed justice.
“To continue to fail to do so would be a gross abdication of your responsibility to serve the people of Hong Kong and ensure their well-being and safety,” the letter read.
They also expressed concerns about the justice system, which they said commonly employed torture and forced confessions, demanding she help the city residents return home to stand trial and ensure they have direct contact with their families and legal representatives.
So far, none of the lawyers hired by the detainees’ families had been able to visit their clients, with Chinese authorities repeatedly requesting they drop the cases, saying the group – 11 men and one woman aged 16 to 33 – had already been appointed representation.
Among the politicians signing the joint letter were US Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Marco Rubio, one of the key advocates of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act; US House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel; UK Foreign Affairs Committee chair Tom Tugendhat; and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Committee chair Simon O’Connor.