Hong Kong Protestors to be Tried Under Chinese Legislation and Jurisdiction

In late August 2020, the public’s fears that Hong Kong’s new National Security Law would allow Hong Kong citizens to be arrested for their political activism and tried under China’s convoluted and corrupt justice system have regretfully come true. On August 28, the Chinese Coast Guard arrested 12 Hong Kong protestors while they were attempting to escape via boat to Taiwan and transported to Shenzhen Yantian Detention Center. Now, these protestors are prohibited from accessing legal counsel and are being shuffled through China’s prison and court system.

The charges raised agains the 12 individuals are severe: “organizing others to cross national borders illegally” can land a person in the Chinese prison system for the rest of their lives, as the Chinese government considers this crime to be of the highest nature and punishable by life imprisonment. At the same time, these 12 defendants are forced to weather these ridiculous charges without accessing their own lawyers. One lawyer by the name of Lu Siwei reported that he was turned away upon his attempted visit to his client at Shenzhen Yantian Detention Center and informed that he must present a notarized letter from the family. Another attorney of one of the arrested Hong Kong individuals, lawyer Ren Quanniu, presented such a notarized ‘power of attorney’ letter to prison officials but was still denied visitation with his client. Ren was also told that “the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would consider a lawyer defending the protesters ‘unpatriotic.”

The situation has only worsened, as on September 14, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that these 12 Hong Kong citizens should be tried under Chinese legislation and jurisdiction:

“When asked if the legal rights of the Hong Kong detainees could be protected and how the Hong Kong government would follow up, Lam referred to an agreement with China two years ago. This contract stipulated that if China captured Hong Kong citizens, Chinese officials would notify Hong Kong authorities. She stated that the Hong Kong government as well as the Guangdong Province liaison’s office will consider concerns of lawyers for detainees. Lam stressed, however, because Hong Kongers had broken Chinese laws and regulations, China’s applicable laws should rule.”

In accordance with Chinas unjust legal customs, the 12 Hong Kong protestors have not only had their personal lawyers rejected- as mentioned earlier- but they also have received defense attorneys appointed by the state. Such an appointment is absolutely corrupt, as CCP-chosen lawyers are pressured to carry out their job in accordance with CCP interests, completely eradicating any sense of independence and safeguarding that the Hong Kong protesters are unlikely to receive a fair trial. According to the New York Times, “The mother of Li Tsz-yin, another one of the detained, told reporters on Saturday that she did not trust the lawyers assigned by the government.”

The frightful situation has gained the attention of US and Chinese officials alike: On September 11, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called out Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam for her nonchalant remarks regarding the situation, saying “We question Chief Executive Lam’s stated commitment to protecting the rights of Hong Kong residents, and call on authorities to ensure due process.”

Over a week later on September 20, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted that the Hong Kong protesters had misrepresented their goals; rather than seeking out democracy and liberty, Ms. Hua claims they were “attempting to separate Hong Kong from China.” Other Chinese officials have made public statements condemning the United States for inserting itself into Chinese domestic affairs.

One Hong Kong legal barrister and expert on Chinese mainland legal procedures explained that, regretfully, “I won’t be surprised if a few months down the road they [the protesters] will be put on TV and give a ‘confession.’ The fate of these people can be the fate of us in the future.”

The arrest of these 12 Hong Kong activists and protesters came just a year after the outbreak of democratic protests in the special administrative region and displays the worsening state of individual liberty in a nation that is increasingly struggling under the grips of the mainland’s power and influence.

Photo by Jonathan van Smit on Flickr.