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Hong Kong: Transgender activist in danger of being sent back to mainland China

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Lai Ke was detained in a psychiatric centre throughout her sentence and denied access to vital medicines

‘Time is of the essence to prevent Lai Ke from being unlawfully deported to mainland China- Sarah Brooks

Chinese transgender activist Lai Ke (also known as Xiran) is due to be released tomorrow after serving a prison sentence in Hong Kong will be at grave risk of persecution if she’s deported to mainland China, said Amnesty International.

Lai Ke must instead be allowed to remain in Hong Kong or travel to another destination, said the human rights organisation.

Last year, she was convicted in Hong Kong of using “forged” documents to attempt to travel from China to Canada via Hong Kong. Upon release tomorrow (2 March), Lai faces imminent removal to mainland China after completing her sentence, with friends saying she has previously faced harassment by police in China.  

Lai had been a vocal advocate for transgender rights in China alongside her partner who, according to friends, was imprisoned there last June as a result of her own activism and transgender identity.

She was convicted in Hong Kong on 16 June last year and sentenced to 15 months in prison, which she served at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, a psychiatric detention institution where the Hong Kong authorities usually hold transgender detainees. Her first meeting with a lawyer hired on her behalf was not until 20 July, more than a month after her trial and conviction.

While serving her sentence, Lai has been denied access to the medication she was taking as part of her hormone replacement therapy, and then - according to friends - held in solitary confinement for complaining about the denial of her medication. As Lai is not a Hong Kong resident she is liable to be deported to mainland China under Section 19 of the Hong Kong Immigration Ordinance.

Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International’s China Director, said:

"Time is of the essence to prevent Lai Ke from being unlawfully deported to mainland China, where she would be at grave risk of serious human rights violations - including arbitrary detention, unfair trial and even torture and other ill-treatment - due to both her transgender identity and her activism. 

“The Hong Kong authorities must urgently clarify Lai Ke’s pending immigration status.

“As she is due to be released after serving her sentence, the authorities must free her without conditions and allow her to travel onwards to a destination feasible for her.”

China’s LGBTQ+ crackdown

Amnesty has documented the systematic oppression and discrimination of transgender people in China. Large-scale censorship in recent years has led to the closure of numerous online lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex groups and social media accounts, undermining LGBTQ+ activism on and offline. Police in China have repeatedly arrested, detained and imprisoned human rights defenders - including LGBTQ+ activists - for lengthy periods under unjustified, broadly-defined and vaguely-worded charges. 

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