Two Hongkongers remain incommunicado in China
QUINN Moon (乔映瑜), TANG Kai-yin (邓棨然) and 10 other individuals were intercepted by coast guard officers from mainland China after leaving Hong Kong on a speedboat on 23 August 2020.
After an unfair trial, Quinn and Tang were sentenced to two and three years’ imprisonment, respectively, for “organizing other persons to secretly cross the border” (组织他人偷越国（边）境) on 30 December 2020. They were transferred to Guangdong Province Women's Prison and Guangdong Province Conghua Prison in late January 2021 respectively. Another eight of the 12 arrested were sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment for “secretly crossing the border” (偷越国（边）境) and handed over to the Hong Kong police on 22 March 2021 after serving their sentences. The other two, who were under 18 at the time of arrest, were handed over to the Hong Kong police on 30 December 2020 after the Chinese authorities decided not to pursue prosecution. Nine of the 10 HongKongers handed over to the Hong Kong authorities are currently being detained on criminal charges pressed against them before their arrest in mainland China in 2020. These charges include conspiring to wound with intent, rioting, assaulting a police officer, conspiring to commit arson, possessing a substance with intent to destroy or damage property, making an explosive substance, committing arson with intent and conspiring to commit arson with intent. Li Yu-hin is charged with “assisting offenders”, “possessing ammunition without license” and “colluding with foreign or external elements to endanger national security”.
Since the 12 Hongkongers were intercepted on 23 August 2020, the Chinese authorities have deprived them of their right to legal representation of their choice and claimed that they had “chosen their own lawyers” without allowing any direct communication between them and their family. Apart from rejecting all requests made by family-hired lawyers to meet with the detained Hongkongers, the authorities threatened and intimidated at least four of the family-hired lawyers to withdraw from this case. The practicing licenses of Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, the two lawyers representing Quinn Moon and another Hongkonger respectively, were revoked in February 2021. It is reported that at least seven of the returned Hongkongers could not contact their family and lawyers days after they were sent back to Hong Kong.
Amnesty International has documented numerous cases in which detained individuals in mainland China, many of them human rights defenders, have been routinely deprived of their right to see lawyers that they or their families have chosen to represent them. In some instances, the authorities have appointed lawyers for detainees without their consent or consent of the family. In other cases, the authorities threatened lawyers to drop cases, claimed that detainees dismissed family-hired lawyers without producing any proof or stopped families from hiring lawyers – all of which effectively amounts to depriving the detainees’ of their right to legal representation. Individuals deprived of legal representation of their own choice are often denied access to information about their legal rights, making them more vulnerable to unfair legal procedures.