Hong Kong localist party Demosisto has claimed two of its members were detained by state police during visits to mainland China and interrogated for hours about their views on Tibetan independence, the Occupy movement, and their links to the group.
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, the party’s secretary general and co-founder, revealed how one of the members was offered money to become an informant and attached to a “lie detector” during questioning.
Amnesty International Hong Kong described the incident as “a chilling attempt” by state security to silence the city’s activists and stop them from joining civil society organisations.
Appearing alongside Demosisto chairman Ivan Lam Long-yin, and former legislator Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Wong revealed details of the alleged incidents, which he said happened in Shenzhen, on March 26, and in Guangzhou, on August 17.
The two members who were reportedly involved did not appear at the press conference, and Wong refused to reveal their names or any details about them. He said one had already quit the party, and that the only motivation for the detentions was intimidation.
“We will not back down,” Lam said. “In planning future actions, we will not be affected by these incidents.”
Joyce Chiang, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, called on the government to investigate the incident, and to defend the city’s freedom of expression and freedom of association in the face of pressure from the mainland.
“The Hong Kong government must be unequivocal in calling for an investigation into these serious allegations,” she said. “Any failure to do so would lead to the further erosion of the rights to freedom of expression and association in Hong Kong.”
In the first incident, Lam said the member, who had visited the mainland for family reasons, was intercepted at a railway station in Shenzhen on the way back to Hong Kong.
A dozen officers with badges, “issued by the Ministry of State Security”, took the Demosisto member to a Shenzhen police station for three hours.
Apart from the member’s role in the group, Lam said officers brought up the names of three Demosisto members and asked if they had known each other.
Upon leaving, the member was asked to verify notes made during the questioning and lay a fingerprint on a form agreeing the contents of the meeting were not to be made public.
Lam said a request for a copy of the notes was turned down. One officer allegedly told the member: “There is no such thing [as a copy].”
Five months later, a second Demosisto member, who was on a work trip to the mainland with three colleagues, was taken from a railway station in Guangzhou.
Lam said the second member was hooked up to a lie detector, and over the course of five hours was asked if it was wrong to be involved in the Occupy protests, or if the member supported the independence movement in Tibet.
Before leaving, the member was reportedly asked to sign a “letter of repentance”, and offered money to provide information on others in the party.
The intimidation did not stay on the other side of the border, Demosisto claimed, with mainland officers phoning the first person detained had returned to Hong Kong.
“It is definitely [a form of] scare tactics, they want to send a message to Demosisto and the civil society in Hong Kong,” Law said. “You guys are not welcomed in China, and if you [come] you may be exposed to the same threat.”
Asked why they had waited to make the information public, a party source said Demosisto had taken legal advice, but was also concerned for family members of those who had been detained, who remained on the mainland.
Law conceded it was hard for the party to provide evidence Demosisto had not fabricated the stories.
“We cannot bring back the polygraph machine, we cannot take selfies with the mainland security officers,” he said.
The group said it has reminded all members to be mindful of the risks involved when travelling to the mainland.
The Security Bureau said no request for assistance related to Demosisto’s claims had been filed with the government’s offices on the mainland or the Immigration Department.
“Everyone should abide by the laws in every jurisdiction,” a bureau spokesman said.
“Anyone who requests assistance from the [Hong Kong] government should provide details to the concerned authorities.”
Formed in 2016, Demosisto succeeded in getting Law elected in the Legislative Council election the same year.
Law, however, was later ejected after the court ruled he had taken his oath in an unorthodox manner.
In May, Demosisto ruled out running candidates in elections in the near future and changed it status from a political party to a group.
In an earlier interview with the Post, Lam said the group has about 30 members.
Additional reporting by Karen Zhang