Verdicts in the cases of 12 Hong Kong fugitives held in mainland China since August are not expected to be handed down before the end of this year, a lawyer said on Tuesday.
Lu Siwei, a human rights lawyer appointed by the family of one of the suspects, who has yet to meet his client at Yantian People’s Procuratorate in Shenzhen, said he was not optimistic about the case.
He cited the low acquittal rate on the mainland, but suggested two minors involved might be spared from prosecution.
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Mainland judicial authorities on September 30 officially approved the arrests of the 12 Hongkongers – captured at sea on August 23 while attempting to flee to Taiwan – for illegal border crossing or organising such an act.
All are wanted in Hong Kong for offences allegedly committed during last year’s anti-government protests.
On Tuesday, Lu said he expected public security authorities to end the investigation and officially lay charges against the fugitives by November 30, allowing for the full two-month maximum term of investigative custody.
“The term of investigation is unlikely to be dragged on, because the facts of the case are very simple and clear,” Lu said. “As the world is watching, judicial authorities in Shenzhen should be wrapping up the case within the limit set by law, to demonstrate judicial transparency and efficiency on the mainland.”
Lu said he expected the court to hand down a ruling by New Year’s Day, or Lunar New Year, if the prosecutor reviewed and made a decision within a month.
The lawyer, who has repeatedly been asked by mainland authorities to drop the case, said he thought the 16- and 17-year-olds in the group would be spared from prosecution, as allowed by China’s Criminal Procedure Law, and that ending legal proceedings against them would be in line with international conventions.
In an open letter sent to the media, Lu repeated his call for the Yantian People’s Procuratorate in Shenzhen to allow the Hongkongers to meet legal representatives of their own choosing.
“It is easy to remove the rights of defendants, but it is difficult to restore public confidence in the rule of law,” he said.
Hong Kong’s security chief John Lee Ka-chiu earlier said each had appointed two mainland lawyers to help them, but their families refused to acknowledge those lawyers and accused mainland officials of threatening family appointed legal representatives.
Lu’s call was echoed by Amnesty International, which on Tuesday also launched an action to mobilise the public to write to the director of Yantian’s judicial agency to express concern over their “imminent risk of unfair trials and even torture and other ill-treatment”.
Mainland authorities earlier approved the arrests of 10 in the group on suspicion of crossing the national border unlawfully, and two others for planning the offence.
Under Chinese law, people arrested for illegal crossings face imprisonment of not more than a year. But those convicted of organising others to do so can be sentenced to as many as seven years in jail. For those with a principal role in operating a syndicate for illegal border crossings, or who violently resist law enforcement, the penalty can be life in prison.
More from South China Morning Post:
- 12 Hong Kong fugitives caught at sea while fleeing to Taiwan officially accused by mainland Chinese authorities of illegal border crossing, organising act
- Hong Kong fugitives held in mainland China ‘selected lawyers’ from list supplied by authorities across the border, city’s security chief reveals
- Hong Kong police investigating smugglers who may have helped 12 fugitives arrested at sea
- Lawyer for one of 12 Hongkongers arrested at sea says mainland China prosecutors refused to handle his complaint over client access
- Hongkonger arrested at sea and detained on mainland needs medication for depression, her lawyer says
This article Hong Kong fugitives held in mainland China unlikely to learn their fate for months, lawyer says first appeared on South China Morning Post