A lawyer for one of the 12 Hongkongers detained in mainland China after reportedly trying to flee to Taiwan said on Friday that his client needed regular medication to treat depression, but his attempts to raise the issue with authorities had been met with ambiguous responses.
Human rights lawyer Lu Siwei said neither he nor the woman’s relatives were allowed to deliver medicine to the Yantian District Detention Centre in the southern city of Shenzhen, where his client, whose name cannot be confirmed, and 11 other Hongkongers were being held.
This came as mainland police warned another lawyer of one of the 12 to withdraw his legal representation and to stop talking to the press, according to a source.
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The China Coast Guard has said that it intercepted a speedboat with a dozen people on board on August 23 in mainland waters southeast of Hong Kong. The group was accused of illegal entry into the mainland and sailing towards Taiwan for asylum.
With the exception of the woman, the group members had been either arrested or charged on suspicion of various offences related to last year’s anti-government protests, including an alleged bomb plot, according to a person inside the Hong Kong police who spoke on condition of anonymity. The woman was also wanted by police, but it was unclear why.
The woman’s condition was revealed after a photo of a purported referral letter from her psychiatrist, Dr Greg Mak Kai-lok, surfaced online, saying she had depression and required regular medication to treat both it and insomnia.
The letter’s authenticity could not be verified. Mak’s clinic said it would not divulge information about the letter.
“I am not quite sure what the doctor had said, but I know of this,” Lu, the lawyer, said of the woman’s depression. “But since it involved my client’s privacy, I did not publicise this in the media.”
Lu said relatives and lawyers could not themselves deliver medicine to those in mainland detention houses, but were allowed to raise the issue and let the authorities administer the drug.
“I have raised the issue with the police officer responsible, but the officer did not give me a clear reply,” he said.
Lu also said officers from Chengdu Municipal Bureau of Justice asked to meet him next week. He said he planned to attend and expected it would be about his representation of the Hong Kong woman.
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau did not say whether it knew of the woman’s condition or whether she was provided with medication, but said the city’s Immigration Department would maintain close communication with relatives of the 12.
The Yantian detention centre did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Police, meanwhile, had told another lawyer to withdraw his legal representation and that failure to do so would mean his legal practice would be seriously affected, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter who insisted on anonymity for fear of persecution.
Officers of a local domestic security department accompanied the lawyer on any trips to Shenzhen, the person said, adding the lawyer also urged the media to stop contacting him for information.
Separately, human rights lawyer Ji Zhongjiu’s request to represent Li Tsz-yin, another of the 12 detained, was rejected on Thursday despite his having submitted to the detention centre a document of representation certified by a Hong Kong notary, according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
A self-described staff member of the detention centre told Ji by phone that the 29-year-old surveyor had already appointed two defence lawyers, but Ji questioned how Li could have done so in custody without the authorisation of his family members.
Ji filed a complaint on Friday against the detention centre, saying it had broken the law by obstructing a client from seeing his legal representative, the person said.
The lawyer also asked the detention centre to tell Li’s family in writing of the lawyers he hired and arrange for a meeting with Li to confirm whether he had hired lawyers other than himself.
According to China’s Criminal Procedure Law, a detention centre must allow lawyers to see their clients within 48 hours, except in cases that involve national security and terrorism.
Individuals in detention houses who are suspected of committing certain crimes can be detained up to 37 days while they wait for the procuratorate to decide whether to release them or to formally place them under arrest, according to the law.
Additional reporting by Natalie Wong
This article Hongkonger arrested at sea and detained on mainland needs medication for depression, her lawyer says first appeared on South China Morning Post