A lawyer representing one of the 12 Hongkongers arrested while reportedly trying to flee to Taiwan says prosecutors in mainland China have refused to handle his complaint over client access without first confiscating his phone and recording the process.
Human rights lawyer Lu Siwei, who is based in Chengdu, attempted to lodge his grievance with the Yantian People’s Procuratorate in Shenzhen after officers from a detention centre in the mainland city twice prevented him from meeting his client.
He is the legal representative of a woman who was among the dozen intercepted at sea by the mainland coastguard on August 23, and detained in Shenzhen since then on suspicion of illegal entry. The group were reportedly sailing to Taiwan to seek political asylum.
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Lu said a prosecutor responsible for handling petitions and complaints, surnamed Chen, told him the process would have to be videotaped and his phone seized for the proceedings to get under way.
Declining those conditions, the lawyer said: “I expressed that such an act had no legal grounds and was discriminatory against me.” The officers then refused to handle the complaint, Lu added.
A video obtained by the Post shows Lu filming himself being led to a huge empty lobby of the procuratorial agency, where he said he waited for an hour.
“They said it was midday and just left me there,” he said. “It would be a very long road to complaints.”
His next stop will be the Public Security Bureau of Shenzhen where he plans to lodge separate complaints.
Lu raised concerns that his client could have been pressured into accepting lawyers assigned by the authorities after he was told on Wednesday that two unnamed counsel were already representing his client.
The website of the Yantian People’s Procuratorate, which is led by Chen Changlin and Li Fuzhang, says the department is responsible for handling complaints and petitions relating to criminal procedures.
But a man who introduced himself as a prosecutor surnamed Chen hung up the phone when contacted by the Post on Thursday.
Little is known about the plight of the Hong Kong detainees over the past fortnight. Two sources familiar with the situation said every attempt from the mainland lawyers instructed by the families of the arrested to see the suspects had failed.
In the latest endeavour, a lawyer surnamed Ji visited the detention facility on Thursday afternoon with notarised documents prepared by his client’s family, but sources said he was met with a similar response as given to Lu. Police told Ji he would receive a reply within 48 hours.
The sources added lawyers would make further attempts to see their clients next week, despite the earlier failures and pressure from local authorities, who were said to have asked at least two legal representatives to walk away from the cases.
When Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was asked on Tuesday if the local government would try to secure the return of the detainees to face trial in the city, she said they would “have to be dealt with” by mainland China, but pledged that the administration would try to provide help.
A spokesman for the Security Bureau said the Immigration Department followed up on the request for assistance from the family members of the detainees through the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong, and would remain in close communication with them.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Lawyers hired by families of Hongkongers arrested at sea say mainland Chinese authorities appointing legal counsel, pressuring them to drop cases
- Woman among 12 Hongkongers in sea arrest ‘denied right to meet lawyer’, as authorities on both sides of border urged to show transparency