Ahead of the trial of a group of Hong Kong residents detained in mainland China since attempting to leave Hong Kong by speedboat in August, Amnesty International Hong Kong’s Programme Manager Lam Cho Ming said:
“We fear that the chance of these young Hongkongers getting a fair trial in China is remote given they have so far been deprived of their basic rights, including the right to defend themselves through legal representation of their own choosing.
“Their families have repeatedly been denied direct access to them, and several mainland lawyers who have attempted to represent them at the families’ request have been threatened by the Chinese authorities to force them to drop the case.
“China must guarantee that all 10 people whose case is set to be heard today, as well as the two others detained with them, get fair and public hearings. They must also ensure that none of the 12 are subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.”
Twelve people were intercepted by coast guard officers from mainland China after leaving Hong Kong on a speedboat on 23 August 2020. Ten of them will face a video hearing on Monday afternoon at Yantian District People’s Court in the southern city of Shenzhen, according to information their families received from their government-appointed lawyers.
Two of those detained, Quinn Moon and Tang Kai-yin, have been charged with “organizing other persons to secretly cross the border” and face up to seven years’ imprisonment. The 10 others, two of whom were under 18 at the time of their arrest and are expected to be tried separately, have been charged with “secretly crossing the border” and face up to a year in jail.
The Hong Kong government has made clear it has no intention of interfering with “the law enforcement of other jurisdictions”.
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, or their families’, consent. In other cases, the authorities have threatened lawyers to make them drop cases. China has also sometimes claimed, without providing evidence, that detainees have dismissed family-hired lawyers, and has stopped families from hiring lawyers.
All of this 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 and to ill-treatment while in detention.