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Detained Hong Kong protester’s family believes ‘three meals a day’ letter was sent under duress

Written by on 30/11/2020

The family of a man detained in mainland China after fleeing Hong Kong by boat believes a letter he sent was written under duress.

His mother told Sky News the family had received a letter from him on 20 November.

“I think he wrote it according to the authorities’ demands because he says, ‘I have three full meals every day, I rest regularly, the detention centre staff didn’t break the rules’,” she said.

The group tried to escape Hong Kong in August
Image: The group tried to escape Hong Kong in August

Wong Wai Yin had been arrested in January on charges of making explosives in connection with last year’s protests and was awaiting trial when he fled along with 11 other people.

A Chinese lawyer appointed to represent another of the 11 people detained alongside him told Sky News he does not believe they will receive a fair trial, after the group marked 100 days in detention.

Wong Wai Yin left Hong Kong at dawn on 23 August.

Along with the other escapees, all but one of whom was facing various other serious charges related to the protests, he boarded a boat to attempt the 375-mile journey to Taiwan across the South China Sea.

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Just a few hours later, the boat was intercepted by the mainland Chinese coast guard and the suspects were taken to a detention centre in Shenzhen.

Ten of them were arrested for allegedly crossing the border secretly, while two were arrested for allegedly organising other people to secretly cross the border.

The case has now been transferred to Yantian District People’s Procuratorate for prosecution, also in Shenzhen.

Mr Wong’s wife and mother asked for the details of their names to be protected because of the fear of repercussions.

His wife told Sky News about the letter: “He told us to wait for him, and not to worry about him. ‘I will come home in good health’.

“He told us to trust the lawyers that Chinese authorities appointed to defend him, and to stay in touch with them.

“The problem is that the two state-appointed lawyers don’t pick up when we call, so how can we keep in touch?”

The families of the “Hong Kong 12”, the youngest of whom is 16 years old, appointed mainland Chinese lawyers to represent their relatives when they were detained.

One of those was Lin Qilei.

Lawyer Lin Qilei says the group's rights are not being protected
Image: Lawyer Lin Qilei says the group’s rights are not being protected

But Mr Lin told Sky News he was denied access to his client before authorities informed him that new lawyers had been appointed.

Mr Lin said speaking to foreign media as a lawyer in China could bring risk to his legal licence and personal freedom but he had exhausted all legal means.

“Under detention, it’s impossible for the litigants to have found lawyers of their own accord,” he said.

“We think that the official side does not want society to know about the details of this case. This is totally illegal.”

Asked whether the 12 could expect a fair trial, Mr Lin said: “Their rights have not been properly protected. So how can detainees get fairly judged inside? We cannot imagine.”

Mr Wong’s family said his attempted escape from Hong Kong had come as a surprise.

“He didn’t give any sign,” his wife said. “He behaved like normal, waking up and being on his phone and so on.”

Mr Wong only left a message, written on a page torn from a notebook.

“He said he was sorry that he couldn’t take care of us,” she said.

“That he hadn’t fixed the roof, and that from now on we need to handle the plumbing in the bathroom on our own. He sounded forlorn and apologetic.”

Democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong last year
Image: Democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong last year

The trial is expected to be soon. In the meantime, there is little that Mr Wong’s family can do.

“We will definitely wait for him to return,” his wife said.

“We will not leave him behind. Even if the whole world abandons him, we will never give up.”

His mother added: “Son, you must come home safe and sound, like you wrote in your letter.”

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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