HK govt in a bind after two localists granted asylum in Germany

May 23, 2019 14:43
Localists Ray Wong (left) and Alan Li, shown here in Berlin in June 2018, told media they had been granted refugee protection by the German government. Photo: Ray Wong/AFP

The Hong Kong administration appears in a bind on what action to take after two former leading members of a localist group have been granted refugee status in Germany after they both jumped bail in late 2017 to avoid possible prison terms for their participation in the Mong Kok clashes the year before.

Ray Wong Toi-yeung, former convener of the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, and Alan Li Tung-sing, one of its founding members, have been granted refugee protection by the German government, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing foreign media accounts.

Wong and Li were two of the defendants in the case linked to the Lunar New Year clashes between demonstrators and police during a government crackdown on unlicensed street hawkers on the night of Feb. 8, 2016.

The two were both wanted by police after they jumped bail on riot charges, while their co-defendant Edward Leung Tin-kei, former spokesman of Hong Kong Indigenous, ended up being sentenced to six years in jail in June 2018.

On Wednesday, several foreign media outlets, including The New York Times, Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, revealed the duo had been given refugee status by the German government and their applications for protection were approved last year.

Reacting to the news, legislator and Executive Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the SAR government should make representations with German authorities and assure them that the two would have been given a fair trial in Hong Kong, public broadcaster RTHK said.

"There is a lack of trust on the part of the German government that Wong and Li would face a fair and public trial in Hong Kong. I think this is a very serious assumption which the SAR government should take up with the German authorities as a matter of priority," Ip was quoted as saying.

But Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun warned the administration against making a formal extradition request to Germany as such a move could boomerang, RTHK said.

While Germany is not making public the reasons for granting asylum to applicants as a matter of policy, it may have to respond publicly if Hong Kong seeks the two localists' extradition, said To, who is deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's security committee.

"But if you insist ... then the other side will unavoidably put on record that according to the German law they've come to certain conclusions because of your varying situation, deteriorating human rights situation or make any uncomfortable accusation that Hong Kong would not like to hear," To was quoted as saying.

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah on Wednesday declined to comment on the news about the two activists, but reiterated that police would do what they have to do in the pursuit of wanted suspects.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu also refused to comment on individual media reports, but said those jumping bail and absconding are not considered extraditable criminals.

Law enforcement bodies would consult legal advice and take appropriate action, he added.

On Wednesday night, Germany's Foreign Ministry said it considers the human rights situation in Hong Kong to be “good as a whole”, RTHK reported.

“At the same time, we are increasingly concerned about the diminishing space for the political opposition and a gradual erosion of freedom of opinion and the press, particularly in connection with sensitive political issues,” the ministry said.

Localist Wong told Financial Times that he "only chose to reveal" his asylum status now to "raise awareness” of the proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition laws and the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on June 4 this year.

He also said he would never be able to return if Hong Kong could extradite him to the mainland once the controversial fugitives bill is enacted into law, Wong told the paper.

He is left with no choice but to fight for Hong Kong from the outside, Wong told The Wall Street Journal.

In an interview with The New York Times, Wong said he believed he was allowed to retain his passport because the SAR government wanted him to leave Hong Kong and “become irrelevant”, which he described as Beijing’s strategy to remove threats from activists.

Wong told Financial Times he chose to seek asylum in Germany because he believed the European country “has a much stronger stance towards China”, especially when it comes to human rights issues.

He is currently studying German at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and will pursue courses in political science and philosophy, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It is understood that the German government had asked the duo to keep quiet on their granted refugee status but later tacitly consented to their disclosing it.

The German authority in charge of immigration and refugee issues said it has received asylum-seeking applications from three Hongkongers so far, including two in 2017 and one in 2018, and two of them were granted last year, without revealing the identities of the individuals.

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