the 12 Hong Kongers?
Remember the 12 Hong Kongers apprehended while trying to flee to Taiwan by the Mainland Chinese authorities with the help of the Hong Kong police? Eight of them (including the most high profile among them, political activist Andy Li) were sent back across the Mainland Chinese-Hong Kong border today after having spent some four months behind bars in Shenzhen.
Do not think their ordeal is over though. And I don't just mean the two of the 12 who remain in prison in Shenzhen. (Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon were convicted by the Mainland Chinese courts of organising an illegal border crossing last December and sentenced to three years and two years in prison respectively.) All of the 12 fugitives, including the two aged under 18 at the time who were not put on trial over in Mainland China because of their youth and returned to Hong Kong late last year, look to be facing trials and jail times in Hong Kong. And their families, and the lawyers engaged by their families, are still being denied access to -- and direct information about -- them.
To be sure, I get the feeling that the families of the 10 who are back in Hong Kong are taking some comfort from their loved ones being back on Hong Kong soil. Such is the strong sense many Hong Kongers have that things are surely worse in Mainland China for those considered to be enemies of the state.
Even so, as a Hong Kong Watch statement released today makes clear: "This is a bittersweet moment for Hong Kong. We welcome the return of eight of the twelve to Hong Kong, but reiterate our call that all twelve should be released back to Hong Kong. Those returning have an uncertain future ahead, with some facing trial and jail under the National Security Law. It's a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire."
In addition, as a number of recent Hong Kong court decisions and revelations about the treatment of prisoners in Hong Kong prisons show, contemporary Hong Kong may no longer be the Hong Kong many people think they know or thought they knew. I think of such as the rejection of bail for the majority of the 47 pro-democracy politicians and political activists whose "crime" appears to be no more than organizing and/or taking part in democratic primaries and the placing of a number of them in solitary confinement as well as behind bars while they await trial (which is only set to properly begin in May, several months after their being arrested and then locked up for their alleged offences)!
Then there's the case and plight of People Power's Tam Tak-chi. Arrested back in July last year, he has been denied bail all this time, and placed in remand and solitary confinement for over 200 days now. Charged with a whopping 14 offences, including uttering seditious words, he will only face his first trial in May -- with a security law judge presiding despite his not having been charged under China's security law for Hong Kong. At least for now.
There are many who look upon solitary confinement as a form of torture; this especially when it is imposed on an individual for extended periods. I'm sure it's small consolation but it does seem that the likes of Tam Tak-chi are, at least, allowed visitors from time to time even while officially in solitary confinement. Something else that they are allowed are letters from outside: which is why people are being encouraged to write to Hong Kong's (growing number of) political prisoners and jailed protestors.
For some time now, I've seen booths set up where one can write messages to those people put behind bars for their involvement in the anti-extradition law protests that morphed into something so much bigger. In recent months, people have been more actively encouraged to write letters, including to the likes of Tam Tak-chi, Joshua Wong (also being held in solitary confinement), Agnes Chow (ditto) and those members of the 47 who have been denied bail, and being given advice on how to do so (and where to send their letters). And after reading in Joshua Wong's Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act Now how appreciative he was of letters he received, including from complete strangers, while in prison, this seems like something worth doing for people worth caring for.