Fri, May 24, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Germany grants two HK activists refugee status

Reuters, HONG KONG

Ray Wong, a member of Hong Kong Indigenous, shouts slogans during a demonstration in Kowloon on July 11, 2015.

Photo: AP

Germany has granted refugee status to two Hong Kong activists facing rioting charges at home, they said on Wednesday, apparently the first time Germany has acknowledged such status for democracy campaigners from the territory.

Ray Wong (黃台仰), 25, and Alan Li (李東昇), 27, both told Reuters by telephone they had been granted refugee asylum status in Germany in May last year. Wong showed a document setting out that status.

“We have become the first two political refugees [from Hong Kong] in Europe,” Li said.

Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee (李家超) earlier skirted questions from the media on whether the territory would seek to extradite the pair back from Germany.

The German consulate in Hong Kong said it was aware that the two Hong Kongers were staying in Germany, although it could not provide details on individual cases.

Wong and Li, former members of Hong Kong Indigenous, a group advocating Hong Kong’s independence from China, were charged for rioting linked to a protest that turned violent in February 2016.

The pair later skipped bail and fled to Germany in 2017 via Taiwan.

Hong Kong activists have become increasingly defiant amid fears of creeping interference from Beijing, despite a promise of special autonomy.

Scores of activists have been jailed on various charges, including contempt of court and public nuisance, with critics saying Hong Kong authorities were prosecuting them to stifle freedom of expression and assembly.

“Our success in gaining political refugee status reflects the situation in Hong Kong is worsening in the eyes of the international community. Hong Kong has changed completely from the past,” Li said.

Hong Kong authorities deny persecuting activists.

A Hong Kong court last month jailed four leaders of a 2014 “Occupy” movement, while young activist Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) was jailed for two months earlier this month.

Both Wong and Li said they decided to break their silence given their alarm at a proposed extradition law that would extend Beijing’s control over the territory.

“They would make use of the extradition law to suppress the democratic movement [and] dissidents,” Wong said.

Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday said the extradition law was the “worst thing” to happen since the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and that it could jeopardize the territory’s global financial status.

Wong said freedoms in Hong Kong have been destroyed by Beijing and the Hong Kong Government since the territory was handed back from British rule under a “one country, two systems” deal meant to ensure freedoms not allowed in mainland China, including an independent judiciary.

The proposed extradition law would allow people in the territory accused of a crime, including foreigners, to be extradited to nations without formal extradition agreements, including mainland China.

Hong Kong authorities have said the extradition law would not be used to prosecute political crimes, but Wong said he feared that it could be used to suppress the pro-democracy movement, as Beijing could extradite activists to China.

“It’s a very sad thing that I needed to leave Hong Kong,” Li said. “I predict that once the [extradition] law is passed, more and more people will seek refuge in other countries.”

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