The immigration authority of the Philippines provided a crucial document for the appeal case of jailed Hongkonger Tang Lung-wai on Wednesday. It followed a personal request from Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Tang, who is serving a 40-year sentence in a Philippine prison on drug charges, is appealing his case at the country’s supreme court. He was seeking his travel record as a means to prove his innocence.
On Monday, Lam wrote a letter to President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, asking that he exercise “compassionate consideration” to expedite the immigration bureau’s processing of Tang’s request.
Lawmaker Paul Tse, who has been assisting Tang’s case, confirmed on Wednesday that the relevant records have been received. Tang’s lawyers have until early September to submit materials to the supreme court.
Tang, now 47, went to the Philippines in 2000 to meet a friend. Tang claimed that the police took him and two other people to a room, and then framed them for possessing a bag of methamphetamine.
Tang was detained for 11 years without trial, until he was eventually convicted in October 2011. He has consistently maintained he is innocent and, after an appeal was rejected in July 2017, he is now appealing to the supreme court.
“The prolonged process has understandably drawn wide public attention in Hong Kong and caused much torment to the family members and friends of Mr. Tang,” Lam wrote in her letter.
At trial, local police said they had been following Tang since early June 2000 as he was part of a drug trafficking ring. However, Tang said he was not in the country until later in the month.
A document titled “List of Travel Records” appeared to show that Tang entered the Philippines on June 19, 2000.
Tse, who is also a practising solicitor, said that the new evidence “should be quite strong in opposing the prosecution case.” During radio programmes on Thursday, Tse said that he was cautiously optimistic about Tang’s prospects.
“To be frank, this was more efficient than expected,” Tse said. “The Security Bureau and the Immigration Department were very helpful… along with the chief executive, if she thinks something needs to be done, she will do it.”
Tang told the radio programme via a long-distance call that he was optimistic, but expected to stay in jail for at least another year.
“I’m afraid [the Philippine authorities] will delay. It is very common, when a case is in the spotlight, they will wait a year until the attention goes away,” Tang said.
“If they want to be fast, they will be fast… It is very difficult to predict,” he added.
Tang also expressed concern that prison authorities will put him in solitary confinement and take away his smartphone, due to his increased media profile.
Although technically against the rules, Tang has had a smartphone for a few years and has used it to keep in contact with supporters via social media. He has also used it to write two books.
Family and supporters energised
Tang’s older brother Tang Lung-piu said that he was “excited” about recent developments. He said he distanced himself and did not speak to his jailed brother for ten years, before learning that he might be innocent.
“There was a long period where my brother endured a lot in prison,” Tang Lung-piu said on the radio show. “My family and I misunderstood him… in retrospect, I am a bit angry at myself.”
Lisa Tam Sin-man, a member of the Tang Lung Wai Incident Concern Group, said that they hoped the legal procedures could be hastened.
“A lot of people are moved by Tang’s endurance and spirit,” she said. “The document is a breakthrough, and I still believe that there is justice in the Philippines.”
The group was formed about a year and a half earlier, and has set up street booths and online campaigns to increase public awareness about Tang’s situation.