Chief Executive Carrie Lam has written to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to express her concerns over the case of four Hongkongers being jailed for life on drugs charges in the country.
Chan Kwok-tung, Lo Wing-fai, Kwok Kam-wah and Leung Shu-fook were convicted on Friday of possessing 500 grams of crystal meth – also known as “ice” – and received life sentences last month.
Their family members are challenging the court’s decision, and last week filed a request to have it reviewed.
Lam’s office said the chief executive attached importance to protecting Hong Kong people’s rights overseas, and wrote the letter after considering the case and the requests from the families.
It added that the Security Bureau and the Immigration Department would continue to communicate with the office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong, as well as the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, and provide assistance to the relevant people and their families.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To, who has been putting pressure on Carrie Lam on behalf of the families, said that they were grateful for the letter.
“I hope the chief executive and the central government continue following the case closely. That they ask for a fair trial for the four Hongkongers so as to give them justice and freedom, such that they can return to their families soon,” To said.
The families launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the legal fees. They had raised about HK$412,000 as of Thursday.
The four men are being held in the maximum-security New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
In July 2016, the four men were arrested when they tried to board a boat in Subic Bay. Live news footage showed that the police emptied out a backpack belonging to the men, which did not contain drugs. But later officers claimed to discover drugs inside.
The family members have raised doubts about whether the case was a set-up.
Lo Wing-fai’s sister Lo Shu-ho expressed fears over her brother’s health, saying that prison conditions were poor: “Hundreds of people are detained in a very small detention camp and six people squeeze into a six square-foot bed.”