Two Hong Kong activists facing charges related to the 2016 Mong Kok unrest have been granted asylum in Germany.
Ray Wong and Alan Li, who were leading members of the pro-independence group Hong Kong Indigenous, fled the city in 2017 ahead of their trials. Their whereabouts were first revealed by the New York Times on Wednesday.
Hong Kong’s justice chief and security chief dodged questions about the duo, and did not say if extradition was on the books.
Wong and Li were charged with rioting over the Mong Kok unrest, which took place during February 8 and 9 in 2016 – the first two days of the Lunar New Year. It was triggered by the authorities’ attempts to clear street hawkers, which escalated into a bloody clash between police and protesters.
The duo reportedly fled to Germany in November 2017 and their refugee status was granted last May. Wong told the Financial Times that the German government did not give a specific reason for granting the two men refugee status.
“I will never be able to come back if Hong Kong can extradite me back to China once I return,” he said, referring to the city’s looming extradition law update. “It is important for me to speak up as one of the first political refugees of Hong Kong.”
According to German laws on refugees, Wong and Li would have received a three-year residence permit, with a possibility for a settlement permit afterwards if other preconditions were met.
The two men would be allowed to work in the country, and Wong told the FT that he was learning German and would start a politics and philosophy degree in September.
HKFP has reached out to the German consulate for comment.
Top officials silent
Secretary for Security John Lee told reporters on Wednesday that he would not comment on individual cases.
Asked whether the duo’s riot charges would allow Hong Kong to request extradition, Lee said that Hong Kong’s extradition agreement with Germany included “violent crimes” but not skipping bail.
“For each case, if it satisfies the conditions listed, then law enforcement authorities will obtain legal advice and take appropriate actions,” Lee said.
He added that, typically, those who did not comply with their bail conditions would be considered “wanted” by law enforcement.
Lee’s view was echoed by Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, who also refused to comment on the case. Cheng also declined to comment on a New York Times article that argued that Hong Kong’s “reputation as an oasis of rule of law in Asia” was under threat.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu said that the incident was a “signal” that foreign nations were questioning the Hong Kong government’s tactics of prosecuting activists.
Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said that the Berlin granted refugee status to Wong and Li, knowing that the move may upset the Chinese government. Kwok said that other nations may follow suit and review Hong Kong’s status in the international community.
New People’s Party Chairperson Regina Ip called on the government to reach out to the German authorities.
“There is a lack of trust on the part of German government that [Li and Wong] will face fair trial in Hong Kong,” she said. “This is a serious assumption, and the government should clarify with Germany as a matter of priority.”
Ip added that the Germans may have been “misled” by the activists. “What is their basis for saying they have a well-founded fear of persecution?” she said, referring to the legal definition for refugees.
As for criticism that foreign countries are losing faith in the city, Ip said that the case was only reflective of Germany’s opinion and did not necessarily reflect the international community’s views.
Lawmaker Stanley Ng, from the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, blasted Germany for “hypocrisy” and betraying universal values.
“Germany, along with the UK and the US, will go to such lengths to be anti-China,” Ng wrote on Facebook.
Another activist from Hong Kong Indigenous, Edward Leung, was sentenced to six years in prison over his involvement in the Mong Kok unrest. Two other activists – Yung Wai-ip and Yuen Chi-kui – were handed three-year jail sentences earlier this month over the same incident.
Last July, Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, left China on a flight to Germany following years of de facto house arrest.
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