Family members of two of the ten Hong Kong pro-democracy activists jailed in mainland China have been allowed to visit them for the first time since the group was arrested at sea last August while trying to escape to Taiwan by speedboat.

The families of Li Tsz-yin and Kok Tsz-lun completed their coronavirus quarantine on Monday and were allowed to visit Li and Kok for an hour at Yan Tian Detention Centre in the border city of Shenzhen, where the pair are serving a seven-month prison sentence.

Hong Kong 12 CUHK
A banner in the Chinese University of Hong Kong calling for support to save the 12 Hongkongers detained in China. Photo: Studio Incendo.

The group of 12 — who were facing criminal charges in Hong Kong linked to the anti-extradition bill protests — were arrested by the Chinese coastguard on August 23 last year en route to Taiwan.

Eight were charged with illegally crossing the border and jailed for seven months while two were jailed for three years for organising the crossing. Two who were minors at the time were sent back to Hong Kong and will face trial in the city. The then-US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo harshly criticised the mainland arrests.

Li’s mother told Ming Pao and StandNews that she and Li’s aunt arrived at the detention centre at 10am on Monday. Li told her that “no one was bullying him, no one was hitting him.”

She was planning to visit Li again on Wednesday, and then again in February, before returning to Hong Kong, across the border from Shenzhen. Families are allowed two visits per month. According to Li’s mother, he will be released on March 22.

Further pressure on lawyer

A mainland lawyer, Lu Siwei, was hired by family members of the activists but was banned from representing them. The defendants were required to use government-appointed lawyers.

Lu Siwei
Lu Siwei. Photo: NowTV screenshot.

Since then, Lu has suffered retribution. His licence to practice was revoked on January 13 over tweets which were said to endanger national security, after a hearing which excluded Lu’s representative as well as foreign diplomats. On Monday he lost his membership of the Sichuan Lawyers’ Association.

The association said Lu had repeatedly published online speeches that endangered national security, and had seriously harmed the image of the profession and negatively impacted society.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.