Hong Kong’s government says it will not get involved in the arrest by mainland Chinese authorities of 12 residents who were detained as they sought to flee to Taiwan by sea, despite pleas from families, saying the alleged crime falls under mainland Chinese jurisdiction.
In a statement late on Sunday, Hong Kong authorities said they had received requests for help from the families of the group members who were detained last month by mainland law enforcement for illegal entry into mainland China as they were trying to make their way to Taiwan.
China on Sunday labelled the group “separatists”.
“The relevant crime falls within the jurisdiction of the mainland and the special administrative region government respects and will not interfere with law enforcement actions,” Hong Kong’s government said.
The group was suspected of committing “various criminal offences” in Hong Kong, it added, as it urged the families to make use of a free legal consultation service being provided.
The comments came a day after relatives of the detainees held a news conference in Hong Kong, demanding the urgent return of the 12 who were intercepted by the Guangdong coast guard on August 23 on a boat bound for Taiwan.
Donning masks and hats to shield their identities, families pleaded for those arrested to be allowed to consult lawyers appointed by them and not the Chinese government, and to be allowed to call relatives in Hong Kong.
A 16-year-old boy is the youngest detainee, and several need medication, relatives said.
The arrests came about two months after Beijing imposed a security law on the territory following months of pro-democracy demonstrations.
Critics have said the law has pushed Hong Kong onto a more authoritarian path.
China’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that the arrested people were separatists, after the Department of State in the United States characterised the arrest as a deterioration of human rights.
Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus had tweeted the arrests were “another example of the deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong”, and called on mainland authorities to “ensure due process”.
Reuters news agency