About 50 civic groups in Taiwan will stage a rally on Sunday to demand the release of 12 Hong Kong fugitives who have been detained in mainland China for two months.
The gathering will mark the largest Hong Kong-related demonstration on the self-ruled island since the imposition of the national security law in June.
Part of a global campaign that will include 34 cities, this weekend’s march will see renewed calls for the release of the fugitives, who were captured at sea by the Chinese coastguard while fleeing to Taiwan on August 23.
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Details of the events were unveiled on Thursday, as five lawyers appointed by the families of the detainees – all of whom are wanted in Hong Kong in connection with last year’s anti-government protests – were once again denied the opportunity to meet their clients by Shenzhen authorities.
The lawyers were told that each of the suspects had already hired two legal representatives after waiting for three hours, while a human rights lawyer, who did not attend and asked to remain anonymous, claimed judicial officers had threatened him with the loss of his licence if he refused to drop the case.
“How Shenzhen authorities handled these cases have been absolutely illegal and unacceptable … We seriously doubt if the representations were out of the wills [of the detainees],” Lin Qilei, a family appointed lawyer, said, outside the Yantian district detention centre where the group are being held.
Lin was hired by the family of Kok Tsz-lun, an 18-year-old University of Hong Kong student, who has been charged with riot, possession of instrument fit for unlawful purpose, and possession of an offensive weapon.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s security chief, John Lee Ka-chiu, rejected demands that the city ask mainland authorities to return the fugitives, saying it would “encourage others to jump bail”.
The fugitives, who were arrested on suspicion of illegal border crossing or organising such an act, have been held in Shenzhen for two months.
This weekend’s global campaign will see activists stage events in 34 cities, from the United States to Australia, in support of the fugitives, who are aged between 16 and 33.
Sunday’s march in Taipei is expected to be one of the largest, with 49 civil groups vowing to join in, according to organisers.
The Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Judicial Reform Foundation, and student associations from several local universities are among the groups expected to take part.
Jiang Min-yan, one of the organisers, said during their march to the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Taipei, they would call on Malaysia, the host of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings, to allow President Tsai Ing-wen to attend an annual summit where they could propose policies to better protect human rights in Hong Kong.
“One of them is the setting up of an ‘Asia-Pacific Human Rights Court’, which served as a human rights mechanism in the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific to counter China’s influence,” said Jiang, secretary general of Taiwan Citizen Front, and a researcher at the Taiwan-based Economic Democracy Union.
A similar rally on the self-ruled island in May saw students and civic groups protest against the implementation of a sweeping national security law.