Families of 12 Hong Kongers detained in mainland China rallied at Beijing's top office in the city on Wednesday, reiterating their demand that lawyers they hired should be granted access to their loved ones.
The demonstration comes after a statement on Tuesday from the mainland's liaison office in Hong Kong, which said the Chinese coastguard had applied to judicial authorities for formal approval to arrest the group, accused of crossing the border illegally, South China Morning Post reported.
China, earlier this month, announced a group comprising 11 men and a woman, aged 16 to 33 have been detained while they were trying to escape China and flee to Taiwan.
The 12 people were captured at sea in a speedboat on August 23. They have been held without charge in a detention centre in neighbouring Shenzhen ever since and barred from meeting lawyers selected by their families.
The foreign ministry in Beijing has declared that the group of young fugitives, some of whom were linked to last year's anti-government protests, were "elements attempting to separate Hong Kong from China."
According to earlier Hong Kong media reports, among the people arrested was pro-democracy activist Andy Li.
On Wednesday, four family members of the detainees, accomped by two opposition politicians, chanted "Reject government-designated lawyers" and "Release our children" as they marched to the office in a group of four so as not to breach a limit on public gatherings imposed under Covid-19 measures.
But they were not allowed to get close to the office, which was heavily guarded by police and large water-filled barriers.
The wife of 29-year-old technician Wong Wai-yin reiterated that she refused to recognise lawyers appointed by Beijing, and worried about the criminal charges the group could face in a jurisdiction where she said forced confessions were common. "Please don't rub salt into our wounds. Our demands have been very basic. We want our family members to meet our lawyers. It's not just about the rights of the 12, but anyone in Hong Kong in the future," she said.
According to earlier Hong Kong media reports, among the people arrested was pro-democracy activist Andy Li. Li is among the other pro-democracy activists including Agnes Chow and Jimmy Lai who were arrested on August 10 under the draconian National Security Law.
( With inputs from ANI )
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