domingo, 18 de outubro de 2009

Como Hong Kong entregou um dissidente à China

How HK handed over a dissident

Fox Yi Hu
South China Morning Post
October 18, 2009

A Chinese US resident arrives in Hong Kong from Macau on a Malaysian passport under an assumed name, is told there is a "problem", then, after two days' detention, is put in a car by immigration officers, whisked across the border and handed over to mainland authorities.

Weeks pass with no word of his whereabouts, until his partner and the mother of their 18-month-old daughter receives phone calls and an e-mail from a former Shenzhen prison inmate saying he is in a jail there. Prison staff deny it, then four months later a former inmate of another Shenzhen jail says he has seen him there - under another name. Still officials deny the man is there.

Sounds like the opening chapter of a thriller or the first scene of a film noir? It's not.

It's the story of Zhou Yongjun, a dissident leader of the 1989 Tiananmen student uprising, according to his familiy and to a statement he gave a lawyer while imprisoned in his native Sichuan.

In the eyes of Zhou's Hong Kong lawyer, it is the biggest challenge to the "one country, two systems" formula since the handover.

To a leading immigration consultant in the city it is unlawful, inexplicable and without precedent.

To Zhou's girlfriend and the mother of his child, Zhang Yuewei , it is a frightening conspiracy to abuse his human rights.

Neither Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen nor his government will comment on the case.

Zhang, 33, who flew to Hong Kong last week to publicise Zhou's plight, spoke of the family's painful search to establish Zhou's whereabouts following his disappearance.

She last saw Zhou, 42, a US green card holder who runs an employment service, on September 26 last year.

"He insisted on going because he wanted to visit his family. His father has had a stroke and is partially paralysed, and his mother has heart disease. We had a quarrel over it," she recalls. (Zhou, who escaped to the US in 1992, three years after the bloody crackdown that ended the Tiananmen protests, returned to the mainland - via Hong Kong - in 1998 and was jailed for three years for entering the country illegally. He returned to the US in 2002.)

Much of her knowledge about what has happened to him since has come from the lawyer who met him in a jail in Sichuan - where he faces court proceedings for a crime allegedly committed in Hong Kong.

She said Zhou had tried in vain to obtain a mainland visa, before buying a Malaysian passport in the name of Wang Xingxiang from a travel agent in Los Angeles, where the couple live. On September 28, he travelled from Macau to Hong Kong on the Malaysian passport.

Immigration officers suspected his passport was forged and police held him at the Sheung Wan ferry terminal for 48 hours before handing him back to immigration officers. Zhang said the officers told Zhou they needed to verify his identity, but then put him in a car and drove him straight to a small hotel in Shenzhen.

Zhou told his mainland lawyer: "I thought it was OK to go to Hong Kong. But the Hong Kong immigration said the passport was problematic. I did not reveal my real identity to the Hong Kong police."

Zhang said she received calls and e-mails in late November and early December from a former inmate of a Shenzhen prison.

"The person gave an accurate description of Zhou and his family background. He said Zhou was kept in the Shenzhen No 1 Jail," she said. Zhou's sister, who works as a judge in Sichuan, flew to Shenzhen to visit the jail. Staff denied he was being held there.

In March, a former inmate of another jail, in Shenzhen's Yantian district, tipped off Zhou's family that he was being held there. He also gave an accurate description of Zhou.

According to the informant, while in the Yantian jail Zhou was forced to change his name to Wang Hua. "When I learned they had changed his name, I realised it was highly dangerous," Zhang said. "What if he were executed? How would we know?"

In May, more than seven months after he was allegedly delivered into mainland custody by Hong Kong immigration staff, Zhou's family was told he had been arrested on fraud charges and was being detained by the authorities in Sichuan. According to an indictment by prosecutors in Shehong county, Zhou had tried to transfer money from an account at Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong to two banks, in the city and in Australia, using the false name Wang Xingxiang.

Immigration consultant Richard Aziz Butt said the Hong Kong government's handling of Zhou was unlawful. The Immigration Ordinance stated that anyone found in possession of or using a false instrument (such as a fake passport) should be prosecuted by a court of law.

If the Immigration Department was uncertain about Zhou's identity, it should have sent him to Macau or Malaysia, Butt said. Indeed, a government spokesman said: "In general, a passenger whose travel document does not meet the entry requirements will be repatriated to his or her place of embarkation or origin."

Butt said: "I can't understand why they sent him back to the mainland. I have never before seen a case handled like this in Hong Kong. It makes a mockery of our judicial system."

The Immigration Department said it would not comment on individual cases.

For Zhang, now back in Los Angeles, the fight for justice continues (Zhou's Hong Kong lawyer, Albert Ho Chun-yan, plans to sue the government). So does the wait to see him again - one his family shares.

"His mother has asked whether she will be able to see him again before she dies," Zhang said.

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