By Agence France-Presse
Hong Kong’s leader lashed out at Germany Friday for granting asylum to two fugitives involved in a violent 2016 political protest, summoning Berlin’s envoy for an explanation.
Chief executive Carrie Lam took action two days after former pro-independence activists Ray Wong and Alan Li broke their silence on their whereabouts after skipping bail in 2017 to avoid standing trial on riot charges.
Wong and Li have been granted refugee status in Germany in what is one of the first cases of dissenters from the semi-autonomous Chinese city receiving such protection.
In an afternoon meeting with David Schmidt — Germany’s acting consul general –, Lam said she “strongly objects to and deeply regrets” Bonn’s move, according to a government statement.
“Anyone accused of breaching the law in Hong Kong would face an open and fair trial,” Lam said in the statement.
Wong and Li faced riot charges relating to Lunar New Year clashes in February 2016 — the city’s worst political violence in decades — when protesters hurled bricks torn from pavements and set rubbish alight in the commercial district of Mong Kok.
The saw scores arrested and left dozens injured — including police officers.
Lam’s statement said Wong and Li faced “serious charges” — including rioting and assaulting police — and their action had “seriously jeopardized public order and safety”.
She questioned whether Germany’s decision to grant them asylum was based on facts.
Germany’ move highlights growing fears that freedoms in Hong Kong are quickly deteriorating as an assertive Beijing flexes its muscles and stamps down on dissent.
Wong, 25, told AFP that he was “paying a big price” in exile despite avoiding possible jail.
He said there was “zero chance” he could ever return to Hong Kong if a controversial extradition bill currently being mulled by the city was passed, fearing he could ultimately be brought to mainland China.
A Hong Kong Watch report said Germany’s decision to grant the pair amnesty was because they faced trial under a punitive law that has been used to crack down on and imprison the city’s political opposition.
“The decision… is a sign of the urgent need to reform the Public Order Ordinance, a law which has been repeatedly been criticized by the United Nations for breaching human rights standards, and now is causing a chilling effect on protest in Hong Kong,” said Benedict Rogers, chair of Hong Kong Watch.