Former Hong Kong lawmaker sent to jail for failing to surrender his British passport

·3-min read
Representative image
Representative image

Hong Kong, January 8 (ANI): A former Hong Kong opposition lawmaker, who was charged with taking part in a pro-democracy protest last summer in Hong Kong, is back in custody after officers from the police force's national security unit found he had failed to surrender his British passport as ordered by a magistrate.

According to South China Morning Post, West Kowloon Court on Friday revoked Wu Chi-wai's bail, as police accused the 58-year-old of failing to abide by the conditions of his temporary release after he was arrested over subversion under the draconian national security law.

The former Democratic Party chairman, who was also among the 53 arrested on Wednesday under the law, was said to have failed to submit his British National (Overseas) passport to the court when he was ordered to surrender all travel documents on December 17.

He only surrendered his Hong Kong passport and home return permit, in addition to signing a declaration indicating he did not own a BN (O) [British National (Overseas)] passport, it reported further.

Wu was temporarily remanded by the court on Thursday pending Friday's bail hearing. William Siu Kai-yip, for the prosecution, alleged Wu had deliberately concealed the BN(O), showing a likelihood he would abscond.

"We can see the defendant ... deliberately breached the bail conditions," Siu said, adding the Department of Justice might press further charges in the future including making a false declaration and misleading a police officer as quoted by South China Morning Post.

Wu's lawyer urged the court to continue his bail saying that he had obeyed all the remaining conditions during the period concerned and was willing to accept "more stringent terms".

Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen ruled the former politician had defied the court order and kept his BN(O) on purpose.

"It is a clear indication that you knew the court might ask you to deposit all your travel documents, but you only brought along your [Hong Kong] passport and home return permit," Law told Wu in the dock.

Wu's failure to disclose his possession of a BN(O) also increased his risk of leaving the jurisdiction, Law said. "I revoke your bail ... You are in breach of your bail conditions," the magistrate said. The same court will review Wu's bail application on January 15.

Wednesday's mass arrests represented the biggest crackdown on the opposition yet since the Beijing-imposed authoritarian national security law took effect on June 30 last year.

In a statement, the European Union said that the arrests penalised political activity that should be entirely legitimate in any political system that respects basic democratic principles.

"They are the latest indication that the national security law is being used by the Hong Kong and mainland authorities to stifle political pluralism in Hong Kong," the statement reads.

The EU called for the immediate release of those arrested, and for local officials to safeguard Hong Kong's civil liberties.

United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has slammed Beijing over the arrests of more than 50 politicians and pro-democracy advocates by local authorities in Hong Kong by calling it an outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) contempt for its own people.

Over 50 opposition lawmakers and activists were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of violating the authoritarian national security law, for their part in a primary election run-off last July. Among the arrested were former lawmakers James To Kun-sun, Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and Wu Chi-wai, as well as pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, who helped organise the event, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

The Western nations have hit out at Beijing stating that the law undermines Hong Kong's civil liberties and democratic freedoms.

The draconian law imposed on the city by the CCP criminalises secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect from July 1. (ANI)