Families of captured Hong Kong activists demand their return from Chinese detention

Family members of twelve Hong Kong activists hold a news conference on Sept. 12, 2020 to seek help. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 September 2020

Families of captured Hong Kong activists demand their return from Chinese detention

  • Relatives donned masks and hats to shield their identities
  • Hong Kong media, citing unidentified sources, said the 12 were headed to Taiwan to apply for political asylum

HONG KONG: A group of Hong Kong families on Saturday demanded the urgent return of their activist relatives detained last month by mainland Chinese authorities as they tried to flee the city by boat to Taiwan.
Relatives of six of the 12 detained activists donned masks and hats to shield their identities as they made their first public appeal for help and information on their plight, supported by several local pro-democracy politicians.
Some sobbed and wept as they issued several demands, including that those detained be allowed to consult lawyers appointed by the families and not the Chinese government and should be allowed to call their relatives in Hong Kong.
“I can’t imagine what’s the worst case scenario,” said a woman surnamed Li, whose son Li Tsz-yin, 29, is among those being held in a detention center in the southern city of Shenzhen.
They said they still had no information on the charges faced by their relatives, and the Hong Kong government had given no concrete assistance. A boy aged 16 is the youngest being held.
The Chinese Coast Guard Bureau said in a post on its social media site on Aug. 27 that it had arrested at least 10 people on Aug. 23 after intercepting a boat off the coast of the southern province of Guangdong.
Hong Kong media, citing unidentified sources, said the 12 were headed to Taiwan to apply for political asylum. Their arrests come as local activists and politicians fear a worsening clamp-down across the former British colony as a sweeping new national security law imposed by Beijing in July takes full effect.
Hours before the families’ appearance, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States was deeply concerned about the activists, saying they had been denied to access to lawyers and local authorities had not provided any information on their welfare or the charges against them.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said earlier this week that if they had been arrested for breaking mainland law “then they have to dealt with according to the mainland laws.”


Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”