Two wanted activists in Hong Kong were granted refugee status in Germany. And it seems like this development will affect Hong Kong’s reputation negatively.
Safer in Germany than in Hong Kong
According to the German consulate in Hong Kong, the decision to provide protection to the refugees was a choice made independently by the country’s foreign ministry. “The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is in charge of the procedure for granting the refugee status and takes decisions independently. The BAMF considers the motivation stated by every asylum seeker during the asylum proceedings in a case-by-case examination in accordance with the rule of law,” the consulate said in a statement (Hong Kong Free Press).
The refugees include Ray Wong, leader of the Hong Kong Indigenous, a pro-independence group in the city, and Alan Li, a member of Wong’s group. Both men are facing charges after the Mong Kok District riot in 2016, where many people were injured and arrested. Before their trial in 2017, the two men fled the cosmopolitan city and were later granted protection in Germany.
It is believed that the men would have been extradited to China if Hong Kong passed a new extradition law. As such, they would not have received a fair trial. “I will never be able to come back if Hong Kong can extradite me back to China once I return. It is important for me to speak up as one of the first political refugees of Hong Kong,” Wong said in a statement (HKFP).
Under the asylum agreement, both refugees have received a 3-year residence permit, with a chance for permanent residence if preconditions are met. They are allowed to work in the country. In fact, Wong has started learning German and is expected to sign up for a course on philosophy and politics in September this year.
What the Hong Kong official’s say
Germany’s decision to grant asylum to two wanted fugitives has disappointed Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who later met with David Schmidt, the Acting Consul General. “The Consulate General would like to reiterate that the policy of the German Federal Government towards Hong Kong has not changed and that we will continue to foster our traditionally friendly relations,” according to Schmidt’s statement.
Kwok Ka-ki, Civic Party Lawmaker, believes that Berlin knows fully well that this move will upset the Chinese government and might create a domino effect in the international community as well. New People’s Party Chairperson Regina Ip begged to differ, as she thinks that Germany is not confident with how Hong Kong will handle Li and Wong’s prosecution.
“There is a lack of trust on the part of the German government that Wong and Li would face a fair and public trial in Hong Kong. I think this is a very serious assumption which the SAR government should take up with the German authorities as a matter of priority… What are the grounds for accepting these two young people as political refugees? And what grounds do they have for doubting the integrity of our courts?” Ip said in a statement (The Standard).
Civil and political liberties in Hong Kong are at stake. People of the city believe that their local government is bowing down to Beijing. Even with the “high degree of autonomy,” as stated in the 50-year agreement that enabled China to annex Hong Kong in 1997, many feel that Hong Kong’s freedom is getting thinner than hair day by day.