Chief Executive Carrie Lam wrote to the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, asking his administration to provide a key piece of evidence in the appeal hearing of Tang Lung-wai. Tang is a Hong Konger now serving a 40-year jail sentence in the Philippines on drug charges.
The Philippine Bureau of Immigration allegedly holds the travel records of Tang, but has not produced them in court. The deadline for submitting materials to the supreme court is Wednesday.
In her letter, Lam drew Duterte’s attention to the matter, and asked that he exercise “compassionate consideration” to expedite the Bureau’s processing.
“His appeal lodged in 2013 was not heard for years… the prolonged process has understandably drawn wide public attention in Hong Kong and caused much torment to the family members and friends of Mr. Tang,” she wrote.
Tang, now 47, went to the Philippines in 2000 to meet a friend. Tang said that the police took him and two other people to a room, and then framed them for possessing a bag of methamphetamine.
The trio were detained and Tang was eventually convicted in October 2011. He lodged an appeal in 2013, but his application was rejected in July 2017. Tang claims he is innocent and his case is being appealed at the supreme court of the Philippines.
At trial, local police said they had been following Tang since early June 2000 as he was part of a drug trafficking ring. However, Tang said he was not in the country until later in the month.
The Hong Kong government had provided its immigration record to Tang’s lawyers, but the documents were later lost. Tang’s representatives have since tried to ask the Philippine Bureau of Immigration to supply its set of records concerning Tang.
Secretary for Security John Lee also wrote to the head of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration last Friday to ask for “urgent assistance” in the matter.
‘Happy and excited’
Tang spoke to an RTHK radio programme on Tuesday via a long-distance call, and thanked Carrie Lam and other officials involved. He said that Lam fulfilled her campaign promise to help Hongkongers jailed abroad.
“Now I feel happy and excited. The Hong Kong government finally paid attention to my requests,” Tang said. “But the question is whether the Philippine government will face the issue directly.”
Tang said he was sure the immigration records exist, since the one occasion he was shown a copy. If the documents were submitted to the court, there is a “very high chance” he would be acquitted, he said.
However, he said that getting the authorities to cooperate might be tricky.
“You cannot apply your normal approach to the Philippine government’s way of doing things,” Tang said.
Tang has published two books on his experience as an inmate in New Bilibid Prison in the Philippines.