The family members of four Hongkongers who were jailed for life in the Philippines on drugs charges have said they disagree with the court’s decision but have not yet decided whether to seek an appeal or judicial review.
Chan Kwok-tung, Lo Wing-fai, Kwok Kam-wah and Leung Shu-fook were convicted on Friday of possessing 500 grammes of crystal meth – also known as “ice” – and received life sentences.
Secretary for Security John Lee said on Monday that he will write to the Philippine Consul-General before Wednesday to reflect the government’s concern and ensure that the four men’s rights are fully protected.
Lee added that he had spoken to the Commissioner’s Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Chinese officials in the Philippines will make repeat visits to the jailed Hongkongers.
“We will, of course, do the best we can to ensure that their legal rights and also human rights are fully protected,” Lee said. “A fair and speedy trial to ensure that justice is done for the four Hong Kong residents is important.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday that she would personally intervene in the situation if needed, noting the case of Tang Lung-wai in August where she wrote to the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for help.
“If it is necessary for me to do anything to help solve Hongkongers’ problems overseas, this responsibility falls squarely on me, there is no need to worry,” she told reporters in Beijing on Monday.
The families of jailed Hongkongers said on Monday that they believe the four men to be innocent.
“Although we are running out of resources, we still believe that they are innocent and we won’t give up on them,” said Leung Shu-fook’s sister Leung Shu-kiu.
In July 2016, the four men were arrested when they tried to board a boat in Subic Bay. Live news footage showed that the police emptied out a backpack belonging to the men, which did not contain drugs. But later officers claimed to discover drugs inside.
The family members have raised doubts about whether the case was a set-up.
Lo Wing-fai’s sister Lo Shu-ho expressed fears over her brother’s health, saying that prison conditions were poor: “Hundreds of people are detained in a very small detention camp and six people squeeze into a six square-foot bed.”
Lawmaker James To, who represented the families, said that he has tried to meet the chief executive over the issue but she turned him down. The government’s attitude only changed after the verdict was announced on Friday, he added.
In response, Carrie Lam said on Monday that her office received a letter from To concerning the case at the beginning of the year, but she delegated the matter to the Security Bureau because she could not follow up on every incident in person.
It was arranged for To to meet an assistant director of immigration on Monday, Lam said.
The family members of the jailed Hongkongers will start a crowdfunding campaign to cover legal costs, with an initial goal of HK$3 million. They will consult with lawyers before deciding whether to seek judicial review or appeal.