HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader summoned the German consul on Friday to complain about Germany granting political asylum to two Hong Kong political activists, in a rare case of diplomatic intervention by the government of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Carrie Lam called the pair bail jumpers who were facing charges including rioting and assaulting police over a violent incident in February 2016.
She said Hong Kong courts would have granted the two a fair trial and Germany had “unjustifiably undermined Hong Kong’s international reputation in the rule of law and judicial independence.” Lam asked David Schmidt to convey “deep regrets and strong objections” to the German authorities.
In interviews with The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times published on Wednesday, Ray Wong Toi Yeung said he and fellow pro-democracy protester Alan Li Tung Sing were granted asylum last year.
Germany’s Interior Ministry would not give names due to privacy regulations, but confirmed it had granted two people from Hong Kong asylum last year. Wong and Li are the only dissidents known to have been in Germany seeking protection.
Wong told the Journal he chose to reveal his asylum status now in response to a proposed Hong Kong law that would allow criminal suspects to be handed over to mainland China where they would likely not receive a fair trial.
That law is seen as part of a drive by Beijing to rein in Hong Kong’s freedoms, endangering its independent legal system which it was granted for 50 years after its 1997 handover from British rule.
Hong Kong authorities have generally taken a low-key approach to international disputes, mindful of the territory’s reputation as a largely apolitical center of business and finance.
However, Germany’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it was “increasingly concerned about the diminishing space for the political opposition” in the Chinese territory.
The Feb. 8-9, 2016, outbreak of violence in the city’s working-class Mong Kok district between police, illegal street food hawkers and activists followed 2014’s “Umbrella Movement” protests demanding greater democracy.