The 12 Hong Kongers who tried to flee the country will "have to be dealt with" by mainland China, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday. The 12 people were reportedly arrested last week when they tried to flee to Taiwan by sea for political asylum. The arrested Hong Kongers have been detained in China since then and authorities have also prevented lawyers from meeting the group.

However, Lam said that the city government would try to provide them assistance and liaise with mainland authorities. The latest remarks from Lam make it quite clear that the Chinese government doesn't want to let go the arrested so easily.

China Clears its Intentions

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam IANS

The 12 people arrested last week are likely to be tried under the mainland's criminal laws. Lam said that the idea is to not let these people move out of detention so easily. "The question is not a question of simply getting (them) back," Lam said. She made it clear that if someone has been arrested for breaking rules set by the mainland China, then he or she has to be tried under the same laws.

"If these Hong Kong residents were arrested for breaching mainland offences then they have to be dealt with according to the mainland laws and in accordance to the jurisdiction before any other things could happen." That said, Lam also mentioned that Chinese government has a responsibility toward its citizens and it was its "duty to render assistance" to all Honk Kongers "caught in all sorts of situations" abroad. Hence, the representative's office in Guangzhou will look into the matter and provide all kinds of assistance to the arrested group.

Fate Hanging in the Balance

Hong Kong protest
Hong Kong protest youTube grab/ VOA News

Needless to say, the fate of the 12 Hong Kong residents now swings in balance. Lam's remarks come just a day after Chinese authorities prevented lawyers from meeting the group.

The group, including an activist who was previously arrested under the national security law, was trying to flee Hong Kong en route to Kaohsiung in order to seek asylum in Taiwan. But they were intercepted by Chinese marine police on the morning of August 23 for allegedly crossing the border illegally.

Initially, there was speculation that the China could be holding them under a 15-day administrative detention, which, however, ended on Monday. It is likely that they now face more serious charges and are under criminal detention which could last up to 37 days. Neither mainland nor Hong Kong authorities have publicly confirmed the identity of these 12 people, but local media have identified some of them as facing prosecution for involvement in pro-democracy protests last year.

The situation seems to be more complicated now, with Lam's remarks indicating at a stricter stance towards those who try to breach mainland China laws. In fact, Lam hinted at such an outcome by reiterating a remark made last week. Lam saying that the city had no separation of powers, and that its executive, legislative and judicial powers were derived from Beijing. This definitely stokes further worries that things in Hong Kong may have already taken a more authoritarian turn.