Mainland activists go missing after march
Two mainland activists who joined Sunday's protest march in the city disappeared after returning home, the group that organised their visit says.
Song Ningsheng and Zeng Jiuzi have not been heard from since they left Hong Kong on Tuesday to return to Jiangxi province, two days after they joined tens of thousands of participants in the protest to mark the 15th anniversary of the handover.
Their apparent disappearance has been linked to their encounter during the march with a man who claimed to be a reporter from Apple Daily. He asked where they were from and who organised their visit. He contacted them again a day later, with a message - go home and stop protesting to ensure your safety.
The organiser of their visit told Song and Zeng to contact him when they returned home, but has heard nothing since.
Liu Weiping, chairman of the group People's Rights Union of China, said Song and Zeng were among 100 of its members who joined the march. The pair marched behind the group's banner, which read, 'We are from the mainland', along with about half the group's members. The group campaigns against illegal detention.
Liu, who held a press conference in the city yesterday, said the 'reporter' approached members of the group and 'didn't go immediately after asking questions. He stayed for a while and then left, without taking any action. But I saw he had a camera and a computer with him'.
Liu had doubts about the man's intentions and told other protesters not to speak to him. The man contacted the pair again on Monday, when he told them they would be safe if they ended their protests and went home. Apple Daily reported the case on Tuesday, confirming that the man was not its reporter.
Liu said he did not want to call the pair for fear that would 'bring them even more trouble' but had asked them before they left to contact him. 'There have been no calls,' Liu said.
Liu said he believed the man was a security officer working for Beijing and that the activists were being detained. The group had also lost contact with five or six other marchers.
'It's worrying because it's rare that mainland officials directly take information from marchers. It shows they are afraid of nothing now.'
Song became a rights activist after his wife died due to a medical blunder in 2008, and Zeng lost an eye after a beating by police while protesting. Liu said he had struggled to organise the group's activities properly because his phone had been ringing constantly all weekend. Nobody spoke when he answered the calls. He believes the calls were harassment by mainland agents.
The alliance had arranged for 200 mainland activists to join the annual march, but around half were stopped before they crossed the border.
He said members would continue to come to Hong Kong for the July 1 march and the annual candle-light vigil on June 4.
Lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung kwok-hung said that although it was an open secret that national-security officials operated in Hong Kong, the event showed they were becoming more blatant, and if the city did not act the situation would worsen.
Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said he had heard of mainland police attending previous handover rallies and June 4 vigils, 'but they mostly only observe. It looks like they are getting more rampant. It's outrageous to pretend to be a reporter to identify activists and then detain them,' he said.