Asylum seekers on hunger strike to demand release

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 March, 2007, 12:00am

Two dozen asylum seekers in a Tuen Mun detention centre have gone on hunger strike to demand their release.

Twenty-three, most from Africa, began refusing food on Monday, and another joined the hunger strike yesterday.

The detainees at the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre are demanding they be bailed and released on their own recognisance rather than remain in detention for immigration violations.

Similar hunger strikes at the same facility last year saw some detainees claiming asylum and others who said they had been tortured released after NGOs, human rights lawyers and lawmakers intervened.

Legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who led Legislative Council debates on the issue of detaining asylum seekers last year, said he hoped to visit the centre tomorrow to speak to detainees about their protest. 'Frankly, I don't see any fundamental changes since the last incident,' he said.

Dr Cheung said he understood about 60 per cent of the detainees were held for overstaying. A friend of one hunger striker said some of the inmates had been detained for more than a year. 'I think detaining them solely for overstaying is arbitrary and absolutely unreasonable,' Dr Cheung said.

Choosin Ngaotheppitak, who heads the Hong Kong office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, could not confirm if all the hunger strikers had filed asylum applications.