Al-Saadi case brings shameful silence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 October, 2011, 12:00am


Related topics

Case 1: Three student protesters are locked in a stairwell by police for 60 minutes during the visit of a top Chinese official and all hell breaks loose. Legislative probes are called for, special panels set up to investigate, the police are sued and a hyperventilating media whips itself up into a self-righteous frenzy over human rights.

Case 2: A foreign national, his wife and four young children are tricked into coming to Hong Kong by secret agents from two foreign countries. Then, with government complicity, they are held for 13 days at Chek Lap Kok Airport without proper access to a lawyer, a doctor or, for that matter, the outside world, before being bundled onto a private jet by agents of a dictator to face torture in one of his jails.

Public reaction? Silence.

On one level, the furore over the security arrangements surrounding the visit to Hong Kong earlier this year of Vice-Premier Le Keqiang is understandable, given the sensitive nature of the right to protest in post-handover Hong Kong. On another, it illustrates the myopia that too often characterises public discourse in self-proclaimed 'Asia's world city'.

The secretive treatment of Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi at the hands of America's CIA, Britain's MI6 and the Hong Kong government - on Hong Kong soil - deserves its own outcry.

Yes, he had been labelled a terrorist. Yes, the rendition happened in 2004. Yes, he and his family came from a far-off place. But the use of unaccountable official power should disturb us all.

As a wise man once said, regretful that he had stood silent in the 1930s when the Nazis persecuted, in succession, the communists, the unionists and the Jews: 'Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.'