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Asylum seekers in Asia

Police urged to probe claims that Sri Lankan investigators came to Hong Kong to find asylum seekers who sheltered Snowden

Family of four and individual from Sri Lanka are worried about their safety given reputation of investigators for human rights abuses, lawmakers say

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 11:40pm

Two local lawmakers are calling on the police to investigate claims that Sri Lankan police investigators were in Hong Kong looking for the asylum seekers from the country who sheltered American whistle-blower Edward Snowden in the city.

“The families [one family of four and one individual] are very afraid of the Sri Lankan government, in particular the Sri Lankan Police Criminal Investigation Department and the military, as these bodies have been cited for their human rights abuses by the United Nations,” a statement sent by pan-democrat legislators Charles Mok and James To Kun-sun read.

The note said the five, who are afraid of being illegally deported, would report the case to the city’s police. It also said they expected the local authorities to investigate the matter and wanted “necessary protection” to prevent any illegal cross-border law enforcement activities in Hong Kong.

Mok, To and the asylum seekers’ lawyer, Robert Tibbo, were not available for comment on Wednesday night.

Snowden was sheltered in Hong Kong in 2013 by a Sri Lankan family of four – Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and Supun Thilina Kellapatha and their two children – and Ajith Pushpakumara, who is a former soldier. They are all waiting for the city’s government to process their protection claims.

The American whistle-blower who leaked sensitive intelligence files was also helped by a Filipino asylum seeker, who has a four-year-old daughter.

The role of the refugees who sheltered Snowden for about two weeks was only reported last September.

Tibbo, who gave legal advice to Snowden and who has represented the three groups of asylum seekers since 2012, previously told the Post that their identities had been revealed to ensure their safety.

According to the note sent by the local lawmakers, one of the asylum seekers reported that their immediate family members in Sri Lanka had been questioned, harassed and threatened by the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department, the military and government officials.

The statement said they were asked about the address and phone numbers of those who sheltered Snowden in Hong Kong.

“Information on friends and other contacts of such persons were demanded with warnings to comply,” the note read.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture reported last year that the Sri Lankan security forces had “committed widespread or systematic torture, enforced disappearances and other serious human rights violations.”

The UN committee said it was “seriously concerned at the failure of the state party to carry out an institutional reform of the security sector.”