As a hunger strike at Hong Kong's biggest immigration detention centre continues, one of the men taking part has told of his declining health after refusing meals for 37 days.
'If you saw our condition you would cry,' the man, a Pakistani whose asylum bid was rejected, told Raquel Amador, acting executive director of the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre, over the phone on Thursday from within Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre in Tuen Mun. 'I find it hard to sit for a long time, and have to lie down,' he said.
He told Amador he would continue to strike, taking only milk tea and water, until he was released on bail.
The inmate, who said he began the strike on August 19, is one of five who are refusing meals while they demand their freedom from Hong Kong's largest immigration detention centre. All are believed to be current or former asylum seekers from India or Pakistan.
Run by the Immigration Department, the detention centre at Tuen Mun holds up to 400 inmates who have committed immigration, rather than criminal, offences such as overstaying their visas. They are also held there while awaiting deportation.
An Immigration Department spokesperson said all of the hunger-striking inmates had also eaten bread, despite refusing proper meals. The spokesperson said yesterday that the five protestors were in a satisfactory condition, although four of them were staying in the centre's medical bay.
Amador said the Pakistani inmate wrote to the Refugee Advice Centre on September 17 that he had made repeated unsuccessful requests to his case officer to be released on bail.
He claimed that his life would be in danger if he were repatriated to Pakistan, as planned by the Immigration Department, and wanted his asylum case reopened with the UN.
Cecilia Wong Choi-yau, his solicitor at law firm Yip and Liu, said when she last saw her client 11 days ago he was 'very upset and very weak'.
The inmate, who came to Hong Kong in 2006, had a claim for asylum rejected by the UN refugee agency, and another for temporary protection from torture turned down by the Immigration Department. He has exhausted all options to remain in Hong Kong since losing an appeal against his rejected torture claim. He has been detained since March.
Detainees at the centre in past years have resorted hunger strikes to bring attention to their cases, especially from 2006 to 2008.