Acquitted woman from Hong Kong says officials abused the power to detain her A Hong Kong woman detained on the mainland for 20 months for allegedly smuggling leather has returned home after being acquitted of all charges. Speaking yesterday for the first time about her ordeal since her return to Hong Kong last week, Chau Siu-ping, 45, criticised the mainland authorities for abusing their power to detain her beyond the legal time limit. She also said the Hong Kong government had failed to help her and protect her rights. 'I've sought help from the Hong Kong government but it did not follow my case closely,' she said. 'I am a victim in the case. I have had my name finally cleared today. I'm very happy.' Ms Chau said her release owed much to the help of legislator Ip Kwok-him who presented a petition to the Supreme People's Procuratorate during last month's meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing to which he is a Hong Kong delegate. Ms Chau was accused of smuggling more than 66 tonnes of leather for her father's furniture company - for which she had never worked - in Shunde, Guangdong, in 2000. She was accused of evading 3.5 million yuan in tax by making a false declaration on the price of the imports. Her brother, who ran the company, was arrested by the mainland authorities over similar accusations in November 2000. He was released without charge in June 2002. Ms Chau, a mother of two and a former court interpreter, was arrested when she crossed the border at Shenzhen for a holiday in August 2002 and was detained for almost a year before being charged last July. She was acquitted in August last year but could not return to Hong Kong as her travel document had been withheld after the prosecution lodged an appeal. The appeal was dismissed last month and she returned to Hong Kong last Thursday. Mr Ip said mainland law allowed public security authorities to detain a person without charge for no more than three months, and an appeal had to be settled within 21/2 months. 'Ms Chau's case is only the tip of the iceberg. The problem of prolonged detention is very serious,' he said. He criticised the Security Bureau for failing to protect the rights of its residents by acting only as a 'messenger' between those detained on the mainland and their families in Hong Kong. A spokeswoman for the Security Bureau said the government was concerned about the legitimate rights of Hong Kong people detained on the mainland and would provide help in accordance with the 'one country, two systems' principle.