Wen Zhiming, 42, is back to doing what he does best: ferrying friends around his home town of Shunde, in Guangdong province, explaining the intricacies of the local porridge and demystifying the city's rise from small farming town to a dynamic manufacturing and agribusiness centre in southern China. But just a few weeks ago, Mr Wen was a detainee in Hong Kong, required to report to police every day. As one of the 14 men who were held by the police after last December's World Trade Organisation ministerial conference, he experienced a modern judicial system at first-hand and came away with a new point of view on politics, justice and the economic impact of the WTO. Mr Wen is an entrepreneur and it was a business opportunity that brought him to Hong Kong on December 15. On that day, he met Hong Kong residents Rebecca Lui and Kathy Leung, whom he'd met last August in Tibet. The three expected to wrap up business early and then tour the city until December 18, when Mr Wen planned to return to the mainland. Like many in Hong Kong that night, Ms Lui and Mr Wen were drawn to the protests, but when night fell and tear gas drove the protesters to Gloucester Street - already cordoned off by the police - only Ms Lui was allowed to return home. Mr Wen was arrested and detained with other protesters from South Korea, Thailand, France, Taiwan, the Philippines, and an assortment of other nationalities. He was allowed a phone call on the evening of December 17 and told Ms Lui where he was being held. She visited him the next day and both were convinced he would be released soon, but later that evening both Ms Leung and Ms Lui received calls from the police asking if they would agree to be guarantors for Mr Wen. 'It was then that I learned he was one of the 14 defendants,' Ms Lui said. Mr Wen continued to profess his innocence to police, but met with little success. After 24 hours in jail, Mr Wen thought he was the first in his block to be released. 'I was so relieved to finally get out, but when the whole block erupted in chants of Down! Down! WTO! in support of me, even though I had to ask someone what it meant, I wanted to stay and be released with everyone else,' he said. Little did Mr Wen know that his problems were far from over. Instead of the friendly guards at the jail, he was greeted downstairs by police. They replaced his plastic hand ties with metal cuffs and also put a chain around his waist, he said. Although Mr Wen was now facing charges of unlawful assembly as well as brandishing a piece of wood against the police during the December 17 demonstrations, he trusted in his innocence and refused legal representation from Democratic Party lawmaker Martin Lee Chu-ming's defence team. Mr Wen feared that the Democratic Party would use the 14 as a political symbol of the small and weak fighting for their rights against the great and strong. The police, he assumed, were involved in a political battle with the Democratic Party and would not want to admit they might have arrested the wrong men. 'For either side to lose one person would dilute the symbolic power of the 14,' Mr Wen said. He felt he was stuck in a political battle that had more to do with Hong Kong than with Korea. Mr Wen was in a cell with two South Koreans, Lim Dae-hyuk and Park In-hwan, and with Lee Chien-cheng, the lone Taiwanese defendant. Next to their cell was Yang Kyung-kyu, the de facto leader of the South Korean protest movement and a member of the Korean Federation of Trade Union's emergency committee. The other Koreans treated him with deference and referred to him as 'Older Brother'. Mr Wen went through a police line-up in which neither he nor the Taiwanese Mr Lee were identified by police. Mr Wen was eventually released on bail on December 23. Aware that he was still without legal representation, a lawyer Mr Wen believed to be from the legal team defending the other 13 called to set up a meeting to discuss the possibility of representing him. Mr Wen said he met two lawyers, but although the legal team had publicly stated that they were defending the 14 free of charge, he said the representative asked for $30,000 in fees for one year of representation, including document work. Shocked by this new development, he refused their offer. Ms Lui and Mr Wen went to Linda Wong, a barrister with Martin Lee's defence team, for help. Although she was not officially representing Mr Wen, Ms Wong explained the case, faxed all police reports and kept Mr Wen and Ms Lui abreast of any new developments. When the initial charges came out on January 3, Ms Wong faxed them to Mr Wen. According to that fax, he was charged with brandishing a piece of wood and participating in attacks on police during the protests. All 14 defendants were charged with specific crimes against the officers and the fax contained a list of police witnesses prepared to identify all of the defendants. The magistrate declared January 11 to be the day the police officially presented their charges and evidence. The day before the hearing, Ms Wong faxed another set of charges to Mr Wen. In this fax, no one defendant was charged with a specific crime. There was no list of police witnesses and Mr Wen's crime was being 'in [the] group of protesters', numbering more than 300, that had demonstrated and fought with police on December 17. Unlike the first set of charges, only six defendants were listed in the second set - four South Koreans including Mr Yang, one Japanese, Kosuke Nagagiri, and Mr Wen. 'I was now sure that the police had little or no evidence and in the end the two sides would negotiate a deal that would release all or most of us,' Mr Wen said. Ms Wong called on January 10 and told Mr Wen that she would be willing to represent them at the next day's hearing. Mr Wen asked how much it would cost, and Ms Wong replied, to his amazement, that all services were free of charge, as was publicly stated. After hearing the story of the two lawyers, Ms Wong explained that they weren't part of the core group of lawyers representing the 14 defendants and that all services were free. As he'd predicted, Mr Wen was released without being charged. Three South Koreans were charged, including Mr Yang, and were allowed to return to South Korea provided they are in Hong Kong on March 1 for trial. Back home in Shunde, Mr Wen reflected on the events of those three weeks in Hong Kong and realised the political battles between the protesters and the WTO, the police and the democrats - all these paled in comparison to the brotherhood and dedication he experienced behind bars. The South Koreans, especially, shared all the food and blankets with each other and stuck to a rigid hierarchy that eventually drew Mr Wen in as well. He soon was referring to Kang Seong-kyu as his Little Brother and leader Mr Yang as Elder Brother. 'When the police gave us an apple, Little Brother Kang would split it into four pieces and give Elder Brother Yang the first piece,' said Mr Wen. 'Their respect for one another and their fearlessness and devotion to their cause moved me.' But Mr Wen makes a clear distinction between politics and brotherhood. The culture of the protesters impressed him, but their causes and methods differ from his own thoughts on change. 'We here in Shunde have also had to deal with the WTO and we've adapted to the market conditions,' he said. 'We don't produce rice any more, but labour-intensive products like flowers and oranges for export - this is how we create prosperity out of adversity.' The difference may be cultural, Mr Wen said. South Koreans were more traditional than Chinese and more apt to organise and fight against perceived injustices, while Chinese kept their heads down and tried to persevere. 'Now all I want to do is keep the promise I made to the Korean brothers while in Hong Kong and visit them, learn about their lives and repay their kindnesses while I was a prisoner with them,' he said.