Hongkonger Tang Lung-wai’s life threatened by fellow prisoners after he was moved away from general prison population in Philippine jail, say his lawyers
- Tang, 47, had been moved to a cell with more than 40 other prisoners after a mobile phone was found in possession
- The former barman is appealing his 40-year sentence for possession of drugs, of which he has served 18 years
A Hongkonger challenging a 40-year jail term in the Philippines for possession of drugs said his life had been threatened by fellow inmates in a cell he was moved to after he was found with a mobile phone.
It is the second time Tang Lung-wai has been removed from the main prison population since August, the same month Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wrote to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to ask for “compassionate consideration” in expediting a request to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration, so Tang could receive a “fair and just trial”.
The latest development was revealed by Lisa Tam Sin-man, a core member of the Tang Lung-wai Incident Concern Group, formed by his friends and supporters. Tam learned of Tang’s latest situation from his Philippine lawyer Sheilla San Diego, who visited Tang on Tuesday.
Quoting San Diego, Tam told the Post that Tang was thrown into the cell at New Bilibild Prison with more than 40 other inmates on November 20 for a spell of at least 60 days.
Prisoners are confined to the cell for 24 hours every day, and the other inmates were associated with Philippine gangs, Tam said, quoting the lawyer.
Tang told San Diego that he had been harassed and threatened by his cell mates, with some acting in a way as if they had weapons under their clothes, Tam said.
“They glared at him every day and followed him,” she said, quoting San Diego. “He felt his life was seriously threatened.”
Tam said Philippine prison authorities should not put an foreign inmate in a cell full of local gangsters.
“This is putting him in extreme danger, scaring him every day,” she said. “It is extremely inhumane.”
She said Tang’s lawyer had requested a change of cell.
Legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun, who is a lawyer and has been championing Tang’s cause for many years, said he had contacted the British and Chinese embassies in the Philippines, as well as local Chinese organisations for help.
Tang holds a British National (Overseas) passport, which were granted to Hong Kong residents during colonial rule.
Tse said he had also informed the Security Bureau, which had deployed officials to negotiate with the Philippines government.
“So far I have not heard of any physical harm [on Tang], but his psychological pressure is understandably heavy,” he said.
A Security Bureau spokesman said the Chinese embassy in the Philippines had earlier sent officials to visit Tang to ensure “his legitimate interests were protected”.
He said the Immigration Department had been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ commissioner in Hong Kong, as well as the embassy in Manila, to “understand the case and provide practical and appropriate assistance”.
Tang’s mobile phone has been a vital tool during his time in prison – he used it to write the story of his ordeal, publishing a book in 2017 that sparked concerns about his case in Hong Kong.
The 47-year-old was arrested about a month after arriving in the Philippines in 2000, and has been languishing behind bars for 18 years. It took 11 years for his case to make it through the legal system and he was found guilty of possession of crystal methamphetamine, more commonly known as Ice.
But his ordeal took a surprising twist after Lam wrote the letter in August.
Hong Kong’s immigration authorities acted after Lam’s letter, giving the Chinese embassy in the Philippines a critical piece of evidence for Tang’s innocence – records showing he entered the country on June 19, 2000, after the time when the offences for which he was convicted took place. During his prosecution the court was told Manila police had monitored his movements from June 1 to 12.
Tang is awaiting the result of a final appeal.