Four Hongkongers sentenced to life in prison in the Philippines could be ‘deported’ back home
- Spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte says his office is coordinating with the justice department to possibly deport the four, convicted of possession of drugs
- Sources close to the men, however, say they are unlikely to accept the offer if it means they must drop their appeal
The Philippine government is studying the option of “deporting” the four Hongkongers jailed for life in the country for possessing drugs, according to the country’s President Rodrigo Duterte’s office.
The remarks followed the Hong Kong government’s appeal to Manila to ensure proper treatment and due legal process for the four while Beijing also stressed it gave great importance to the safety and rights of Chinese nationals overseas and would follow the case closely.
The four Hongkongers – Lo Wing-fai, 44, Chan Kwok-tung, 31, Kwok Kam-wah 49, and Leung Shu-fook, 51 – were sentenced to life in jail for possession of 467.8 grams of methamphetamines last week.
They have denied the charge and vowed to appeal, saying that their arrest was staged.
Salvador Panelo, presidential spokesman in the Philippines, said his office had been coordinating with the city’s justice department on the possibility of “deporting” the group back to Hong Kong “to finally rid this country of these foreign criminals”.
Panelo also said that while the four would not be given any special treatment, they would be treated properly.
“We also give assurance to their families that they will be given proper treatment in prison, and they will be humanely treated in accordance with the Bill of Rights under our Constitution, as well as with appropriate Philippine laws and rules,” Panelo said.
He added the case was clear proof of the government’s unrelenting war against illegal drugs.
The Post has contacted the president’s office for further comment.
While Panelo did not elaborate on what “deporting” meant, Hong Kong and Philippines signed an agreement on prisoners transfer in June 2002.
Under the agreement, Hongkongers jailed in Philippines may be transferred home to serve their sentences if certain conditions are met.
The jail sentence involved in a transfer must also be longer than three years, with at least one year left to serve.
It also requires all legal proceedings related to the charge to be settled before the transfer, which implies the four will have to drop their appeal.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said it was unlikely the Philippines would send the four back to Hong Kong and let them walk free.
Tse, who has been aiding Tang Lung-wai, another Hongkonger jailed in the Philippines, said the term “deporting” may be a “loose reference”.
“It is more likely for them to deport someone after they have finished serving their sentences,” Tse said.
Lo Shu-ho, the sister of Lo Wing-fai, said she would have to visit her brother in person to find out what he thinks about applying for the transfer.
“It is more likely we will appeal,” Lo Shu-ho said.
“They will not admit to crimes they did not commit.”
Since the conviction, the families have not been able to make direct contact with the jailed Hongkongers, she added.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who has been aiding the families, said there was no need to discuss the possibility of a transfer, as the families will not give up appealing.
“They will not admit to being guilty … there is no need to discuss the matter,” To said.
The Security Bureau said on Friday that Hongkongers serving sentences in the Philippines may apply to be transferred back to Hong Kong.
“We will process their applications in accordance with the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Ordinance,” it said.
To arrange a transfer, written consent from the local government where a Hongkonger is detained is also required.
In a reply to the Legislative Council last year, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said the Philippines has never responded to the Hong Kong government’s request for such documents.
To realise the transfer, chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor would have to issue an inward warrant to the Commissioner of Correctional Services, to grant officers the power to bring the sentenced person to Hong Kong.
The arrangement is stipulated in the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Ordinance.
The Post has contacted the bureau to ask if any of the four had filed such an application.