Three of four Hong Kong men jailed for life in the Philippines on drug charges in 2018 finally returned to the city on Friday after they won an appeal last February. The freed men said they were grateful to the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities for their help over the years to get them out of the country. Their release coincided with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr’s three-day visit to the mainland. “After waiting painfully for more than 10 months [after the successful appeal bid], we finally return to Hong Kong today and reunite with our families,” the three men, Lo Wing-fai, Chan Kwok-tung and Kwok Kam-wah, said in a written statement. Leung Shu-fook, whose appeal was unsuccessful, remains in prison in the Philippines. The three thanked the mainland and city governments, the Chinese foreign ministry’s office and the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, as well as former lawmakers and people who donated money to support them. “Your attention and assistance eventually vindicated us and allowed us to regain freedom,” the men said. “But we find it unfair for Leung … who went to the Philippines with us and remains in prison. We all believe he is innocent.” The trio appealed to the central and city authorities to help Leung, 55, so he can be freed as soon as possible. Lawmaker appeals to Beijing and Hong Kong to help men jailed in Philippines The four fishermen were sentenced to life in prison by a Philippine court for possession of almost half a kilogram of methamphetamine, also known as Ice, in 2018. They accepted a job to sail a boat from the southeast Asian country to mainland China, but were arrested at gunpoint by police, in the presence of a group of Filipino reporters, as part of a high-profile operation led by the country’s then police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, when they boarded the vessel on July 11, 2016. Philippine authorities said the men were part of a racket to move drugs from the vessel to the mainland. But the families of the men claimed it was a set-up. They said officers found nothing in an initial search but later announced they had discovered a bag containing 467.8 grams (17 ounces) of the drug in Leung’s backpack, which had been taken out of sight of the detained men for a few minutes. Life in jail handed to four Hongkongers in Philippines on drug charge Democratic Party veteran James To Kun-sun, an ex-lawmaker who has helped the four over the years, had called on the city government and central authorities to tell the Philippine government about the allegation that police did not find any drugs in their first search. To told the Post on Friday the three freed men had been successful in having their convictions quashed 10 months ago, but authorities continued to hold them. They were only informed they could go on January 3, To said. The Philippine president embarked on his three-day visit to Beijing on the same day. “They have spent an extra 10 months behind bars for no reason,” To said. Former chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor promised in 2018 to help after appeals made by To and the families of the four and asked the Philippines to guarantee fair and humane treatment for the men. A spokesman for the Immigration Department said it had followed up the case with the Chinese foreign ministry office in Hong Kong and China’s embassy in the Philippines, and kept in contact with family members of the Hong Kong men. He promised the department would continue to pursue Leung’s case with the help of the Chinese authorities and offer any possible assistance it could. The Post has contacted Hong Kong’s Security Bureau for comment.