Canadian lawyers on Thursday accused the Hong Kong police of persecuting a group of asylum seekers who helped NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden when he was in hiding in the SAR, alleging acts of intimidation and people coerced into make false statements.
Early last year, the police were urged to look into claims that since the asylum seekers' involvement in sheltering Snowden was widely publicised, Sri Lankan law enforcement agents had come to Hong Kong to try to find the group.
At a press conference, the lawyers said the Hong Kong police then arbitrarily detained and intimidated people who saw the Sri Lankan police officers in the SAR, to try to make the witnesses sign statements contradicting the allegation.
"It's certainly extremely disturbing and obviously damaging to our clients and what they are claiming, it goes directly to the heart of a key component of their well-founded fear of persecution in Sri Lanka," said lawyer Marc-Andre Seguin.
"I would even go so as far as to say that this attempt by Hong Kong police is actually an act in itself of persecution by Hong Kong towards our clients, in complete violation of its obligations."
Seguin is also the president of the NGO For the Refugees which is privately sponsoring the seven asylum seekers as they attempt to move to Canada. Their bids to stay in Hong Kong were rejected in May last year but are now under appeal.
Spokesman for the NGO Michael Simkin said the treatment of the asylum seekers shows that Hong Kong is willing "to play dirty" when it comes to dealing with vulnerable people.
"We need to start seeing the legal community here in Hong Kong expressing concern about the rule of law in this territory. This is apparently an egregious affront to the rule of law," Simkin said.
"We also need to start hearing Canada recognising what's going on here and stepping up in processing the claims that we submitted over a year ago now, and protect the lives of our clients."
The police force later issued a statement about the lawyers' claims.
"Police has finished investigation of the allegation. It was concluded that there was no concrete evidence to support the allegation and there was no arrest made throughout the investigation. The case has already curtailed," the statement said.
"The Basic Law only authorises law enforcement agencies of Hong Kong to enforce laws in Hong Kong. Law enforcement agencies outside of Hong Kong, such as law enforcement agencies of overseas, do not have the authority to enforce laws in Hong Kong."
"If law enforcement officers of non-Hong Kong jurisdictions take law enforcement actions in Hong Kong, this will contravene Hong Kong law. If there is any illegal act, the Police will handle in accordance with the law."
Last updated: 2018-02-08 HKT 18:56