Two pro-democracy lawmakers who are helping the families of 12 young Hongkongers detained on the mainland after being captured at sea have condemned Beijing's move to brand the activists as "separatists".
Council Front lawmaker Chu Hoi-dick said he believed the 12 are now destined to be used as bargaining chips in foreign affairs, noting that the separatism claim was made by Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in response to a social media post by a US State Department spokesperson.
"The moment family-appointed lawyers were denied to see some of the detainees, it could be expected that the Chinese Communist Party has designated the 12 people as highly sensitive cases," Chu wrote in a statement.
He said he expects the detainees to be paraded on television for forced confessions, just like the kidnapped Causeway Bay booksellers were made to do in 2016.
Chu said no matter how serious a "label" Beijing places on the 12, the Communist Party cannot explain why they have been stripped of their right to meet their lawyers, as stated in criminal procedural laws on the mainland.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party lawmaker James To said people would find it hard to believe that the 12 had jumped into a speedboat bound for Taiwan with the intention of separating Hong Kong from the rest of China.
He said that being as Beijing claims China is a country with the rule of law, the authorities should send the detainees back to Hong Kong, where they have been accused of offences relating to anti-government protests.