The Secretary for Security, John Lee, says 12 Hong Kong people detained in Shenzhen while allegedly attempting to flee to Taiwan have been allowed to appoint lawyers from a list chosen by mainland authorities.
Speaking in a televised interview on Saturday, Lee said each of the suspects picked two lawyers from a list provided by officials, and that the Hong Kong government is seeking more details so the families of the detainees can contact the lawyers.
Lee said he understood the 12 were in good health, but SAR officials had no right to visit them.
The security minister said the administration would do its best to safeguard their rights, but mainland agencies have to follow their own laws, therefore the handling of the case may not be in line with practises in Hong Kong.
Lawyers appointed by the families had complained that they were denied access to the detainees.
Responding to Lee's remarks, one of the family-appointed lawyers from the mainland said it was nothing but hypocrisy and deception to say that the detainees had chosen the lawyers themselves. He said he retained the right to act in the case.
Democratic Party lawmaker, James To, who is assisting the families of the twelve here in Hong Kong, said none of the relatives were informed of the latest development.
The twelve families also issued a joint statement accusing Lee of trying to mislead them into accepting lawyers appointed by the authorities.
The 12 are all pro-democracy activists charged with or suspected of protest-related offences in Hong Kong. One of them is accused of national security offences.