At a strategy meeting for the upcoming street protest, it was said “Wait and see, Immigration will accept another torture claimant before 27 April to look good when the press challenges them over the zero-percent!” Instead of admitting with a red face, “There was one substantiated claim in May 2008″, they powers-that-be devised a more palatable strategy and yesterday recognized a fourth Tamil torture victim. One cannot fault the logic of this strategy, though its timing appears to be closely connected with our demonstration. When Mr. International Journalist calls Immigration Tower – and we have it on good authority this is happening – how much nicer for the besieged spokesperson to reply with a smile, “What zero-per-cent? In actuality, the administration accepted five claimants last month [NB. 1 claim for a family of 5, two kids born here], one in early April and another one this week.” This is exactly what we predicted. Yesterday another Tamil gentleman joined the ranks of those the government promises, much belatedly, not to repatriate into harm’s way, or more likely, certain death.
The credit goes entirely to the fighting spirits at Barnes & Daly (recently restructured as Daly & Associates) who represented all four winning cases. This raises a first self-evident issue: if other duty lawyers practiced their profession as diligently, then presumably more victories would be celebrated elsewhere. We understand there are about 300 duty lawyers defending torture claimants. One has to wonder about the skills and commitment of the others, who seem reluctant to defend their clients tooth and nail. As for today’s success, here are the details: for obvious reasons, his name cannot be divulged, so let’s call him Mr. Four. Mr. Four is the fourth Tamil to be protected and his legal battle took a lengthy eight years. He is single, lives in Shamshuipo – the heart of the Kowloon refugee community - and arrived in 2005 after spending several years in a refugee camp in India and seeking asylum in Malaysia. Finding life unbearable in those two countries, he fled to Hong Kong hoping to gain international protection. Mr. Four’s case was rejected by UNHCR and Immigration also rejected him both at first instant and appeal. Rumour has it that, after he was detained at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC), Mr Daly had him released the next day. Yesterday’s details are still sketchy, but we are told there was a High Court hearing and finally Mr. Four’s claim was accepted.
So what about the “zero percent” Vision First is taking to the street? There was a confrontation in the office of ISS this week. One of our supporters was distributing flyers there, encouraging claimants to support the march. A senior officer approached and challenged him, “It’s not true that it’s zero percent!” Apparently this officer, buying the official line, thought this claim was a calumny devised to discredit the government. But hold on a moment and launch the calculator app on your smart phone. There have been 12,409 torture claims raised in Hong Kong under the Torture Convention since 1992. With 4 successful claims to-date, let’s divide 4 by 12,409 … the result is 0.0003 … which converted to a percentage is 0.03% … this effectively rounds up to zero percent. Vision First will campaign against the “zero percent acceptance rate” until 124 victims of torture have been recognized. Only then may we speak mathematically of one percent. Until that distant day, any calculator will easily prove the point. While we gladly celebrate with Mr. One, Mr. Two, Mr. Three and Mr. Four, how can we forget the suffering of the thousands who had their cases rejected? How can we turn our backs on those who are grilled by Immigration on low heat year after year? Who will remember the skinny young man who was taken seven times from CIC to the airport, lost a tooth fighting off officers, and was finally drugged with a laced meal to be buckled into an aeroplane seat? Who will remember the hair-raising screams of the lady who called her boyfriend on the phone as she was dragged off, helpless, to the airport? How many times was justice trampled in twenty years of, so-called, torture protection?
For a comparison with refugee protection rates in Australia, please click here.
Disseminating reliable information is the first step in fighting social injustice