Freedom and justice were almost denied Mr. Q, a South Asian refugee who sought the protection of Hong Kong Government on 23 December 2014, only to be detained and subjected to robust rejection and removal action until his release from Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC) on 3 June 2015.
What suffering does a persecuted refugee endure in 162 days and nights of Immigration detention? For good reasons unlawful detention is compensated by Hong Kong law with HK$1,000 per day, as the rule of law takes the depravation of anyone’s liberty most seriously. Facts lead us to believe that this might not always be the case behind the secretive walls of Immigration detention.
The legal team of Barrister Robert Tibbo and solicitor Chris Lucas finally secured Mr. Q’s release after filing a leave application for Judicial Review at the High Court. Upon the application being filed, the Director of Immigration, K.K. Chan made the decision not to deport the refugee and a few days later exercised his discretion to release him from CIC. The process however was less than smooth.
The Director of Immigration had previously attempted to deport Mr. Q from Hong Kong, the last attempt being made on 1 June 2015. On that day, the legal team acted with great determination and urgency to file the leave application for Judicial Review in the High Court before the 4pm deadline, thus stopping the Director from deporting their client.
It should be noted that on 1 June 2015, the Director of Immigration, K.K. Chan was fully aware that the legal team had already applied for Legal Aid, was about to file a Judicial Review and had applied for and successfully obtained an Anonymity Order from a High Court judge. Despite all of the above, the Director took every possible step to attempt to deport the refugee prior to the 4pm deadline.
Mr. Q’s account of his treatment by Immigration officers inside CIC and at the airport is disturbing.
The refugee reports, “Immigration officers pressured me to leave. Some day after I met [Barrister Robert Tibbo and solicitor Chris Lucas] they took me to the airport. An officer threatened, ‘If you refuse to go back we will tie you to a chair, put a helmet on your head and drag you to the airplane.’ They pushed me around. They shouted, ‘Don’t give us trouble! Don’t make any noise, or something will happen to you. If you make trouble we can do anything to you!’”
Mr. Q was shaken by one experience in particular, “One day around 3:45pm, Immigration officers brought me down from 7th floor to the ground floor at CIC. They took me inside a female changing room. They threatened and scared me. They yelled, ‘Don’t make any trouble! Just go back to your country quietly. Just do what we tell you to do! Don’t ask any questions! Don’t argue with us!’”
He recalls, “There were four officers and they all shouted very loudly at me. They shouted, ‘If necessary we will use all our power to send you back!’ Even when my pants were slipping down from my waist, they didn’t care. They didn’t even let me pull them up. They kept pushing me from behind, telling me to walk faster. They brought me to the female changing room because there are no video cameras there.”
Vision First has no reason to believe that Mr. Q is lying, although readers may judge for themselves. Lastly, alert readers might wonder how such harrowing treatment by Immigration officers meets the high standard of fairness demanded by Hong Kong law in the processing and determination of asylum claims.