Eight Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters returning from months of incarceration in mainland China could have suffered “greater” physical and psychological damage compared to if they had been jailed in Hong Kong, a disqualified human rights lawyer said.
They were part of a group of 12 activists who were captured in mainland waters late last August as they were trying to flee to Taiwan, and then handed jail sentences ranging between seven months and three years. Eight of them were sent back to Hong Kong on Monday, having served their full sentence.
Among them was Andy Li, who was arrested under the national security law in mid-August last year. The eight were immediately taken by Hong Kong police and delivered to a police station in the bordering town of Tin Shui Wai.
Even for those prisoners with a better mental condition, they might feel “inexplicably depressed” after they were released, said Ren Quanniu, a mainland Chinese human rights lawyer who lost his practicing license after he attempted to represent one of the 12.
They could feel like they were being monitored and restricted, and become fearful, negative or bad-tempered, Ren said.
He was worried that they had been subject to being brainwashed by mainland authorities, who are known to instill “messages that are not too scary, but enough to make people afraid to resist.” Even though they were only imprisoned for months, the actual physical and psychological harm to them might be greater than “a few years in jail in Hong Kong,” Ren said.
He suggested they should receive psychological counseling and record their experience of their time on the mainland when it is possible. Their family and friends should also visit them more often to provide comfort and encouragement, Ren said.
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