HONG KONG • Relatives and supporters of 12 Hongkongers, detained in China after trying to flee the city by speedboat, protested yesterday on an island near the Chinese prison where they have been held virtually incommunicado for nearly three months.
The 11 men and one woman were captured by the Chinese coastguard on Aug 23 aboard a speedboat believed to have been bound for Taiwan.
All faced charges linked to the protest movement embroiling Hong Kong, including rioting and violation of a national security law China imposed on June 30.
Family members and supporters of some of the 12 hiked to the peak of Kat O island in Hong Kong's remote north-eastern reaches, overlooking China's high-tech boomtown of Shenzhen, and the Yantian district where the dozen are being held.
Some peered through binoculars at a hill where the detention centre is located. Several told Reuters that they want the Chinese authorities to deal with the cases in a fair and transparent manner.
The group inflated blue and white balloons and wrote the names of the detainees on them, before releasing them into the sky. They chanted for their "immediate safe return".
"I hope he can see the balloons and know we haven't given up yet," said the 28-year-old wife of detainee Wong Wai Yin.
A Hong Kong marine police vessel later docked on the island, with police questioning and taking down the details of several reporters present.
The authorities have denied family and lawyers access to the 12, insisting they be represented by officially appointed lawyers.
Last week, seven detainees wrote handwritten letters to their families, but the group said in a statement that "they seem to have been compiled under duress".
Eddie Chu, a former lawmaker who recently quit his post in protest against political suppression by the authorities under the national security law, said it was important to keep fighting.