Graphic: spf.pdf for Lausan

An open letter from a detainee at the Castle Peak Bay Detention Center

Salman's hunger strike to end indefinite detention is now past 160 days

Editor’s Note: In June 2020, 25 detainees in the Castle Peak Bay Detention Center (CIC) in Hong Kong went on hunger strike in protest of inhumane treatment and indefinite detention at the Center. Many complained of the lack of medical care and unsanitary living spaces. Currently, there are no independent mechanisms to investigate complaints filed by detainees, nor is there a review process on the judgments handed down by the Immigration Director. We detailed the struggles of CIC detainees back in July. To date, several detainees are continuing with their hunger strike. Below is a letter penned by one detainee, who has been on hunger strike for over 160 days.

Ahmed Sani Salman claims to have long served as a police informant, only to be labeled as a threat to public safety and detained indefinitely at CIC. Under Hong Kong’s Immigration Ordinance, refugees and asylum seekers like Salman are prohibited from working and this lack of access to economic resources render them vulnerable to exploitation by law enforcement. Salman’s experience highlights how the carceral state entraps and makes use of migrants as disposable tools, using them to police others and, more often than not, worsening their situation and endangering their lives. 

Salman’s letter was first published on Dec 10, 2020 by the CIC Detainee’s Rights Concern Group. It has been lightly edited for clarity. 

A note from the CIC Detainees Rights Concern Group

Ahmed Sani Salman has been on hunger strike for over 160 days. He will go to High Court and self-defend on 16 Dec 2020 (next Weds) at 10am, for Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus (向法院申請發出人身保護令) for the issue of arbitrary and indefinite detention by the director of immigration and the secretary of Security Bureau (case no. HCAL 2415/2020). He gave us an open letter during a recent visit. Media and citizens are welcome to attend the court hearing. Let’s stand firm and stay strong.


Affidavit of Applicant: Ahmed Sani Salman

This is the application for the writ of habeas corpus for the issue of the arbitrary and indefinite detention by the Director of Immigration and the Secretary for the Security Bureau.

My name is Ahmed Sani Salman, age 40 years, from Pakistan and I have been seeking asylum here in Hong Kong since 2006. My life will be in danger if I am deported back to my country.

I applied for a non-refoulement claim to the immigration director in 2006. My claim was rejected by the Director of Immigration in 2015. I lodged late appeal/petition to the appeal board in 2016 which was also rejected by the appeal board on 30th of December 2019.

I was arrested by the Hong Kong Police for trafficking dangerous drugs, on 23rd of December 2015 and upon pleading guilty in the District Court, I was sentenced to 5 years 9 months imprisonment in September 2017. I completed my sentence on 26th of March 2020 and was transferred to the Castle Peak Bay Immigration Center and was detained here.

On 18th of April 2020 I applied for leave in the High Court, (HCAL 694-2020) to challenge the decisions made by the Director of Immigration and appeal board for my non-refoulement claim through the judicial review. But I have been denied my release on recognizance by the director/secretary. 

I am detained here since 26th of March 2020 under section 32,3A that specifically gives power to the Director of Immigration/Security Bureau to deport me back to my country in reasonable time. But which is clearly impossible for the Director/Secretary to do at present and neither have any clue when, if ever, they could possibly deport me. What they have are only speculations and hopes that they will deport me in reasonable time. Because my case is before the court and only the court has the power to decide according to the caseload in the court.

And what little knowledge I do have about the judicial system at work in the higher courts of Hong Kong for the civil cases it could possibly take years and years until the Court of Final Appeal if my case is rejected by the Court of First Instance and Court of Appeal.

In this world class city and common law jurisdiction where even animal rights are protected by law, [the government] has detained me all these years in prison without any crime, which is not only unreasonable but is clearly a violation of human rights, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Previously I have been detained in 2006 for 10 months for the same reasons that I am being detained at present, and the court has awarded me the compensation total HKD$125,000 for unlawful detention. I know the Hong Kong government is rich and the amount awarded to me in compensation is not a big matter to the Director and Security Bureau as long as it is public money and not their own. But to be detained and then awarded the compensation is really a matter to me, for me the money cannot be a replacement to the loss of freedom and liberty.

Therefore, since the Director and Security Bureau are not able to possibly deport me, nor able to expedite the process of my deportation due to the obstacles that stand in the path of the Director/Secretary, then I should be released immediately from the detention on recognizance. 

The condition of the detention center is much worse than Hong Kong prisons. In fact, this is a torture center and not a detention center, with no value to human life or the sufferings of human beings.

No guarantee [of protection from a] COVID-19 outbreak again like two times before in the third wave. No social distancing rules or other solid preventative measures. I came to Hong Kong to save my life but the Director/Secretary deliberately put my life in this dangerous situation amid COVID-19 pandemic and growing numbers of daily infections in Hong Kong. The Director/Secretary cannot guarantee my safety. They are clearly gambling with my life.

I am also a patient of psoriatic arthritis and am under the treatment of a Queen Mary Hospital specialist. I have been given a prescription by Queen Mary Hospital to last until next year March 2021 to take four capsules everyday, but I have no access to my medicine since I’ve been transferred from prison to this center. My medicine is kept in my prison property rather than given to me. This is pure cruelty and an abuse of human rights.

The main reason I was told by the Director/Secretary for refusing my bail is that I may constitute a threat/security risk to the community. 

My lordship, I have lived in Hong Kong for almost 20 years but I did not commit any violent crime. Although I do have criminal convictions of another nature, I am not a violent-natured kind of man and certainly I do not constitute a threat to the community. 

In fact, I have been most helpful to the community. Because I have been a registered police informer for more than ten years and due to my assistance the Hong Kong police have successfully prevented many and much more serious crime than the crime I have committed, and put so many international drug traffickers in prison from the streets of Hong Kong. My work as a registered police informer despite being an asylum seeker and not allowed to work has been recorded by the Department of Justice. The Security Bureau and Department of Justice should have appreciated me but instead I have been labeled a threat and security risk to the Hong Kong community with no regard to the danger that I have gotten myself into from the international drug mafia. The Director/Security said that I may abscond or reoffend if released. 

I am an asylum seeker here in Hong Kong. I don’t have any travel documents with me or means to abscond from Hong Kong. And above all, I have nowhere to abscond to.

And I fully understand the worries of Director/Secretary that I may re-offend but this shouldn’t justify my long and indefinite detention without any crime other than that I am an asylum seeker and waiting for my case to be determined by the court, which has just begun queuing up among thousands of cases before me already, pending due to overload of cases in the court. 

On the other hand, I am aware that if I re-offend then I will be arrested again by the Hong Kong police and that the Director/Secretary should have faith in the ability of Hong Kong law enforcement [to ensure] that I couldn’t escape the punishment if I ever commit any crime again, which I am confident that I will not do. 

I know that my words and promise that I will not re-offend are not enough to satisfy the Director/Secretary to release me on recognizance, but I want to bring to the notice of the honourable court that I have been on hunger strike since July 3, 2020 in protest against the inhumane treatment while in detention and against my arbitrary and indefinite detention by the Director and Security Bureau. 

Today I am on my 158th day without any food. I am surviving on water, milk tea and recently dietary supplement milk prescribed by the doctor due to malnutrition. I am being kept separate from other detainees at the hospital cell 24 hours a day, under 24 hours of CCTV watch. 

I have lost 31 KG of my body weight. I already have developed heart disease. I am not aware of any other internal organ damage. My muscles are collapsing. My mental health is affected with other various issues due to my hunger strike. What I want to tell this honourable court is that I am doing this peaceful and self-sacrificial form of protest against this arbitrary and indefinite detention just to get my freedom, and all my sufferings are not for me to go out and re-offend, and again come back to prison. If I intend to re-offend, then I shouldn’t be suffering this hunger and risking my life for freedom. 

I am committed to giving up my life rather than to be imprisoned. The Director/Secretary also said that I don’t have close connections or friends in Hong Kong as a guarantor, to make it likely that I will be easily located. I have been released on recognizance in the last four to five instances, and every time I have provided a Hong Kong permanent resident as my guarantor together with the home address and phone number for my case officer to locate me. And I can provide one now, a Hong Kong native Chinese: [information redacted]. Above are the details of my friend who is willing to be my guarantor upon my release on recognizance. 

The Director/Secretary said that I am returning removee/deportee. I have been released on recognizance several times in the past despite the fact that I am returning deportee, so it shouldn’t be a reason to detain me now. 

The Director/Secretary said that there are no other circumstances in favour of my release on recognizance. It is clear that if there is rule of law and value to human rights in Hong Kong, which I am sure there is, then it should be in favour of my release on recognizance to build my case in court. Because if the rule of law give me the right to challenge the decision of the Director of Immigration and Torture Claim Appeal Board in the court, then I shouldn’t be denied the right to be released and defend my case freely in court to have a fair trial. I am not able to provide the crucial supporting evidence to the court in my case against the Director of Immigration and Appeal Board. For the same reason the Appeal Board has rejected my appeal because I was not able to provide the evidence in my case from prison. And for the same reason if I am not able to provide the evidence to the court, then I have zero chances to secure leave from the court, and my life has depended on that because this is a matter of life and death. 

Without release from the detention, I cannot defend my claim or have a fair trial without evidence. I am dying here and now my life is at the mercy of this honourable court. 

Yours faithfully, 

Ahmed Sani Salman
Dated 7-12-2020 
Total pages (7)