Hong Kong Democratic Party candidate Ho Wai-to
updated 8/18/2004 3:48:38 PM ET 2004-08-18T19:48:38

Human rights activists on Wednesday condemned the arrest of a Hong Kong pro-democracy politician for allegedly having sex with a prostitute, and his sentencing without trial to six months of “re-education through labor.”

Chinese mainland police arrested Ho Wai-to on Friday in southern Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong. Party colleague Fred Li said Tuesday that Ho’s detention was aimed at spoiling his chances in Sept. 12 legislative elections — expected to show a surge in support for pro-democracy lawmakers at the expense of Beijing’s Hong Kong allies.

Democratic Party colleagues said Ho told them he was framed by police who beat and coerced him into signing a confession.

Amnesty critical
In a statement Wednesday, Amnesty International in Hong Kong criticized China for detaining Ho without trial and sentencing him to a labor camp, where offenders work either in factories or at job sites and attend political classes.

The group urged Beijing to “abolish this abusive system of detention,” which “is a violation of international human rights standards.”

But lawmakers of Hong Kong’s top pro-Beijing party denied any wrongdoing and accused the Democrats of dressing up the scandal as political persecution.

“The Democrats are trying to politicize the incident to make people believe that Ho is a victim,” said Yeung Yiu-chung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, or DAB.

Chan Kam-lam, a DAB candidate seeking re-election in the same constituency as Ho, said his opponents were trying to “evade responsibility.”

Sentence questioned
“They kept denying the incident and claimed this was political persecution, but that contradicted with the facts. The public will make their own judgment,” Chan said.

Li, who is Ho’s running partner, questioned why Ho was given such a long sentence. China typically fines clients of prostitutes, and human rights groups have previously accused China of jailing dissidents on fabricated charges of paying for sex.

Chinese law permits committees made up of police and local authorities to send prostitutes, drug addicts and others suspected of minor offenses to re-education through labor camps for up to three years without trial.

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