Lai Ke (also known as Xiran) © Private

Hong Kong: Transgender activist Lai Ke must not be deported to mainland China  

A Chinese transgender activist due to be released tomorrow after serving a prison sentence in Hong Kong will be at grave risk of persecution if she is deported to mainland China. Lai Ke (also known as Xiran) must instead be allowed to remain in Hong Kong or travel to another destination, Amnesty International urged today. 

Lai Ke was convicted in Hong Kong of using “forged” documents to attempt to travel from China to Canada via the city last year, according to friends of hers who have followed the case closely. She will complete her sentence on 2 March and faces imminent removal to mainland China, where her friends say she faced harassment by police prior to leaving in May 2023. 

Lai Ke had been a vocal advocate for transgender rights in China alongside her partner. According to her friends, her partner was imprisoned in China in June 2023 on account of her own activism and her transgender identity.  

There is a very real risk that Lai Ke will face persecution – including further imprisonment – if she is returned to mainland China.

Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International’s China Director

“The Hong Kong authorities must urgently clarify Lai Ke’s pending immigration status. As she is due to be released after serving her sentence, authorities must free her without conditions and allow her to travel onwards to a destination feasible for her. 

“In any event, the authorities must allow Lai Ke to legally challenge any deportation order following her release after serving her sentence.” 

According to a group of her friends and others advocating on her behalf, Lai Ke was detained at Hong Kong International Airport on 3 May 2023 while transferring to a flight to Toronto, Canada, having begun her journey in Shanghai. 

Time is of the essence to prevent Lai Ke from being unlawfully deported to mainland China, where she would be at grave risk of serious human rights violations.

Amnesty International’s Sarah Brooks

Her friends said she pled guilty to three immigration charges at her trial, where Amnesty understands she was represented by a duty lawyer. 

Lai was convicted in Hong Kong on 16 June 2023 and sentenced to 15 months in prison, which she served at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, a psychiatric detention institution where Hong Kong authorities usually hold transgender detainees.  

Her first meeting with a lawyer hired on her behalf was not until 20 July 2023, more than one month after her trial and conviction.

While serving her sentence, Lai has been denied access to the medication she was taking as a part of her hormone replacement therapy and held in solitary confinement for complaining about the denial of her medical treatment, her friends added. 

A release notice from Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre seen by Amnesty International states that Lai is due to be released early for good behaviour on 2 March. As Lai is not a resident of Hong Kong, she is subject to being deported to mainland China under Section 19 of the Hong Kong Immigration Ordinance. 

“Time is of the essence to prevent Lai Ke from being unlawfully deported to mainland China, where she would be at grave risk of serious human rights violations – including arbitrary detention, unfair trial, and even torture and other ill-treatment – due to both her transgender identity and her activism,” Sarah Brooks said.  

“To return her given these risks would be an abandonment of Hong Kong’s obligations under international law.” 

Background on transgender rights in China

Amnesty International has documented systematic oppression and discrimination of transgender people in China. Large-scale censorship in recent years has led to the closure of numerous online lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) groups and social media accounts – undermining LGBTI activism online and offline.  

Police in China have repeatedly arrested, detained and imprisoned human rights defenders – including LGBTI activists – for lengthy periods under unjustified, broadly defined and vaguely worded charges. 

Top image: Lai Ke (also known as Xiran) © Private