New Jersey Resident Wrongly Jailed
HONG KONG (AP) _ A New Jersey teen-ager said Tuesday she was jailed after falsely pleading guilty to using a fake passport after an official translator warned that she risked execution in China if she refused to confess.
Laboratory tests later proved that Lin Qiaoying’s Chinese passport was genuine, and High Court Justice Pang Kin-kee on Monday acquitted her after she had already served three months in a Hong Kong jail, immigration officials said.
Lin, who moved from the southern Chinese province of Fujian to the United States in 1995, stopped over in Hong Kong late last year after traveling alone to visit relatives in China, immigration officials said.
Lin, 17, told reporters Tuesday she lives with her family in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
The girl’s ordeal began at Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport on Oct. 9, when airline officials became suspicious that her passport was fake and stopped her at the gate before she could board a jet heading to New York.
Officials examined her passport and believed she had pasted her own picture into someone else’s document, so they arrested her.
In remarks carried Tuesday by Asia Television, Lin said a government-appointed court translator warned her she should say the passport was bogus, or she would otherwise be ``sent back to the mainland for execution by gunshot or be imprisoned for life.″
Lin then confessed to having bought the passport from a friend in China.
``She said only the photo belonged to her, everything else wasn’t hers,″ Principal Immigration Officer Leung Pang-kwan said at a press briefing.
Leung told reporters he ``regretted″ the incident. He said police had taken over the investigation, and the immigration officials involved in the case had been transferred to other duties.
But Leung said Lin had numerous opportunities to declare her innocence, even if her first confession had been false.
She also was informed of her rights to contact her relatives and request legal counsel, Leung said.
C.K. Chan, an Immigration Department spokesman, said the girl was not accompanied by legal counsel when she made her confession, but a public defender was later assigned to help her in court.
Officials also could not confirm whether the immigration officials had made the alleged threats, or if the translator had made a mistake in his translation from Cantonese, Hong Kong’s official dialect, to Lin’s native Fujianese dialect, Chan said.
Opposition lawyer Christine Loh said the case has raised concerns over ``systematic discrimination against mainlanders″ in Hong Kong.