Two political activists from Hong Kong who skipped bail after being charged with rioting say they now have refugee protection in Germany.

Ray Wong Toi-yeung, 25, and Alan Li Tung-sing, 27, from the group Hong Kong Indigenous have revealed they applied for and were given political asylum by the Germany government in May last year, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Ray Wong is the convener of Hong Kong Indigenous and Alan Li is also a member. The group was set up in 2015 after the unsuccessful 79-day pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong in 2014, known as the Umbrella Movement. The group said it opposes the increased influence of mainland China and Beijing’s involvement in Hong Kong.

The group was actively involved in clashes in Kowloon’s Mong Kok during the Lunar New Year in 2016 after a dispute over the clearance of food vendors. The dispute later turned into violent clashes between protesters and police officers.

The pair both faced rioting charges over the Mong Kok unrest. But they skipped bail and went to Germany in 2017 and applied for asylum, which was approved in May last year.

Germany’s migration and refugee office has confirmed that it gave two applicants from Hong Kong refugee protection last year, but did not name them.

Fugitive Offenders bill

The news comes amid heated debate over proposed amendments to its Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which would let the Hong Kong government send criminal suspects to mainland China and jurisdictions which it does not have extradition agreements.

Wong said in an interview in Frankfurt last year that “if the German government thinks that the Hong Kong judiciary is independent, they would not grant me refugee status”

“It’s because they think that Hong Kong uses the judiciary to persecute Hong Kong people,” Wong said.

Several people, including Edward Leung Tin-kei, a spokesman for Hong Kong Indigenous, were jailed for between three to seven years last year for their roles in the Mong Kok unrest.

In April this year, a Hong Kong court ruled that all nine pro-democracy figures involved in the Occupy Central protests in 2014 were guilty of at least one public nuisance offense. The key figures were sent to prison for up to 16 months.

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng was asked to respond to the report, and whether she thought the German government’s decision showed that foreign countries are losing confidence in Hong Kong’s rule of law, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

“Your statement is based on an assumption that I haven’t seen evidence of,” she said. “It is a statement that is reported in a particular media, I’m not able therefore to really comment on that media or that basis of assumption at this stage.”

Hong Kong police said they were not able to comment as the case was now in judicial proceedings. But they said that they would track the fugitives down via different channels and to try to make an arrest, Apple Daily reported.