Hong Kong protests: activist charged under security law in city after release from mainland prison

Clifford Lo
·3-min read

A Hong Kong activist who was among the eight fugitives sent back to the city this week after serving jail time in mainland China has been charged with colluding with foreign forces under the national security law.

Andy Li Yu-hin – one of 12 arrested in mainland waters last summer while trying to flee to Taiwan – was also charged on Wednesday with conspiracy to assist offenders and possession of ammunition without a licence.

However, the 30-year-old did not appear in West Kowloon Court, where the case was heard, as he had to undergo two weeks of coronavirus quarantine following his return from a Shenzhen detention centre.

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Nor did Li’s lawyers appear before presiding Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, one of the judges handpicked by city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to oversee security law proceedings.

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Senior public prosecutor Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan acknowledged Li’s legal representatives were absent, but did not explain why. He also declined to identify Li’s counsel when pressed by journalists outside the court.

The magistrate postponed the case to next Wednesday, and exempted Li from attending the next hearing. Li will complete his time in quarantine on April 4.

Li was among six people arrested last August for allegedly colluding with foreign forces. Others arrested included media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and activist Agnes Chow Ting.

The prosecution accused Li of conspiring with others to ask foreign countries to impose sanctions or a blockade, or engage in other hostile activities, against Hong Kong or mainland China.

The others involved in the same alleged plot include Lai, founder of Next Digital and the tabloid-style Apple Daily newspaper; his right-hand man Mark Simon; paralegal Chan Tsz-wah and activist Lau Cho-dick. Only Li and Chan have been charged over the purported scheme so far.

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Li was also charged with conspiracy to assist offenders under the city’s Criminal Procedure Ordinance over the unsuccessful escape bid last summer, which prosecutors say was a separate plot in which Lai and Chan also played a part.

The third charge stems from what prosecutors say was an illegal collection of spent ammunition – comprising 232 tear gas rounds, 7 foam rounds and 38 rubber baton rounds – found at a Sha Tin flat on the day of Li’s arrest.Police’s handling of Li’s case has drawn criticism from barrister Chow Hang-tung, who is helping the 12 fugitives and their families. Chow accused police on Monday of interviewing the activist in the absence of his legal representatives.

She declined to give an update as to whether Li had met his lawyers when approached for comment on Tuesday.

Li and seven others sent back from Shenzhen on Monday were each jailed for seven months in the mainland city for illegally crossing the border during their attempt to reach Taiwan on August 23 last year.

The seven others, Cheng Tsz-ho, Cheung Chun-fu, Cheung Ming-yu, Yim Man-him, Li Tsz-yin, Kok Tsz-lun and Wong Wai-yin, all face charges stemming from the 2019 anti-government protests.

Their cases were heard in four courts on Tuesday. Prosecutors asked for adjournments of up to two weeks so they could complete their time in quarantine.

Of the 12 originally arrested, mainland authorities sent two underage suspects back to Hong Kong in December, while the remaining two convicted of organising the escape are still serving their sentences on the mainland.

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