The family of a Hong Kong student arrested at sea by mainland Chinese officers while trying to flee to Taiwan had no prior knowledge of his plan to abscond from criminal proceedings linked to last year’s social unrest, a court has heard.
Open University student Cheung Chun-fu, 22, and two other defendants, both 21, were among 12 Hongkongers apprehended on August 23 by China’s coastguard while heading to Taiwan, prosecutors told Eastern Court on Monday.
The mainland authorities announced the arrest of the 12 three days later, with the group remanded in Shenzhen’s Yantian district, where they were reportedly denied their right to meet lawyers.
The trio were among nine men charged in five separate cases over an alleged bomb plot to kill police officers during an anti-government rally on December 8. The bail conditions of the three included an order not to leave Hong Kong and surrendering all travel documents to the court.
Public prosecutor Stella Lo said: “The Hong Kong Police Force received information from mainland authorities that [the three defendants] were arrested on a vessel outside Hong Kong waters, in Chinese territory.”
At Monday’s hearing, Cheung’s lawyer Douglas Kwok King-hin said his client’s younger brother, who stood the surety for Cheung, reported his disappearance to police two days after he was caught by the coastguard. The younger Cheung did not monitor his brother’s whereabouts because he was “very busy”, Kwok added.
“The whole family had no prior knowledge of the [defendant going] missing,” the lawyer told Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai.
Lawyers for the two 21-year-old absconders – transport worker Cheung Ming-yu and vocational college student Yim Man-him – said they had received no instructions from their clients in relation to Monday’s hearing.
Chainrai granted the defence lawyers’ applications to stop representing the three in future proceedings. She also ordered their arrest, while Cheung’s brother had to forfeit the HK$30,000 (US$3,846) surety on the grounds he failed to make sure Cheung complied with his bail conditions.
The three absconders and six others – Wong Chun-keung, 21, Ng Chi-hung, 24, David Su, 19, Eddie Pang Kwan-ho, 33, Choi Hoi-ming, 20, and Lai Chun-pong, 29 – were accused of plotting to “slaughter” police officers during the December 8 procession by stationing a gunman at a strategic site and setting off two bombs planted along the protest route. They faced one joint count of conspiracy to wound with intent.
Three of them – Ng, Cheung Chun-fu and Choi – were separately charged with additional offences, including possession of firearms, possession of offensive weapons and possession of child pornography.
All defendants except Choi were charged in Eastern Court, while Choi, who did not appear at Monday's hearing, was charged in Kwun Tong Court. All but the three absconders were remanded in custody.
The cases involving the eight will be heard again in Eastern Court on December 7, pending legal advice. Choi’s case will be heard in Kwun Tong Court on September 14.
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