This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Police in Hong Kong on Monday detained eight democracy activists returned to the city by China, which jailed them after they tried to flee by speedboat.
The detainees were handed over by Chinese police after being driven in police vehicles, curtains drawn, across the internal border from Shenzhen, where they had served prison sentences for “illegally crossing a border” after their speedboat was intercepted by the China Coast Guard.
“Shortly after 10am, several cars with drawn curtains crossed the border at Shenzhen Bay and travelled to Tin Shui Wai Police Station. Further batches of vehicles were seen in the afternoon, although it wasn’t clear who was inside on each occasion,” government broadcaster RTHK reported.
News footage showed at least two were in handcuffs with black hoods over their heads.
“The Hong Kong Police Forces states that the eight suspects were returned after completion of legal proceedings by the mainland authorities,” RTHK quoted a police statement as saying.
On Dec. 31, 2020, a court in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong handed down jail terms of seven months to the eight detainees for “illegally crossing a border.” They were handed over to the custody of the Hong Kong police after time already served was taken into account.
The Yantian District People’s Court in Guangdong’s Shenzhen city also sentenced Tang Kai-yin to three years’ imprisonment for “organizing others to cross a border illegally,” and fellow activist Quinn Moon to two years on the same charge.
All 12 detainees were consistently denied access to defense attorneys hired by their families and allocated government-approved attorneys to represent them at a trial that was effectively held behind closed doors.
All had already faced actual or potential criminal charges in Hong Kong in connection with the 2019 protest movement.
Andy Li was taken to Yuen Long police station soon after arriving back in Hong Kong and arrested for “colluding with foreign forces” under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.
As the cars arrived at their initial stopping point at Tin Shui Wai police station, family members and supporters gathered outside shouting “Come home!” and “Hire a lawyer!” as dozens of police officers patrolled the gates.
The remaining seven detainees were also likely to be arrested on arrival, as they had faced charges before they left Hong Kong.
Families kept in the dark
Barrister Chow Hang-tung, who works with the Save 12 Hong Kong Youths Concern Group, said the families hadn’t been given any information about their loved ones’ return.
“It’s been seven months since they last saw their family members,” Chow said. “All they wanted to do was to see that they were OK, to wave at them even, but the police haven’t communicated with the families at all.”
“The families were calling the police stations over and over until this morning to ask if they had come back yet, and the police just said ‘no, not yet’.”
“It is ridiculous that they had to get this information from the media,” Chow said. “The detainees have a right to meet with their families and their lawyers.”
Chow said Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon had left the Yantian Detention Center following their sentencing, with Tang serving his jail term in Conghua Prison and Quinn Moon sent to the Baiyun District Women’s Prison.
She said their families had received letters from each of them since the transfer, and called on the Hong Kong authorities to assist in arranging family visits.
The remaining two detainees — Liu Tsz-man and Hoang Lam-fuk — were sent back to Hong Kong after escaping prosecution as they were under 18 at the time of their arrests.
However, Chow said they are currently on remand at the Pik Uk Prison awaiting trial after charges were brought linked to their escape bid on their return.
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