Chinese coast guards arrested at least twelve activists, reportedly aged sixteen to thirty years old, as they fled Hong Kong on August 23rd via speedboat. The activists were facing criminal arrest charges for protest activities in violation of the Hong Kong National Security Law and attempted to escape to Taiwan.
The boat was intercepted by the Chinese coast guard on the way to Taiwan, which often offers sanctuary to people escaping China’s authoritarian mainland. Reportedly still in police custody, there has been no additional information released as to whether the individuals will be sent back to Hong Kong or face charges in mainland China’s stricter courts. Instead,the Chinese coast guard has only stated that the case was still “under investigation.”
Under mainland law, the individuals can be subject to one year in prison for illegal border crossing. And that isn’t including their penalty for their pre-existing criminal charges and their attempt to flee in escape from them.
Among those arrested is Andy Li, 30, a prominent activist who was arrested two weeks prior and out on bail under the draconian National Security Law. He co-founded the Fight for Freedom Stand for Hong Kong, a campaign which raised 1.7 million pounds to support pro-democracy activities, and helped establish the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.
No other arrested individuals have been identified.
Since enacted in June, the National Security Law has been responsible for over 25 arrests of prominent activists and journalists.
The National Security Law criminalize acts of “secession,” “subversion,” “terrorism,” and “collusion,” all of which are vaguely defined to optimize the number of unfair arrests. Bypassing Hong Kong’s legislative body in their “one country, two systems” policy as a Special Administrative Region of China in 1997, the law was specifically designed to silence Hong Kong protesters and pro-democracy activists. Violating the law could result in trials held in mainland China, which are known for their highly controversial nature and closed bench trial proceedings. Sentencing includes a minimum of three years and a maximum of a life sentence in Chinese prisons. The law also enacts Beijing security forces in Hong Kong, which often act with impunity, bypassing the region’s already strict policing system.
However, only one individual has been formally charged for violating the National Security Law. 23 year old Tong Ying-kit was accused of inciting succession and terrorist activities after he allegedly pushed a motorcycle carrying a protest flag into Hong Kong police officers on July 1st. The flag featured the slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” which was formally criminalized by the security law. He has been detained since July 6th and denied bail, as his background allegedly constitutes him as a “flight risk” and a “re-offending” risk. Tong’s writ of habeas corpus has also been dismissed, as Chinese courts determined that his detention was lawful. Tong Ying-kit’s next hearing is scheduled for October 6th.
Other arrests include the arrest of Jimmy Lai, the owner of the newspaper Apple Daily, who was arrested on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces, and 23-year-old activist Agnes Chow, who was arrested for inciting secession. Both have since been released on police bail, but most of those arrested have had their passports confiscated.
Despite the overwhelming nature of the National Security Law, there is plenty you can do.
- Share on social media. In order to enact change, people must know about the issues. Common tags include #save12HKyouth, #StandwithHongKong, #FightforFreedom
- Amplify the voices of those arrested. The purpose of the National Security Law is to silence activists, so share their writings and speeches and raise their voices, despite their arrest.
This story is still developing. Raise the Voices will be releasing additional articles and profiles on arrested activists.