Hong Kong police officers from the national security department have arrested 11 people on Thursday for allegedly helping the ‘Hong Kong 12’ flee the city for Taiwan by boat in August last year.
Local media and activists reported that eight men and three women, aged between 18 and 72, were detained on suspicion of assisting the offenders.
Daniel Wong, a lawyer who tried to help the 12, wrote on Facebook that police turned up at his home at around 6am to arrest him.
The 12 Hongkongers were intercepted by Guangdong coast guard on aboat believed to be heading to Taiwan and detained for months, before 10 of them were found guilty and sentenced to between seven months to three years by a Shenzhen court.
The remaining two, who were minors, were sent back to Hong Kong.
The detainees’ families said they had been denied access to independent lawyers and aired suspicion that Hong Kong authorities helped in China’s arrests.
In a brief statement, the police told Reuters they were still gathering information and could not make any immediate comment about the recent arrests.
Local media said those arrested were suspected of assisting the Hong Kong 12, who faced charges related to anti-government protests in the city in 2019, in their attempt to flee last year.
Taiwan has become a popular destination for Hong Kong activists since Beijing imposed a national security law in June 2020, a move that critics say is aimed at stamping out dissent and curbing freedoms.
More than 100 people have now been arrested under the national security law.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of freedoms not seen in China, including freedom of speech and assembly. Democracy activists complain that Communist Party rulers in China are whittling away at those freedoms, a charge Beijing rejects.
The United States and European Union have called for the activists to be released and allowed to return to Hong Kong. (Source: CNA)