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Radio Free Asia

Arrested Speedboat Fugitive Andy Li 'Missing' After Return to Hong Kong

2021-03-26 -- A Hong Kong activist who served a seven-month jail term in southern China after trying to flee his home city along with 11 others by speedboat is incommunicado following his return to Hong Kong, his family and a concern group have said.

Andy Li was taken to Hong Kong's Yuen Long police station soon after arriving back on March 22 at the end of his jail term, and immediately arrested under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

Li, 30, faces three charges, including "collusion with foreign powers" under the security law, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, as well as early charges related to the possession of spent police ammunition from protests in 2019, as well as "conspiracy to assist an offender."

His case was mentioned in a hearing at the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court on the same day, but Li himself wasn't in court, as he is currently in compulsory 14-day quarantine.

But the Save 12 Hong Kong Youths Concern Group said his family had been told both by police and the Correctional Service Department (CSD) that they didn't know where he was, and that his name no longer appeared on their systems.

"The [families] later confirmed that seven of the eight [detainees] had been sent to Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre and Pik Uk Correctional Institution, but we have not been able to locate the whereabouts of Andy Li, who has also refused the lawyer arranged by his family," the group said in a post on its Facebook page.

According to media reports, the prosecution applied to the court on March 24 for Li to be transferred to the custody of the CSD, while the prosecution revealed that Li had met with a lawyer who is not known to his family, it said.

"When Li's family inquired with the CSD and the police, the CSD said there was no such person, while the police said they were not sure of Li's location," the group said.

"The family is worried because no government official has contacted the family since Li was detained by the Hong Kong authorities four days ago," it said, calling on the government to clarify Li's whereabouts and status.

The reports that Li has dismissed his defense attorney sparked concern on social media that he is being held by the Hong Kong branch of China's feared state security police, which has taken over a hotel in Causeway Bay as its headquarters, and who are mandated to deal with national security cases deemed more "serious" by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CSD has responded to media inquiries, saying it won't comment on individual cases.

'Money laundering, fake news'

Police on Friday arrested a a 25-year-old woman in connection with a Facebook account titled Hong Kong Freedom Book, on suspicion of "money-laundering," a charge that is frequently used to target pro-democracy activists raising money that includes overseas donations.

The woman was also accused of posting "fake news" about police, after the page reported that police had treated protesters badly.

The arrest came after a March 22 post saying that the page "is already in police sights."

The page had been crowdfunding to assist Hong Kong protesters and to fund a non-fiction book documenting the 2019 protest movement, to be translated into other languages.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government has called on other countries not to recognize the U.K.-issued British National Overseas (BNO) passport, which many young Hongkongers are using to apply for working holiday visas in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia.

The government has informed foreign consulates in a letter that it no longer considers the British National Overseas (BNO) passport a valid travel document as of Jan. 31, 2021.

A spokewoman for the Foreign Office in London said Hong Kong had no authority to dictate which passports foreign governments recognize as valid.

"The UK will continue to issue British Nationals (Overseas) passports which remain valid travel documents," she told Reuters.

Reported by Chan Yun Nam for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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