A recording of a person claiming to be 18-year-old localist Lee Sin-yi has surfaced online, in-keeping with earlier reports that she fled to Taiwan ahead of a court date related to her participation in last year’s unrest in Mong Kok.

Taiwan authorities confirmed to HKFP in June that Lee had entered Taiwan using a tourist visa in January, and there was no record of her departing. Lee was previously missing from court hearings and an arrest warrant has been issued.

Lee Sin-yi.

In an audio statement posted by localist Edward Tang on Saturday, the person claiming to be Lee described how Hong Kong had become unfamiliar to her in recent years, with even the coldest, most self-centered Hongkongers joining the localism movement to protect the city.

The person alleging to be Lee said it was chilling that many localists wanted to devote their energy to the legislature, but they were either barred from running or later disqualified by the government: “Even the more moderate individuals in society have been gradually sent to prison. Ultimately, within the system, the route towards elections has been disconnected, and even participants of civic demonstrations and protests permitted under the law have become political prisoners.”

“You can say that I’m a coward, escaping a trial by the Hong Kong judiciary. But in my heart, it has been a long time since I believed that there is rule of law,” the statement continued. It also stated that the judicial process was a method to oppress Hong Kong’s social movements, and that the prosecutions in relation to the Mong Kok unrest were political persecutions.

The Mong Kok protests broke out during Lunar New Year last February over efforts by the authorities to clear street hawkers. Many participants have since been sentenced to jail on rioting charges.

Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

The person said to be Lee also questioned whether there could be rule of law without democracy, and compared the Mong Kok trials to the trials relating to the Formosa Incident in Taiwan, where protests calling for democracy led to public arrests and trials by the Kuomintang-led government in 1979.

“[W]e had once proudly and mistakenly believed that under the rule of law in Hong Kong, it would not be possible for there to be political prisoners in Hong Kong. Now, not only does our judiciary create political prisoners, but Hong Kong also has political exiles like me.”

“If there is no way to ensure that there is sufficient segregation between China and Hong Kong, then… ultimately within 30 years ‘two systems’ will cease to exist, and only Hong Kong city in Guangdong Province, China, will be left.”

“Sorry I chose exile, but if I were to become a stranger in my own hometown in China’s Hong Kong when I’m middle-aged, I’d rather escape in search of a new opportunity for freedom,” the person speaking in the audio clip said.

The statement refuted claims that Lee was assisted by Taiwan’s New Power Party or human rights organisation, and said it was a pro-independence party that offered her help. The person in the recording signed off with Lee’s name and thanked localists for “protecting Hong Kong.”

There is no treaty in place to transfer fugitives between Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the past, top Hong Kong police officers who were accused of corruption in the 1970s stayed in Taiwan for decades, sometimes until their passing.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.