Hong Kong police have said two teenagers who were among the 12 pro-democracy activists detained in China may face additional charges in the city, after mainland authorities handed the pair over to the force on Wednesday.

The two minor suspects Liu Tsz-man, 18, and Hoang Lam-phuc, 17, arrived in Hong Kong around noon, after four months of detention in Shenzhen over a bid to escape to Taiwan by speedboat. They were transferred to the Tin Shui Wai Police Station.

Senior Superintendents Kelly Cheng (right) and Tsang Chung-bun at a press briefing on December 30, 2020. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The 12 detainees – facing criminal charges in Hong Kong linked to the anti-extradition bill protests – were captured by Chinese coastguard on August 23 while trying to flee their home city. They stood accused of crossing the border illegally and organising an illegal border crossing.

Liu and Hoang were set to face a closed trial, but the Shenzhen Yantian District People’s court said on Wednesday that it would not prosecute the teens after they admitted wrongdoing. The other adult arrestees were convicted and jailed from between seven months and three years.

Senior superintendent Kelly Cheng of the Commercial Crime Bureau said at a press briefing that police would inform the local court about the return of Liu and Hoang earliest by Thursday morning. The force would apply to postpone their cases for 14 days as the pair had to go through a two-week Covid-19 mandatory quarantine.

“For these two absconded suspects, we will bring up this issue to the court tomorrow, and we will apply to the court to remand these two persons in jail custody. It is subject to the decision of the court,” Cheng said, adding that Liu and Hoang had called their family members at the police station, and their family members had to the right to visit the duo.

A petrol bomb seen at a protest in Hong Kong in 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Cheng told reporters that the force was seeking advice from the Department of Justice to see whether to press additional charges against the two young suspects. The senior superintendent said they may be charged for failing to surrender to custody under the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, as the pair jumped bail and did not show up at court hearings.

“The society will not tolerate offenders who choose to flee while awaiting to attend court hearings. They are evading from legal liabilities and violating the bail conditions given by the court,” Cheng said.

Liu was arrested in September last year on suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson, as police said they found materials in an apartment that could be used for making petrol bombs. Hoang, on the other hand, was apprehended last October for attempted arson and possession of offensive weapons after he allegedly threw petrol bombs at Mong Kok Police Station. The force said they found three other petrol bombs at the teenager’s home.

Jail term ‘wronged’

Some family members of the ten jailed Hongkongers said they thought the prison term was longer than expected, they also pressed the Chinese authorities to grant them access to the group.

Family members of the 12 detained Hongkongers in a press conference in September 2020. Photo: Apple Daily.

“I think for my son, whether the mainland sentenced him to one day or seven months, each day was wronged,” said the father of detainee Cheng Tsz-ho.

The mother of another activist Wong Wai-yin demanded information on visiting arrangements: “How many minutes per visit? What is the procedure? Can we leave them some winter clothes? Can I buy any food for my son? [I’m] begging China to inform us as soon as possible. I don’t expect anything from the Hong Kong government.”

‘Unfair trial’

Amnesty International responded to the imprisonment of the ten Hong Kong activists on Wednesday by slamming their trial as “unfair.” The human rights NGO expressed concern that the detainees may face ill-treatment in Chinese prisons.

“These sentences meted out after an unfair trial lay bare the dangers faced by anybody who finds themselves tried under the Chinese criminal system. This group of young Hongkongers will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment in Chinese jails,” said Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra.

The US-based Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC) also criticised the mainland authorities as denying the suspects of legal representation and called their four-month detention “arbitrary.”

“What unfolded inside the Shenzhen courtroom today confirmed what many Hongkongers feared most – that they no longer enjoy the same rights and protections under the rule of law and an independent judiciary system once guaranteed to all Hongkongers,” said Samuel Chu, managing director of the HKDC.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.