A 29-year-old man was charged on Wednesday with conspiring to collude with foreign forces, a violation of Hong Kong’s national security law punishable by up to life imprisonment.

black clad protesters court
Dozens of citizens show up at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court in black tops. File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The man named Chan Tsz-wah, a paralegal, was said to be involved in assisting activist Andy Li in his bid to escape to Taiwan in August last year, and allegedly provided him with accommodation and financial support. Chan was first arrested in October, Apple Daily reported, citing unnamed sources.

Police arrested Lai again on Tuesday in connection with this case, while in detention at the Stanley Prison, Oriental Daily reported.

Li was among a group of 12 activists — facing criminal charges in Hong Kong linked to the anti-extradition bill protests — who were arrested by the Chinese coastguard on August 23 last year while fleeing to Taiwan by speedboat. They were later charged by mainland authorities with illegally entering their waters.

HK 12
Family members of a group of Hong Kong democracy activists, who tried to flee the city by speedboat to Taiwan last August, hold a press conference in Hong Kong on December 28, 2020, the first day of their trial across the border in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. File Photo: Peter Parks.

In December, ten of the fugitives were given sentences ranging from seven months to three years by a Shenzhen court, while two minors were returned to Hong Kong, where they may face further charges. A total of 20 other individuals were arrested by Hong Kong police for allegedly aiding the escape.

Lai arrested in prison

Represented by senior council Nigel Kat, Chan appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts following his arrest on Monday.

He is facing one count of conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, a charge under the national security law. Chan is accused of conspiring with Apple Daily‘s founder Jimmy Lai, Lai’s executive Mark Herman Simon, activists Andy Li, Finn Lau and others, to request foreign countries or overseas organisation and individuals to impose sanctions, embargo or other hostile actions against Hong Kong and China, between July 1 last year and February 15.

Andy Li
Andy Li. File Photo: Screenshot via Youtube.

Chan is also charged with one count of conspiracy to assist an offender under the Crimes Ordinance, by conspiring with Li, Lai and others, to assist Li’s escape to Taiwan in an attempt to obstruct his arrest and prosecution, between July and August 23 last year, despite having knowledge or belief that Li had committed indictable crimes. The prosecution was represented by Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang.

Chan was arrested on Tuesday after an investigation, said a police statement.

West Kowloon Magistrates Court Law Courts Building
West Kowloon Magistrates Courts. File photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The prosecution asked that the case be adjourned for another eight weeks while the police investigate the suspect’s electronic devices and bank records, including bank transactions by Lai and Simon. The defence argued that the court should only grant four weeks.

So far, 98 people have been arrested for violating the national security law since its enactment in June last year.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.