Family members of Hong Kong activist Andy Li say they cannot locate him after he was charged under the national security law this week, according to a concern group on Thursday.
The Save 12 HK Youths group said Li’s family could not find out where the 30-year-old is currently being detained after he was said to be at Covid-19 quarantine facility. He was among a group of eight people handed over to local police on Monday after serving seven months behind bars in China for an illegal border crossing.
They were part of a 12-strong activist group detained in Chinese waters last August while trying to flee from Hong Kong to Taiwan by speedboat. Most were facing charges linked to the months of anti-government unrest in the city in 2019.
Police filed three charges against Li on Wednesday, including collusion with foreign powers which is an offence under the security law, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. He also stands accused of conspiracy to assist an offender and possession of spent ammunition without a licence.
Li did not appear when the case was mentioned at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts the same day, since he and the seven others are serving compulsory Covid-19 quarantine until April 4th. No family members or legal representatives of Li attended the hearing but the defendant had met with his lawyers, according to the prosecution cited by local media. The case was adjourned to next Wednesday.
The concern group said Li’s family learned from news reports that prosecutors had asked the court to place the activist under the supervision of the Correctional Services Department (CSD). But when they inquired about Li’s status, the CSD said it had no such person in detention.
“Police said they did not know Andy Li’s location, family members did not receive information from any CSD institute about Li’s situation and [his] custodial arrangements,” the concern group said in a statement.
It urged the Security Bureau to say where Li is being held since his family was “very worried” at their lack of news about him.
In response to HKFP‘s enquiries, the CSD said they would not comment on individual cases. The department said they would follow established mechanisms to ask newly-admitted persons in custody whether they need assistance to inform their family members where they are being detained.
“If persons in custody refuse to disclose to anyone their detention location, the department would handle in accordance with their preferences,” the CSD said in an email reply, adding detainees could later inform family and friends about the arrangement through writing letters.
Activists Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon are still imprisoned in the mainland, after they received heavier penalties of three and two years behind bars, respectively, for organising an illegal border crossing.
Two teenagers in the case were sent back to Hong Kong last December without charge after admitting wrongdoing. Police later said they may press charges against the duo for allegedly fleeing the city pending trial.
On Thursday, the concern group said six of those sent back on Monday – including Li – had refused to be represented by the lawyers arranged by their families according to police. The group refused to give further details of the refusals.
Apart from Li, the six suspects had no legal representation when their cases were mentioned in several different courts on Tuesday. Their families confirmed that they are either being held at the the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre or the Pik Uk Correctional Institution, while they undergo quarantine.