Nine Hong Kong activists have been accused perverting the course of justice after they attempted to flee to Taiwan last summer while facing protest-related offences in the city.

A group of nine male suspects – aged 17 to 31 – appeared before Principal Magistrate Peter Law at the Eastern Law Courts on Friday. They were among a group of 12 pro-democracy activists captured by the Chinese coastguard last August, and who later spent seven months in a mainland prison for making an illegal border crossing.

Eastern Law Courts Building. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

According to the charge sheet, the nine defendants are accused of committing a series of acts between December 2019 and August 23 last year with several people under aliases, with a tendency to hinder a police investigation and subsequent criminal proceedings.

They were said to have an intention to “pervert the course of public justice” and caused 12 criminal suspects, including themselves, to flee the Hong Kong jurisdiction. The maximum penalty for the offence is life in prison.

Two teenage fugitives – Liu Tsz-man, 18, and Hoang Lam-phuc, 17 – were handed over to Hong Kong police last December without charge, after a Shenzhen court said they admitted wrongdoing.

Eight others were transferred back to Hong Kong in March, while Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon are still serving their jail term in China for organising an illegal border crossing.

‘Process was not very ideal’

During Friday’s hearing, the suspects stood in two lines in the dock. Some wore a suit, while others were dressed in a t-shirt and hoodie.

They muttered to each other and smiled from time to time. They also looked at the public gallery, where some family members and supporters were seated.

Hong Kong 12 CUHK
A banner in the Chinese University of Hong Kong calling for support to save the 12 Hongkongers detained in China. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Hoang’s lawyer told the court that he, and other legal representatives, had not been formally notified about Friday’s hearing.

He said he only found out his client was going to court via news reports on Thursday, and later discovered police pressed charges against Hoang in Pik Uk Prison – where he is currently detained – on Wednesday.

“The process was not very ideal,” the lawyer said.

In response, Law told the defence to file their complaints to the relevant departments instead of to the court.

The case was adjourned to June 18, and all the defendants were remanded in custody.

As the activists left the courtroom, some people waved goodbye and chanted “add oil!” and “hang in there.” One defendant was seen giving a thumbs-up, while others waved back.

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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.