Quinn Moon, one of the 12 Hong Kong fugitives who attempted to flee to Taiwan in August 2020, has made her first court appearance in Hong Kong after being jailed for two years in mainland China.

Moon appeared before Acting Principal Magistrate Colin Wong at Fanling Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday, marking the first time the 35-year-old had been seen in a public setting in the city since she was apprehended by the Chinese coastguard while trying to leave Hong Kong by speedboat on August 23, 2020.

Fanling Law Courts Building. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

Sporting a cropped haircut and wearing a dark-coloured blazer, Moon appeared calm and spoke clearly. As the court secretary read out the details of the two charges, she replied: “[I] understand.”

She was not in court last week when the case was first mentioned, as she was undergoing Covid-19 quarantine following her return to Hong Kong after completing a two-year jail sentence in a Shenzhen jail for organising an illegal border crossing.

In Hong Kong, Moon faces one charge of “doing an act or a series of acts tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice” linked to her attempted escape with 11 others. The act, or acts, was said to have “a tendency” to obstruct police investigation and criminal proceedings.

Quinn Moon (wearing black head cover) was brought to the Tin Shui Wai police station on August 22, after finished serving a two-year jail term in mainland China. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Separately, she was charged with possessing a dangerous drug – 2.98 grams of cannabis – in a Mong Kok building on January 14, 2020.

The hearing was adjourned to October 12 to give time for the prosecution to prepare documents for the transfer of the perverting the course of justice case to the District Court, a higher court, and for police to conduct further investigations into the drug possession charge.

Moon did not apply for bail and will continue to be remanded in custody.

Failed escape attempt

Moon was among a group of 12 Hongkongers caught by the mainland Chinese coastguard when they tried to leave the city on a speedboat heading to Taiwan. Most on board were on bail pending trial over offences linked to the protests in 2019, including riot and arson.

A protest in 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

More than 10,000 arrests have been made in connection with the unrest that erupted over a proposed amendment to the city’s extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China – which activists say is known for an opaque justice system – to stand trial. Over the months, the demonstrations grew into a wider display of dissent against the Hong Kong and Beijing governments.

Moon, then 33, was wanted in connection with a bomb-making case at the time of the escape.

Two of the twelve were minors and were returned to Hong Kong in December 2020. Of the remaining 10, eight were sentenced to seven months in prison in mainland China following closed-door hearings. They were handed over to Hong Kong authorities in March last year after completing their jail terms.

Moon and Tang Kai-yin, who were found guilty of organising an illegal border crossing, were jailed for two and three years, respectively. Tang is still serving his sentence.

A banner in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, displayed in November 2020, calls for the release of the 12 Hongkongers detained in mainland China after a failed escape attempt to Taiwan. Photo: Studio Incendo.

The mainland lawyers who assisted the group were either forced to drop the case or had their licences revoked by the justice department.

Also on the speedboat was activist Andy Li, who was then under a national security investigation for an alleged conspiracy involving pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai to request foreign sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials.

Apart from Li, those who have returned faced an additional charge of perverting the course of justice on top of their original protest-related charges. They pleaded guilty in July and were sentenced to seven to ten months each.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.