A case involving a Hong Kong protester jailed in mainland China has been scheduled to be mentioned in the city’s District Court on Wednesday, three years after he was caught while allegedly attempting to flee to Taiwan.

was among a group of 12 activists caught by mainland Chinese coastguards in August 2020, when they tried to leave the city on a speedboat heading to Taiwan.
Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Tang Kai-yin, whose case will be mentioned the District Court on Wednesday afternoon, was among 12 Hongkongers intercepted by mainland Chinese authorities in August 2020. Tang is the last of the group still detained in mainland China.

They were caught by the mainland Chinese coastguard on August 23, 2020, while attempting to flee the city for Taiwan on a speedboat, and were arrested on suspicion of illegal border crossing. Most of those on board were on bail pending trial over protest-related offences, including rioting, arson and making explosives.

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.

Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”

Failed escape

The 12 were handed over to police in Shenzhen, a city across the border from Hong Kong. Tang, who was 30 at the time of his arrest, was subsequently convicted of organising an illegal border crossing and sentenced to three years in jail – the heaviest sentence of the group.

quinn moon Hong Kong Twelve
Quinn Moon (wearing a black head cover) is taken to Tin Shui Wai police station on August 22, 2022, after serving a two-year jail term in mainland China. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Quinn Moon was sentenced to two years behind bars for the same charge. Moon, who was 33 when apprehended, returned to Hong Kong last August after completing her sentence.

The mainland Chinese courts spared minors Liu Tsz-man and Hoang Lam-phuc, who were sent back to Hong Kong on December 30, 2020. Eight others were handed over to the Hong Kong authorities in March 2021 after serving seven months in mainland prisons.

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

Apart from Li, those who have returned have faced an additional charge of perverting the course of justice on top of their original charges, including rioting, arson and making explosives. Six pleaded guilty to their new charges in July.

hong kong twelve save 12
Pro-democracy activist Alexandra Wong holding a “Save 12” sign. Photo: Supplied.

According to court records, there is a warrant for Tang to be rearrested upon his return to Hong Kong.

Two human rights lawyers – Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu – had their licenses revoked in early 2021 after they were hired to represent two of the defendants. Lu and Ren both received notices from mainland Chinese authorities saying they had “damaged the image” of the legal industry.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.