A Hong Kong man who was arrested by the Chinese authorities in 2020 during a bid to escape to Taiwan by sea has been handed over to Hong Kong police. Tang Kai-yin was facing a charge relating to the 2019 protests when he attempted to flee.

Tang Kai-yin
Tang Kai-yin was brought to Tin Shui Wai police station on August 22, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

After serving a three-year jail sentence in a southern city of Guangdong province, he was escorted back to the city on Tuesday morning, local media reported.

Tang was brought to the police station in Tin Shui Wai in a black vehicle, which had its back seat windows shielded by curtains. The vehicle was driven into a covered parking lot that was inaccessible to reporters, HKFP observed. HKFP has reached out to the police for comment.

He is scheduled to appear at the city’s District Court on Wednesday.

Tang was among a group of 12 Hongkongers caught by the mainland Chinese coastguard on August 23, 2020 when they attempted to flee to Taiwan on a speedboat. 

Tang Kai-yin
Tang Kai-yin was handed over to the police station in Tin Shui Wai on Tuesday morning. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Most on board were on bail pending trial over offences linked to the protests in 2019, including rioting and arson. Tang faced a charge of conspiracy to endanger life by fire with intent.

All 12 were caught by the mainland Chinese coastguard on August 23, 2020 and suspected of illegally crossing the border. Information from the mainland Chinese authorities was limited at first, prompting the families of the 12 Hongkongers to hold a press conference with pro-democracy activists in September to urge the Hong Kong government to ensure their rights and arrange their transfer back to the city.

Two of the 12 were minors and were returned to Hong Kong in December 2020. Of the remaining 10, eight were charged over crossing the border illegally and 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.

Quinn Moon and Tang, convicted of organising an illegal border crossing, were imprisoned for two and three years respectively.

quinn moon Hong Kong Twelve
Quinn Moon (in black hood) was brought to the Tin Shui Wai police station on August 22, 2022 after she finished serving a two-year jail term in mainland China. File Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Moon was handed over to Hong Kong exactly one year ago after serving her sentence. She faces charges of making explosives, possessing explosives and perverting the course of justice, all of which she told the court in June that she would plead guilty to.

She is scheduled to submit her plea in court in January next year, local media reported.

Tang was the last member of the group to return to Hong Kong.

His brother told local media outlet Initium Media last July that the family had not received any letters from Tang since February. Two letters the family mailed to the prison were marked “unclaimed” and returned back to Hong Kong, he added.

Save 12 Hong Kong Twelve
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.

A system that allowed family members to view updates relating to inmates was scarcely refreshed, his brother said. Only after speaking with media outlets did the system update, from which he learnt that Tang was punished for violations including failing to pay attention while taking part in activities, he added.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.