Hong Kong cops arrest 11 for assisting pro-democracy protesters' escape attempt
The Hong Kong national security police have arrested a lawyer, a Ukrainian man and nine others on suspicion of bankrolling an attempt by 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors to flee the city in order to escape to Taiwan amid Beijing's imposition of the draconian National Security Law.
South China Morning Post reported that a police source confirmed the arrests early on Thursday of eight men and three women aged 18 to 72 for "assisting offenders", an offence under the Criminal Procedure Ordinance carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.
The source claimed that the 11 individuals were accused of sponsoring the fugitives' attempt to abscond, with the level of funds offered by each of them ranging from a few thousand Hong Kong dollars to tens of thousands.
"They also provided assistance such as introducing middlemen to the fugitives, arranging shoreline pickups and providing hiding locations," the source said as quoted by South China Morning Post.
Lawyer Daniel Wong Kwok-tung, 72, who is also a Kowloon City district councillor, wrote on his Facebook page that officers from police's National Security Department arrived at his home at 6.10 am on Thursday.
Handcuffed as he was escorted from his office, Wong said: "Democracy, rule of law, human rights, persistence. Hongkongers do not give up."
A group of rights activists was arrested off the coast of Hong Kong on August 23 while allegedly trying to flee to Taiwan by boat.
The detainees have been charged for offenses related to the city's pro-democracy demonstrations due to the authoritarian National Security Law imposed by Beijing.
On December 30, a Chinese court jailed 10 of the activists for sentences of up to three years. Two minors who were part of the escape attempt have also been returned to Hong Kong.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo while lambasting the Chinese Communist Party for the treatment to a group of 12 pro-democracy protestors who tried to flee to Taiwan in wake of Beijing's imposition of the draconian law, called on China to immediately release the 10 Hong Kong activists.
The draconian law imposed on the city by the Chinese Communist Party criminalises secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect from July 1.