Seven Hong Kongers who tried to flee to Taiwan by speedboat to escape protest-related charges were yesterday sentenced to between seven and 10 months imprisonment for acts to “pervert the course of justice.”
The seven men were among 12 people involved in the territory’s democracy movement who were in August 2020 caught by the Chinese coast guard on a speedboat bound for Taiwan.
After serving time in a prison in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, all except two have returned to Hong Kong.
Six of them were sentenced to 10 months, while 32-year-old Li Tsz-yin (李子賢) was sentenced to seven months. Li is currently serving a three-year-and-six-month jail term for rioting and assaulting a police officer.
Defense lawyers had argued that the men had already served time in a mainland Chinese jail, but Deputy District Judge Newman Wong (王興偉) said the men had “given the public a sense of contempt for the judiciary and a deliberate challenge to the legal system.”
The sentencing came just days after another group of young men, including one shot by a police officer in 2019, were caught during a purported attempt to flee Hong Kong by boat.
Steve Li (李桂華), senior superintendent at the Hong Kong Police Force’s national security department, told reporters that the group of four men, aged 16 to 24, had been arrested in the countryside at dawn on Wednesday.
They had all faced rioting and illegal assembly charges, but had failed to show up in court, leading to warrants being issued for their arrests.
Since late 2020 and early last year, the four men had holed up in various places including a windowless room in an industrial building, supported by a group of handlers, some of whom had since fled to the UK, Steve Li said.
“Because they knew the police were investigating their whereabouts, they kept changing their hiding place,” Steve Li told reporters. “They were placed in cardboard boxes and moved about, like cargo, to new hideouts.”
Local media said the group had been en route to a speedboat at a remote pier that was bound for Taiwan, and had been caught with New Taiwan dollars and multiple phone cards among other items.
“We saw that all four of the men had long, unkempt hair, their bodies were very thin and they looked anguished and downcast,” Steve Li said.
One of the suspects, 21-year-old Tsang Chi-kin (曾志健), was brought into court on Thursday with chains around the wrists and waist, sporting shoulder-length hair and dressed in black shorts.
Tsang, a former high-school student, was shot in the chest by police on Oct. 1, 2019, only to be charged with rioting. He later sought asylum in the US consulate, but was rejected.
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