This picture taken on 19 September 2020 from across the water in Hong Kong shows a view of the skyline of Yantian, a district in the neighbouring Chinese mainland city of Shenzhen. A dozen Hong Kongers, now known as the “Hong Kong 12” who were caught in August trying to flee the city via speedboat to Taiwan, have since disappeared into the mainland’s opaque and party-controlled justice system and held in Shenzhen, compounding fears in Hong Kong that Beijing’s authoritarianism is creeping into the finance hub/AFP/May James.

A Hong Kong democracy activist who made a failed escape to Taiwan by speedboat was charged with a national security crime on Wednesday, a day after he was returned to the city by Chinese police.

Andy Li, 30, was one of 12 “speedboat fugitives” who were picked up by Chinese coastguard last August as they made a bid to escape charges linked to taking part in 2019’s democracy protests.

They were jailed in mainland China for illegal border crossing and eight of them were returned to Hong Kong custody on Monday after serving their sentences.

On Wednesday police said Li had now been charged with colluding with foreign forces, one of the crimes outlawed in a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year.

He was also charged with conspiring to assist criminals and a count of possessing unlicensed ammunition, according to a statement.

Li’s case is linked to that of Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media tycoon who is currently in custody on national security charges because he allegedly advocated for sanctions against Hong Kong.

Li was first arrested in the same operation that targeted Lai last year but he then made his failed attempt to flee.

China and Hong Kong’s authorities have used the national security law to hammer the city’s democracy movement after 2019’s huge and often violent demonstrations.

More than 100 people have been arrested under the law since it was enacted in June.

Most of those charged are denied bail. The maximum penality for those convicted is life in prison.


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