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The Chinese flag flies outside the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong police seek mainland Chinese help in return of suspects tied to criminal cases, including foiled bomb plot, sources say

  • Group of 12 caught by Chinese Coast Guard trying to leave city now being held over the border
  • Source says police are liaising with the Office for Safeguarding National Security

Hong Kong police are seeking help from mainland Chinese officials in the city’s new national security office for the return of a dozen suspects tied to criminal cases stemming from last year’s social unrest, including a foiled bomb plot and a weapons seizure, the Post has learned.

The move came as mainland authorities officially notified the force’s liaison bureau on Friday of the arrest of the 11 men and one woman, who were found on board a speedboat that was intercepted by officers from the China Coast Guard on Sunday. Police believe they were attempting to escape to Taiwan.

A law enforcement source said that along with local activist Andy Li, who was arrested under the national security law earlier this month, the others, who were all Hongkongers, “included those who had been arrested during the anti-government protests”.
The Post has learned some of the suspects are linked to a foiled bomb plot last December when two home-made devices, each packed with 5kg of high-grade explosives, were found by police in Wah Yan College Hong Kong in Wan Chai.
Others within the group were said to be involved in a case, also in December, when police seized a large amount of weapons across the city. These included a Glock semi-automatic pistol and 105 bullets.

“Some of them had been charged but released on court bail, and some were banned from leaving the city under their bail conditions,” the source said, adding five were students, including one from the University of Hong Kong, another from Open University and a 16-year-old secondary school pupil. “Police are now liaising with mainland officials from the Office for Safeguarding National Security to arrange for the 12 Hongkongers to be sent back to the city.”

Activist Andy Li was among the 12 people arrested by the Chinese Coast Guard. Photo: Handout

But the source said it was not known whether they would be jailed on the other side of the border for illegal entry into mainland China.

On Wednesday, the coastguard announced that the 12 people had been arrested on suspicion of unlawfully crossing the border and were being held on the mainland.

Another source said officers were investigating whether the 12 suspects took the speedboat on their own, without any help from maritime smugglers, but added it was unlikely the vessel could carry the group all the way.

“We believe a bigger vessel, such as a fishing boat, was somewhere outside Hong Kong waters, waiting to pick them up and take them to southern Taiwan,” he said.

The source said the group would not have had too much trouble getting a boat, and “if you know a triad, they can put you in touch with the right people for a price”.

The Security Bureau said Hong Kong police were notified by mainland authorities about “criminal compulsory measures” imposed on the 12 Hong Kong residents, and that officers would try to find out more about their situation. Under China’s Criminal Procedure Law, the term can include arrest, detention, summons, bail pending trial, or residential surveillance.

“Police would notify their families as soon as possible of the criminal compulsory measures imposed on them. The Hong Kong administration will provide possible assistance according to their wishes,” the bureau said.

Hong Kong police meanwhile said they were notified by mainland authorities on Friday that 12 local individuals aged between 16 and 33 were being detained.

The force said it would maintain close contact and cooperation with counterparts across the border.

State-owned store drops Apple Daily, weeks after Jimmy Lai arrest

On August 10, Andy Li, A pple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, and four others were arrested on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security, in a high-profile police operation.

Also detained were Lai’s 39-year-old son Ian Lai Yiu-yan and Royston Chow Tat-kuen, the chief operating officer and chief financial officer of the newspaper’s parent company, Next Digital. The other two were former student activist Agnes Chow Ting, and another activist, Wilson Li Chung-chak, a freelancer for ITV and former member of the disbanded student activist group Scholarism.

The Post has learned that Agnes Chow and both Li’s are suspected of being “key members” in Hong Kong behind an online group called “I want laam caau”, while the media tycoon – together with Ian Lai and Royston Chow – is accused of funnelling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the group, via overseas bank accounts in different transactions over the past six weeks.

Here are details from police sources of the 12 Hongkongers arrested in the marine chase:

1. Andy Li, 29

Arrested on suspicion of money laundering and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security. Released on bail.

2. Cheung Chun-fu, 22, Open University student

Charged with conspiracy to wound with intent, and possession of instrument fit for unlawful purpose. Released on bail.

3. Cheung Ming-yu, 20, transport worker

Charged with conspiracy to wound with intent. Released on bail.

4. Yim Man-him, 21, vocational college student

Charged with conspiracy to wound with intent. Released on bail.

5. Li Tsz-yin, 29, surveyor

Charged with rioting, assaulting a police officer during the execution of his duty. Released on bail.

6. Kok Tsz-lun, 18, HKU student

Charged with rioting, possession of an instrument fit for unlawful purpose, and possession of an offensive weapon. Released on bail.

7. Cheng Tsz-ho, 17, trainee technician

Charged with conspiracy to commit arson with intent. Released on bail.

8. Liu Tsz-man, 17, student

Charged with conspiracy to commit arson with intent and criminal damage. Released on bail.

9. Hoang Lam-phuc, 16, student

Charged with arson with intent and possession of an offensive weapon. Wanted by police after jumping bail.

10. Tang Kai-yin, 30, salesman

Charged with conspiracy to commit arson with intent. Released on bail.

11. Wong Wai-yin, 29, technician

Charged with conspiracy to make an explosive. Released on bail.

12. An unnamed woman

Wanted by police for a bomb-making case in Sheung Shui.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Suspects ‘tied to bomb plot’ among fleeing activists