At least four suspects released on bail after being accused of helping HK fugitives flee; others expected to follow, source says

19-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

All suspects still in custody on suspicion of helping a dozen Hong Kong fugitives flee the city last year were expected to be released on bail by Friday night, the Post has learned.

At least four of the 11 arrested by the police force’s National Security Department on Thursday morning have already been freed.

The eight men and three women, aged 18 to 72, including Kowloon City district councillor and lawyer Daniel Wong Kwok-tung, were detained on suspicion of assisting offenders, a breach of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

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A police source said the force would not prosecute the group at this stage and would grant them bail, although the investigation was ongoing.

Wong, 72, was arrested at his home at around 6am on Thursday and taken to his councillor’s office in Kowloon City as officers searched it.

“Until now, I cannot understand why I have been arrested. Lawyers will not knowingly break the law,” Wong said following his release shortly after 11.30pm. “I will continue to use my position and my experience to continue what I believe I should do.”

Other suspects included a 29-year-old Ukrainian man who works at a restaurant, two students aged 18 and 19, and 29-year-old musician Rono Fok.

“I will continue to do what’s right to help other arrested individuals legally,” Fok said after his release.

Both Wong and Fok said they paid a HK$10,000 (US$1,290) bail and must report back to police in March.

Willis Ho Kit-wang, one of 13 activists convicted over the storming of the city’s Legislative Council in 2014, accompanied her mother, surnamed Cheung, out of Tsuen Wan police station shortly before 9pm. Cheung refused to comment on the case, but said she paid HK$10,000 bail and did not need to surrender her travel documents.

The Post was previously told the 11 suspects were accused of sponsoring the fugitives’ attempt to flee the city in August last year, with the amount of money offered by each of them ranging from a few thousand Hong Kong dollars to tens of thousands. They were said to have also provided help by introducing middlemen to the fugitives, arranging shoreline pickups and providing hiding locations.

Investigations so far indicated the 11 were not in breach of any offences under the national security law, the insider added. The national security unit led the operation because it was overseeing the fugitives’ cases, adding none of those arrested had been detained by the department before.

The 12 fugitives were arrested at sea by the Chinese coastguard while they were heading to Taiwan, with 10 of them jailed for between seven months and three years on December 30 in Shenzhen for either illegally crossing the border or organising the crime. They were fleeing charges linked to the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Two underage suspects were returned to local police and are facing trial.

Separately in the Legislative Council on Friday, lawmakers expressed concerns over the surveillance and interception operations by the National Security Department as the officers were not regulated under the Interception of Communications and Surveillance Ordinance.

“Do you think the ordinance is now left as an empty shell and is useless?” asked lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai from Civic Passion.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu said such operations must be reported to and be supervised by the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, and the city’s surveillance commissioner had no power to scrutinise the work.

“Cheng’s remark is not true and he is making an unfair attack against the ordinance,” Lee said. “The surveillance and interception operations under the national security law are supervised by another mechanism, which is in parallel with the current check and balance system.”

Under the ordinance, enacted in 2006, law enforcement officers must obtain approval from the commissioner before launching such operations.

The ordinance covers officers from four agencies police, customs, immigration and the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

But under Article 43 of the national security law, which took effect in June last year, the national security department is only required to obtain approval from the chief executive to intercept communications and conduct surveillance on any suspect.


Category: Hong Kong

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