Hong Kong: At least four suspects were released on bail on Friday after being accused of helping Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors who tried to escape to Taiwan in wake of the draconian National Security Law imposed by Beijing.
South China Morning Post said that the eight men and three women (in total 11 arrests) were detained on suspicion of assisting offenders, a breach of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.
The arrests made by the police also included that of Kowloon City district councilor and lawyer Daniel Wong Kwok-tung. He was arrested from his home at around 6 am on Thursday and taken to his councilor’s office in Kowloon City as officers searched it.
A police source said the force would not prosecute the group at this stage and would grant them bail, although the investigation was ongoing.
“Until now, I cannot understand why I have been arrested. Lawyers will not knowingly break the law,” Wong said following his release shortly after 11.30 pm as quoted by South China Morning Post and added, “I will continue to use my position and my experience to continue what I believe I should do.”
The other suspects also 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. The media outlet further reported that both Wong and Fok said they paid HKD10,000 bail and must report back to police in March.
Investigations indicated the 11 suspects were not in breach of any ‘offenses’ under the draconian law, the insider added.
Lawmakers, on Friday, 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 as quoted by South China Morning Post.
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.
The draconian law imposed on the city by the Chinese Communist Party criminalizes secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect on July 1.
Under Article 43 of the Beijing-imposed law, the national security department is only required to obtain approval from the chief executive to intercept communications and conduct surveillance on any suspect.