HONG KONG—Hong Kong police arrested nine people on Saturday who they said aided a group of antigovernment activists—known locally as the Hong Kong 12—that attempted to flee the city by boat only to be intercepted by mainland authorities and taken to China, where they now await trial.
The arrests, which police said came after they received information from their mainland counterparts, were the latest in a deepening campaign against dissent in Hong Kong, which for more than a year has seen waves of mass protest against China’s Communist Party government.
Among those detained Saturday, police said, was the original owner of the boat that carried the escaping activists, as well as people who provided accommodation for them or gave them rides to their departure point on the morning of Aug. 23.
All nine were accused of assisting fugitives. If charged and convicted, they could face up to 10 years in prison, police said.
Hong Kong Police Senior Superintendent Ho Chun-tung said police also seized more than 500,000 Hong Kong dollars, or about $64,000, and receipts for transactions related to the boat. He said the 12 activists each paid tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars to be smuggled out.
Eddie Chu, a pro-democracy politician, said it was clear police in Hong Kong and the mainland had a “sophisticated plan” to crack down on the supporters of Hong Kong’s protest movement.
“I think it’s only the beginning of this kind of arrest,” he said.
The Hong Kong 12 had all been facing charges in Hong Kong related to pro-democracy activities before they fled. The Chinese Coast Guard stopped their boat in the South China Sea. Since August, they have been held in a detention center in the mainland city of Shenzhen.
Prosecutors there have accused most of them of illegal border crossing, a charge that carries a one-year sentence. Two—a 31-year-old salesman named Tang Kai-yin, and Quinn Moon, 33, the only woman on the boat—were accused of organizing the trip and could face longer prison terms.
Families of the detainees in Hong Kong said they have had no contact with the group and the lawyers they hired have been barred from meeting them by the mainland authorities.
Former Hong Kong legislator Leung Kwok-hung said his ex-assistant, Tang Yuen-ching, was one of the nine people arrested Saturday. Ms. Tang, 72, is married to an activist who was imprisoned for 10 years in Guangdong province in the 1980s after he traveled there to help dissidents on the mainland.
Others, aged 27 and above, are mostly friends of the fugitives, police said. One is a cook, another is a music teacher and another is an office worker.
Mr. Ho, the police senior superintendent, said the investigation is ongoing and will focus on whether the group helped smuggle others out of Hong Kong. There might be more arrests, he said.
Write to Wenxin Fan at [email protected]
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