Nine out of the 10 fugitives who had served jail terms in mainland China for illegally crossing the border while attempting to flee to Taiwan will appear in a Hong Kong court on Friday to face charges of perverting the course of justice.
A police source said on Thursday that the only member of the group not being charged with the offence was Andy Li Yu-hin, but no further details were immediately available.
The nine male defendants, aged between 17 and 31, were charged on Wednesday and will appear in Eastern Court on Friday afternoon, according to the source.
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The Post was told the charge was initiated by the Department of Justice after it studied a recent overseas judgment which proved that avoiding trial was considered an act influencing the course of justice.
The offence of perversion of justice in Hong Kong falls under the Criminal Procedures Ordinance. A court can impose any term of imprisonment or amount of fine subject to the statutory restriction on the maximum sentence it can deliver.
This means if a case is heard at the magistrate court, the maximum jail term will be three years. For a District Court case, the mark is seven years, and for a High Court case, life imprisonment.
The 10 are among 12 fugitives captured at sea on August 23 last year by the mainland Chinese coastguard while trying to flee to Taiwan. All faced charges or arrest over their roles in the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
Two underaged members in the group were returned to the city last December, while the others were jailed in Shenzhen for between seven months and three years for illegally crossing the border.
Eight of them, including Andy Li, were then sent back to the city in March.
The remaining two, Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon, convicted of organising the border crossing, remain in prison on the mainland. Quinn is the only woman in the group.
Additional reporting by Brian Wong
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong protests: five fugitives who fled to Taiwan ‘seeking asylum in the United States’
- Hong Kong teen who tried to flee to Taiwan with other fugitives faces new bail-jumping charge