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Hong Kong police arrest 9 suspected in failed attempt to get activists to Taiwan

Click to play video 'Hong Kong police arrest nine people suspected of helping 12 activists held in China' Hong Kong police arrest nine people suspected of helping 12 activists held in China
WATCH: Hong Kong police arrest nine people suspected of helping 12 activists held in China – Oct 10, 2020

Hong Kong police said on Saturday they had arrested nine people suspected of helping 12 Hong Kong activists who fled the city in August, heading for Taiwan, only to be intercepted by Chinese authorities and held on the mainland.

The dozen, accused of crimes tied to anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, are being detained in the southern city of Shenzhen after authorities intercepted their boat and accused them of illegal border crossing.

Read more: At least 86 arrested in Hong Kong for protesting on Chinese holiday

Superintendent Ho Chun-tung, of the police’s organized crime and triad bureau, said they had arrested four males and five females, suspected of arranging transport for the 12 fugitives.

He did not rule out the possibility of further arrests.

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Hong Kong protests: Pro-democracy activists appear in court to face charges – Sep 18, 2020

The police also seized HK$500,000 (US$64,500) in cash, computers, mobile phones, and documents related to the purchase of a boat, Ho said.

The detainees’ case has grabbed international headlines and human rights groups have raised concerns. The families say the detainees have been denied access to independent lawyers.

Hong Kong authorities have said the 12 will be represented by mainland lawyers chosen by the detainees from a list provided by Chinese authorities, and that they have offered “needed and feasible” assistance to the families and will continue to do so.

Read more: U.S. issues new travel warning for China, Hong Kong over security law

People began fleeing to Taiwan from the early months of the Hong Kong protests last year, mostly legally by air, but sometimes by fishing boat, activists in Taipei who have helped Hong Kong citizens obtain visas, have told Reuters.

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This has caused a dilemma for Taiwan, which has promised assistance to the people of Hong Kong but is wary of antagonizing China.

(Reporting by Jessie Pang; Writing by Alun John; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Richard Pullin)