Hong Kong activist Andy Li held at psychiatric hospital in secret after return from mainland

Published (HKT): 2021.03.29 00:01

Hong Kong activist Andy Li has been held in solitary confinement at a psychiatric hospital after being charged under the national security law, according to sources.

Hong Kong authorities have refused to disclose Li’s whereabouts since last Monday, when he was transferred back to the city after completing a prison sentence in mainland China. Li spent seven months behind bars for illegally crossing the Chinese border in an attempt to flee to Taiwan by sea last year.

On his return to Hong Kong, Li faced fresh charges under the city’s national security law — a draconian legislation brought in just weeks before Li and 11 others made their unsuccessful escape bid. He was immediately taken into custody. Li’s family has been unable to find his whereabouts, despite making urgent inquiries at various government departments.

Li is being held in solitary confinement at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, sources told Apple Daily. The maximum-security institution has a history of alleged abuses against its inmates.

Li’s case was handled by a special unit in the Correctional Services Department, colloquially known as the “secret unit,” the sources told Apple Daily.

Li received special attention because authorities wanted to prevent him from “speaking out of turn” and revealing details about his treatment in mainland China, one of the sources said.

Authorities had cleared out the detention room at the psychiatric hospital before Li’s arrival last week — a sign of the high level of secrecy surrounding his case, the source added.

The special unit, reportedly comprising senior corrections officers, manages detainees who need to be kept separately to avoid harassment or disputes. The detainees are usually involved in corruption cases or witness protection programs, or are celebrities.

Another source said that Li was in good physical condition and appeared to be of sound mind. He said he did not need legal representation, though it was unclear whether he voluntarily renounced the right for his family to be notified of his whereabouts.

The Correctional Services Department said in a statement that it would not comment on individual cases. Upon being taken into custody, detainees are asked whether they want to notify family about their location, the department said.

“If a detainee declines to disclose his whereabouts to others, the [department] will handle the case in accordance with his wishes. The detainee can later request such an arrangement again or send letters to his family by himself,” a spokesperson said.

Li’s case will be heard in court on March 31, but Li will not be present as he will remain in quarantine until April 4.

Detainees managed by the “secret unit” can receive visitors and supplies, but unlike regular detainees, their list of visitors must be approved by the police in advance.

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