Inside the Secret Network Helping Protesters Flee Hong Kong
Risk years of imprisonment or flee? We traced the journey along a covert pipeline helping Hong Kong protesters escape to Taiwan.
Pro-democracy activists today in Hong Kong, who returned to the streets to protest against controversial new security laws China wants to impose on the city, have said they will continue to fight.
Governments across the globe have condemned the move made by the Chinese government.
Sky's Asia Correspondent, Tom Cheshire reports. The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the anti-government protests that gripped Hong Kong for much of last year.
However, the tension that triggered the unrest hasn't gone away.
Police arrested 15 leading activists and accused them of organising and taking part in unlawful protests last year.
They include Martin Lee, known as Hong Kong's 'Father of Democracy'.
The arrests follow comments by mainland China's liason office in Hong Kong that it has the right to supervise the city's affairs.
Could the developments trigger more turmoil?
Presenter: Bernard Smith
Guests: Martin Lee - Founding Chairman of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong and former legislative councillor
Andy Mok - Senior Research Fellow, Center for China and Globalisation
Victor Teo - Assistant Professor, affiliated faculty with the China Studies Programme, University of Hong Kong Beijing has approved a controversial national security bill impacting Hong Kong, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. no longer considers Hong Kong to be autonomous from China. CBS News foreign correspondent Ramy Inocencio joins CBSN to talk about the latest. Taiwan's President has reiterated her support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
It follows the passing of a new national security law for Hong Kong, which critics say takes away their freedoms.
Al Jazeera's Alexi O'Brien reports.
We’re on our way to the airport in Taipei, Taiwan. We got a tip that some protesters, who are fleeing Hong Kong, just landed here. “You O.K.? How do you feel? O.K.?” When we find the group, they’re exhausted and afraid to talk. “So everyone was arrested last night?” But they didn’t plan the journey alone. We learned that a secret pipeline, including donors and smugglers, has helped more than 200 protesters escape. We wanted to trace this covert network from one end to the other because right now, hundreds more are facing serious charges and must make a choice: risk spending years in prison or leave home, possibly forever. Taiwan is a self-ruled and democratic island that Beijing considers to be part of China. Hong Kong also has a degree of sovereignty that Beijing could strip away. So, many in Taiwan share a similar perspective with protesting Hong Kongers. They view China’s Communist Party as a threat to their autonomy. For Hong Kongers fleeing here, it’s a friendly destination and a stark departure from the unrest back home. Unrest that has roiled Hong Kong for months. Thousands have been arrested. Nearly one-third of them are younger than 18. If convicted, they could spend years in prison. But the tension here goes beyond riots and clashes. Protesters tell us they have the eerie sense that they’re being watched and followed. “How are you?” At the start of the summer, Ali was a senior in college, about to begin her career as a school teacher. Then she joined the movement. “There was an incident with the police. Can you tell me about that?” “What is the penalty for rioting?” Ali is out on bail, awaiting further legal proceedings. But police confiscated her passport. “Without a passport, how would you be able to get to Taiwan?” If she decides to flee, she would need to travel illegally and pay a hefty price. Some fishermen charge as much as $10,000 per person, which is why a big part of the underground network is made up of volunteers who raise money, like this woman. She may never meet the protesters she’s helping, but she’s an important link in the chain. She coordinates through face-to-face meetings and encrypted messages. “So this says —” That’s code for: ‘I want to contribute money to the cause.’ And a lot of them are strangers? Like, they’ll just —” She says she has raised over $60,000, which has helped 11 people flee to Taiwan by plane. Back in Taiwan, we’re following the group of protesters who just arrived at the airport. Their first stop is this church. Pastor Huang is a key player in this network that’s sympathetic to the movement in Hong Kong. He’s saying that people in Taiwan can relate to the plight of Hong Kongers who feel targeted by China, like Daniel. Daniel was part of a group that stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building on July 1. He heard police were identifying participants in the surveillance footage, so he fled. But they’re in a legal no man’s land. The Taiwanese government is treading carefully, presumably to avoid provoking Beijing. It’s allowing protesters to stay on visitors’ visas, but has not offered them a path to asylum. “Could you ever have imagined that you would be living in the way that you are right now?”