Andy Li, 30, is being held in solitary confinement at the notorious, maximum security Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the case.
It said the facility “has a history of alleged abuses against its inmates.”
Li was taken to Hong Kong’s Yuen Long police station soon after arriving back on March 22 at the end of his jail term, and immediately arrested under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.
But both the city’s police force and the Correctional Services Department (CSD) told his family they had no record of where he was being held after that point.
According to the Apple Daily, Li’s case is being handled by a special unit in the CSD colloquially known as the “secret unit.”
“Li received special attention because authorities wanted to prevent him from ‘speaking out of turn’ and revealing details about his treatment in mainland China,” it cited one of the sources as saying.
The special unit manages detainees who need to be kept separately to avoid harassment or attacks, including sensitive witnesses in need of protection, and people involved in high-profile corruption cases, it said.
Visitors to detainees under its aegis must be approved by police.
One person reported to the paper that Li was in good physical condition and appeared to be of sound mind, despite being held in a psychiatric facility.
The CSD has declined to comment on individual cases, but noted that individual detainees may “decline” to inform their family of their location.
Li hasn’t appeared in court yet, as he will remain in quarantine until April 4.
He faces three charges, including “collusion with foreign powers” under the security law, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, as well as early charges related to the possession of spent police ammunition from protests in 2019, as well as “conspiracy to assist an offender.”
Li’s sister Beatrice told RFA that they had tried to call the Siu Lam facility after reading the Apple Daily report, but “to no avail.”
She said she and her parents are considering whether or not to approach the facility in the hope of visiting Andy Li.
“We also worry that this has become very [politically] sensitive,” she said. “The chances of our being approved to visit him are very small.”
Beatrice Li said a lawyer hired by the family to defend Andy Li hasn’t been allowed to meet with him, amid unconfirmed reports that he had hired another lawyer.
“No-one knows whether he has a lawyer or not, for sure,” she said. “The only think we know for sure is that the lawyer we hired hasn’t been allowed to contact him.”
She said Andy Li had earlier written in a letter about plans to see his family and hire a lawyer while he was still in jail in Shenzhen, and that the hints from the authorities that he no longer wanted to do those things were “suspicious.”
On Dec. 31, 2020, a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen handed down jail terms of seven months to Li and seven other detainees for “illegally crossing a border.”
The eight were handed over to the custody of the Hong Kong police on March 22 after time already served was taken into account.
The Yantian District People’s Court in Guangdong’s Shenzhen city also sentenced speedboat fugitive Tang Kai-yin to three years’ imprisonment for “organizing others to cross a border illegally,” and fellow activist Quinn Moon to two years on the same charge.
The remaining two activists were returned to Hong Kong because they were under 18 at the time of their arrest. They are currently on remand at Hong Kong’s Pik Uk Prison awaiting trial on charges linked to their escape bid.
Reported by Gigi Lee for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.