More than 80 radical protesters suspected of hurling petrol bombs during anti-government demonstrations, storming the city’s legislature and physically attacking ideological opponents, have fled Hong Kong to Taiwan, police sources have told the Post.
Police realised they had escaped when officers went to their homes to arrest them after establishing their identities.
“Most are in their 20s and 30s and unemployed. Only a few are students,” one source said.
As there was no extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Taiwan, he said, there was nothing more police could do.
“They have been placed on the list of people wanted by police, and they will face arrest if they return to the city,” he said.
Hong Kong has experienced more than seven months of protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong does not have existing agreements, including Taiwan and mainland China.
More than 7,000 people have been arrested since June for various protest-related offences, including rioting, possessing explosives and firearms without a licence, and arson.
The sources said police had established that about 220 protesters who feared arrest for their actions had gone to Taiwan.
Of that total, only between 80 and 90 are wanted in connection with alleged acts of violence.
“The rest of the 220 radicals are not wanted by police, because officers have no evidence to show they were involved in violence,” he said. “They learned that some of their friends had been arrested and feared they would be next, so that they chose to escape.”
It is understood that among those in Taiwan wanted by police are several suspects who were present during a horrific incident last November, when a 57-year-old man was doused with a flammable solution and set alight along a footbridge in Ma On Shan.
More than 20 others in Taiwan have been identified as being among the hundreds who stormed and vandalised the city’s legislature last July 1.
Officers collected thousands of pieces of evidence from the trashed Legco complex, but managed to identify only a few dozen radicals.
“Police identified them because they left fingerprints in the Legislative Council building,” the source said, adding that most of the protesters present could not be identified, because they wore masks, gloves and helmets.
So far, fewer than 20 have been arrested in connection with the storming of Legco.
The source said the rest of the radicals in Taiwan wanted by police include those who took the law into their own hands and attacked opponents as well as those who hurled petrol bombs and bricks at police or vandalised shops and MTR stations.
He refused to say if those in Taiwan include members of a group accused of plotting to use explosives and firearms against police officers in anti-government rallies in December.
Between December 8 and January 17, police seized an AR-15 assault rifle, four pistols and hundreds of bullets. Two home-made bombs were also found on the grounds of a Wan Chai school in December.
The sources said the radicals retreated to Taiwan knowing there is no extradition arrangement, and they have been granted extended tourist visas to stay on the self-ruled island.
Earlier this month, a 21-year-old student who fled to Taiwan after storming Legco last July said he feared he might have to move to Europe or the United States if president Tsai Ing-wen failed in her re-election bid.
After she won, the student told the Post : “Now, I feel relieved and more certain about the future. I hope I can focus on finishing my degree here.”
Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party have said repeatedly they will do all they can to help Hong Kong protesters seeking shelter in Taiwan.
In December, she said there was no need for Taiwan to institute a refugee law, as existing regulations governing the island’s relations with Hong Kong and Macau were sufficient.
It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves