Skip to content Skip to footer

Speedboat fugitive “heading to USA”, court hears

THE EXTRAORDINARY TRUTH about 12 people arrested on a boat in Chinese waters in 2020 came out in recent days with two people involved in that case appearing at the trial of publisher Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong.

One of the men involved admitted that he was expected to land in Taiwan first—but then he was to be taken on a diplomatic flight to Europe, and eventually to London, with his final destination being the United States.


Details shared at the court in Hong Kong are dramatically different from the version that the world was told at the time – when the 12 people in the speedboat were portrayed as wrongly persecuted innocents “escaping” from dangerous Hong Kong to peace and safety in US-allied Taiwan.

The Wall Street journal said the “daring” group were “a small group of dissidents” heading for Taiwan. The New York Times opted for a (remarkably cliched) report about them being “activists” trying to resist “the Communist Party’s tightening grip” in Hong Kong.

The UK Daily Telegraph told readers: “The group had tried to escape Hong Kong by speedboat, fearing political persecution amid an ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy activists.”


But a very different story has emerged in Hong Kong in recent days.

The 12 were hardly innocents—they were people charged with a range of crimes, including the manufacture of pipe bombs, Molotov cocktails and other illegal weapons. One was involved with a group whose leaders later pleaded guilty to a shocking plan to create a terrorist-level “mass casualty event” in Mongkok and/ or Wan Chai using large amounts of explosives in December 2019.

Another was working on an ambitious plan to cause an “implosion” in the Chinese government.


But it was the story of a man working with publisher Jimmy Lai and his right hand man Mark Simon, a former US intelligence officer, which came out in most detail at the court in West Kowloon.

In August of 2020, an anti-China activist named Wayland Chan Tsz-wah, 32, received a call, the court heard. He heard the worried voice of Andy Li Yu-hin, a top member of Stand With Hong Kong—an anti-China group campaigning for western countries to sanction their city and their country.

The caller was worried. “He said he needed a safe house,” Chan later recalled. “He said he had been arrested and his phone and everything had come to light.”

This was bad news. Much of the planning of a plot to cause “an implosion” in the government of China had been discussed through apps used on smartphones. Conspiring to work with hostile foreigners to bring down the government was illegal everywhere. If the police had his phone, they were in trouble.

Chan, a paralegal, agreed to help Li, and several others became involved in the plan.


Eventually a detailed scheme was revealed which would see Andy Li taken to the United States. The scheme had five stages.

First, Li would be installed in a safe house in a housing development called Lohas Park in Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong—this was far from the urban heartland of the city, but close to the headquarters of Apple Daily.

Second, a mystery boat skipper codenamed “the Cap” would get a speedboat and fill it with fishing equipment, as a disguise. At 3 am on August 23, Andy Li would go to the Po Toi O Pier in remote, rural Sai Kung where he would get on the vessel.

By leaving the territory, Li and others would be criminalizing themselves by jumping bail. But they had no plan to return. They would use the boat to escape to Taiwan, a Chinese island which was more or less under the de facto control of the United States. The authorities in Taipei had been notified and would expect him, organizers told him.

Third, the mission had been carefully timed. A delegation from the Czech Republic delegation was visiting Taiwan at the time, Li told the court. The plan was for him to get on the Czech Prime Minister’s private jet to be taken to their country in comfort.

Fourth, after touchdown in Europe, he would be put on another flight, going to London. A fifth stage would see him eventually travel to the United States. Li had already been to the United States, where he had spent time with anti-China politicians.

But things quickly went wrong. The boat had been intercepted by the Chinese coast guard, and everyone on board taken to land. Despite countless reports that they would be “disappeared” in “lawless” mainland China, they were treated well, and eventually returned to Hong Kong.


Earlier, Wayland Chan, had told the court that Jimmy Lai and his right-hand man Mark Simon, a former US intelligence officer, had rewarded him for his work on their anti-China activities by giving him a company. Chan saw the company as his personal reward, and wanted to use it to develop his own business.

But Mark Simon felt it should be used to as a channel for overseas groups to continue to contribute to their anti-China campaign. Simon told Chan that the company was of covert nature and could be used to liaise with foreign organizations and collect funds, the court heard.

Publisher Jimmy Lai, 76, has denied conspiracy charges of collusion with foreign forces and a conspiracy to distribute seditious publications, but his senior staff and other associates have already pleaded guilty.

The trial continues.

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

[yikes-mailchimp form="1"]