Hong Kong police said on Saturday (October 10) they'd arrested nine people suspected of helping 12 Hong Kong activists who fled the city in August, heading for Taiwan, only to be intercepted by Chinese authorities and held on the mainland.
The detainees' plight has grabbed international attention, with human rights groups raising concern as their families said they were denied access to independent lawyers, and aired suspicion that Hong Kong authorities helped in China's arrests.
Accused of crimes tied to anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, the group is being detained in China's southern city of Shenzhen after authorities intercepted their boat and accused them of illegal border crossing.
Police arrested four men and five women suspected of arranging transport for the fugitives, said Hong Kong police official Ho Chun-tung.
"One direction of the investigation is whether they helped others to flee," said Ho, a superintendent with the force's organized crime and triad bureau.
He added that he did not rule out the possibility of more arrests.
He dismissed relatives' accusations that police in the Asian financial hub played a role in the arrests in China.
Police also seized the equivalent of $64,500 in cash, computers, mobile phones, and documents related to the purchase of a boat.
People began fleeing Hong Kong for self-ruled Taiwan from the early months of the protests, most of them legally, by air, but some by fishing boat, activists in Taipei have told Reuters.