A YouTube channel run by Hongkongers based in the UK has hit back at accusations by the Hong Kong Police and local media that they had duped four fugitives into paying fees to flee the city — including a young protester who was shot while demonstrating in 2019 — but admitted they had spent more than HK$1 million in funding the quartet’s expenses.
It comes after senior superintendent Steve Li of the police’s National Security Department said on Thursday that, back in 2020, members of a social media channel had been persuading suspects involved in the 2019 protests who were waiting for their court hearings to flee the city.
He added the four — aged between 16 and 24, who were arrested on Wednesday after jumping bail and not appearing for court hearings for rioting or unlawful assembly in 2020 and 2021 — had paid the group around HK$400,000 in advance to try to secure a way out of Hong Kong, but were instead arranged to hide in places in a poor condition, including one where they did not go out for about a year.
The fugitives attempted to flee the city on Wednesday, but were caught at Pak Tam Chung in Sai Kung.
Various local media later named the group as popular YouTube channel Tuesdayroad Media, which has over 400,000 subscribers.
Two of the channel’s YouTubers posted a video on Friday stressing they did not extort the four.
“How can we extort them from thousands of kilometers away?” the YouTubers said.
Instead, the pair said they had spent over HK$1 million on the four, including their lodging, having someone cook for them and buying video games for them as they had been staying in safehouses for two years.
One of the four fugitives they said they helped was Tsang Chi-kin, who was an 18-year-old high school student when he was shot in the chest at point-blank range by a police officer during the National Day protests in Tsuen Wan in 2019.
After recovering from the injury, the police charged him with assaulting a police officer and rioting.