National security suspect Andy Li was remanded in custody on Wednesday after making his first court appearance since he was brought back to Hong Kong from the mainland last month.
Security was exceptionally tight and Li was escorted to West Kowloon Court by a fleet of police vehicles after he completed 14 days of quarantine, reportedly at a psychiatric centre.
He faces charges of conspiracy to commit collusion with foreign forces, conspiracy to assist offenders, and possession of ammunition without a licence.
After the court clerk read out the offences, Li – who appeared to be in good spirits – replied: “I understand” in Chinese.
Chief Magistrate Victor So adjourned the case to May 18 for it to be transferred the High Court.
Li’s counsel, Lawrence Law, said his client will waive the right to have his bail reviewed regularly.
After the brief hearing, another lawyer on Li’s defence team, Trevor Chan from Au Yeung, Chan & Ho Solicitors, refused to answer questions as to how the firm ended up with the case.
He denied they were “assigned” the case by the authorities, saying his client did not want the details to be disclosed.
Li’s sister had said earlier that the lawyers were not hired by the family, raising concerns that the defendant had been assigned legal representatives, similar to practice sometimes seen on the mainland.
Andy Li was among 12 Hongkongers who were intercepted by the Guangdong coastguard as they allegedly tried to flee from the SAR to Taiwan on a speedboat last summer.
Ten of them were later jailed in Shenzhen after being convicted of "illegally crossing the border" and Li was among eight who completed their prison terms and were sent back to the SAR last month.
His whereabouts after his return remained a mystery for a considerable period of time, with his family complaining that they had been unable to reach him.
Speculation has been rife that he was held at the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, but the reports have not been verified by the authorities.