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China intercepts boat with people believed to be fleeing HK

HONG KONG: Chinese authorities have arrested at least 10 people after intercepting a boat off the coast of the southern province of Guangdong, the provincial Coast Guard Bureau said in a post on its social media site.

Hong Kong media, citing unidentified sources, said 12 people from the former British colony were arrested while sailing to Taiwan where they planned to apply for political asylum.

It was not clear what law they would be charged with violating but, if confirmed, it would be a rare instance of the Chinese authorities arresting people from Hong Kong trying to leave the city.

The Guangdong Coast Guard said on its social media platform on Wednesday that the people were arrested on Sunday.

Two of the detained were surnamed Li and Tang, it said. It did not provide further details.

Hong Kong media identified one of those on the vessel as Mr Andy Li, who media said was recently arrested under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong on June 30.

Hong Kong police commissioner Chris Tang said at a press conference that he had not received any information from the Chinese authorities regarding the arrests.

In Taipei, the Mainland Affairs Council did not confirm the media report but said those who come to Taiwan through illegal means will face criminal charges, and it reiterated the government's pledges to give "humanitarian assistance" to Hong Kong protesters.

TESTING

In a separate development, a Chinese government offer to test all Hong Kong residents for Covid-19 has been met with scepticism.

A 60-strongChinese team will carry out tests and build temporary hospitals.

Some democracy activists have suggested that people's DNA will be collected and abused under the cover of testing. The city government has dismissed that, saying no samples would be taken out of the city.

The programme is to begin on Sept 1 on a voluntary basis, with the volume of testing to increase to 500,000 a day from 12,000 now. - REUTERS

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