Chinese authorities have arrested at least 10 people after intercepting a boat believed to be heading to Taiwan from Hong Kong, local reports say.
China’s coastguard said the arrests were made on Sunday morning off the southern province of Guangdong, near Hong Kong.
Hong Kong media reports said those on board the vessel were trying to reach Taiwan to claim political asylum.
The reports said Hong Kong activist Andy Li was among those detained.
Mr Li, who was arrested earlier this month for alleged collusion with foreign forces and money laundering, was detained on suspicion of “unlawfully crossing the border”, the south china morning post reported, citing police sources.
It was not immediately clear what those now in custody might be charged with. Attempts by people from Hong Kong to flee the territory by boat are considered to be rare.
Hong Kong has seen a wave of arrests of activists in recent weeks under a controversial national security law imposed by China in June.
The security law, opposed by many in Hong Kong, punishes what Beijing broadly defines as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
The number of arrests has raised fears that China will use its security law to undertake a broad crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists and media figures.
Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997, but under a unique agreement – “one country, two systems” – that gives the territory freedoms not seen on the mainland.
But critics have accused China of eroding those freedoms, leading to protests in Hong Kong and political tensions between Beijing and the international community.
A social media post by the Guangdong Coast Guard on Wednesday said those arrested were being held on suspicion of unlawfully crossing the border.
It said investigations were under way, but gave few other details. Only two of those detained were partially identified by their surnames, Li and Tang.
The South China Morning Post said sources from police in Hong Kong and mainland China confirmed Andy Li was the Li referred to.
At least one other person on board had previously been arrested on charges related to last year’s anti-government protests, the newspaper said.
Hong Kong police commissioner Chris Tang said on Thursday he was aware of the boat interception, but added: “For the time being, we do not have any information from the mainland relevant authorities.”