Twelve Hong Kong democracy activists wanted to flee across the border to Taiwan by boat – and were caught. A court sentenced ten of them to several years in prison.
A Chinese court has sentenced ten Hong Kong democracy activists to prison terms for attempting to flee to Taiwan. The jail sentences imposed on Wednesday by the court in Shenzhen, south China, range from seven months to three years. Two of the activists were held responsible for organizing the escape attempt. Their sentences were three and two years, respectively, significantly higher than those for their companions.
The “twelve from Hong Kong” face long prison sentences
All ten convicts were also fined up to the equivalent of around 2,900 euros each. Two other members of the group, who are under the age of majority, were handed over to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Police. The Shenzhen court previously said it did not want to prosecute the two teenagers.
The group, known as the “Hong Kong Twelve”, was arrested on August 23 when their speedboat was intercepted by the Chinese Coast Guard en route to Taiwan.
Police van in China: Hong Kong police escort one of the two underage detainees in the port of Shenzhen Bay on the border between China and Hong Kong. (Source: Kin Cheung / AP / dpa)
In Hong Kong itself, a young man was sentenced to four months in prison on Tuesday for degrading the Chinese flag and violating the ban on assembly. 19-year-old Tony Chung was the first representative of the democracy movement to be convicted under the new so-called security law. Beijing passed the law in late June. Chung faces life imprisonment for “secession” in a later trial.
Diplomats and families are turned away
The human rights organization Amnesty International on Wednesday criticized the sentences against the “Twelve from Hong Kong” and demanded their release. “This group of young Hong Kong residents will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment in Chinese prisons,” Amnesty said in a statement.
After the arrests, family members stated that they had been denied access to their relatives for months. Hong Kong residents who were arrested in China were also not allowed to choose a lawyer themselves.
12 helmets at a university in Hong Kong: They symbolize the “Twelve from Hong Kong”. (Source: Dominic Chiu / ZUMA Wire / imago images)
At the start of the trial on Monday, diplomats from several Western countries, including Germany, gathered in front of the courthouse. However, they were refused entry.
With the security law against the fight for democracy
The authorities of the People’s Republic and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region have massively tightened their crackdown on the democracy movement in recent months. The so-called Security Act allows the authorities to take rigorous action against all activities that they believe threaten national security and massively interferes with Hong Kong’s autonomy rights.
When it was handed over to China in 1997, the former British crown colony had been granted special rights for 50 years, including freedom of expression and assembly. Western states see the so-called security law as a blatant violation of the agreements of the time based on the principle of “one country, two systems”.