China sentences 10 accused of fleeing Hong Kong for Taiwan to prison

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Beijing, Dec. 30, Ten people accused of fleeing Hong Kong for Taiwan were handed prison sentences of up to three years by a south China court on Wednesday.

The defendants were among 12 Hong Kong residents who attempted to flee to Taiwan on a speedboat in August but were captured by the maritime police of Shenzhen, in south China.

Two people accused of organising illegal border crossings were sentenced to three and two years in prison, respectively, while the other eight received seven-month prison sentences for illegal border crossing, according to the Yantian District People’s Court.

Among the latter group was Andy Li, a prominent figure in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

Two underage members of the group, known as the Hong Kong 12, were initially not convicted and, according to Hong Kong media reports, will return to Hong Kong on Wednesday to be handed over to police.

A number of Hong Kong activists have recently fled to Taiwan or other states out of fear of prosecution under the city’s new national security law, which has ushered in a crackdown on the territory’s democratic opposition.

The defendants’ family members said they have been denied access to their loved ones and that the defendants were unable to choose their legal representation.

At the start of the trial on Monday, diplomats from several Western countries gathered in front of the courthouse, but they were refused entry.

Beijing’s enactment in June of a Hong Kong national security law has led to a swift crackdown on democratic freedoms in the previously semi-autonomous city.

The law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in the financial hub.

The Taiwan government late Wednesday said it regretted seeing the Chinese ruling on the Hong Kong pro-democracy individuals and the lack of transparency in the trial.

Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council spokesman Chiu Chui-cheng said in a statement that Beijing and Hong Kong authorities’ repression of pro-democracy activists helped little in solving problems in Hong Kong and would speed up the process of losing people’s trust.

The council urged Beijing to ensure the 10 Hong Kong individuals’ basic human rights were not violated as well as a fair investigation for the two individuals being sent back to Hong Kong.

Amnesty International also warned that the Hong Kong individuals’ were at risk of being tortured or receiving ill treatment in Chinese prisons. The rights group also called for the release of the 10.

In Taiwan, thousands of people took to the streets on Oct. 25 in Taipei to join a global campaign calling for the immediate release of 12 Hong Kong youths detained in China.

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