Ten Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who tried to flee Hong Kong by boat to Taiwan were sentenced Wednesday, December 30, to terms ranging from 7 months to 3 years in prison, a mainland Chinese court said.
Six months after the adoption of a draconian national security law in Hong Kong, their trial was emblematic of Beijing’s takeover of the former British colony, which became a semi-autonomous Chinese territory in 1997.
A total of twelve men, the youngest of whom was 16, were arrested at sea by the Chinese Coast Guard 70 km from Hong Kong on August 23, before being handed over to the police in Shenzhen (south) and inmates. Both the European Union and the United States demanded their immediate release. The fugitives were trying to reach Taiwan, the rival island of mainland China.
Two and three years in prison for the role of “organizer”
Two of the men were sentenced to three and two years respectively for their roles “Organizer in this illegal border crossing”, announced in a statement the court of Shenzhen where they were tried this week. They faced up to seven years in detention.
Eight other men, simple passengers, were sentenced to 7 months in prison for “Illegal border crossing”. The maximum sentence was one year. The ten men “Admitted their guilt” during their trial, assured the court in its statement.
Two minors who were on board the boat are to be handed over to authorities in Hong Kong on Wednesday, police in the former British colony said. No charges have been brought against them, the Yantian District Procuratorate in Shenzhen said on Wednesday.