Wednesday, 03 March, 2021


China trial of 'Hong Kong 12' begins as U.S. decries 'tyranny'

U.S. embassy urges China to release 12 Hong Kong fugitives China trial of 'Hong Kong 12' begins as US decries 'tyranny'
Kristine Garrett | 29 December, 2020, 14:41

Relatives of the defendants said they hadn't received updates about the case from the court and lawyers assigned by the Chinese government, and called for support from the Hong Kong government, according to a media briefing Monday.

On August 23, the Guangdong Coast Guard intercepted a boat in waters under its jurisdiction, on which were 12 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) residents who were afterward detained for unlawfully crossing the border. The Yantian District People's Court said sentencing will be at a later date.

A Reuters reporter was not allowed into the court, nor were diplomats. Two people were charged with organising an illegal border crossing and another eight with participating in an illegal crossing, the prosecutors said.

The charges of illegal border crossing and organising an illicit border crossing carry a sentence of up to seven years in jail, mainland authorities said. "I just want to meet my son", activist Wong Wai-Yin's mother said Monday evening.

Ahead of the first trial, the US Embassy in Beijing released a statement calling for the activists to be released.

Hours ahead of the Hongkongers" scheduled court appearance, a USA embassy spokesperson at the United States consulate-general in Guangzhou told AFP urged Chinese authorities to release them, saying "their so-called "crime' was to flee tyranny".

"Communist China will stop at nothing to prevent its people from seeking freedom elsewhere", an embassy statement said. While Hong Kong is part of China, travellers must still pass through immigration when going to and from the mainland.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in China recently called on Beijing to "immediately release" the activists, saying their only crime was "fleeing tyranny".

Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the press that the USA remarks "disregard facts", Sputnik reported. Two minors were set to face a closed-door hearing, the statement said.

In a joint letter over the weekend, the families said they "strongly condemn" the authorities' decision to hold the trial in "de facto secret".

"The Shenzhen 12 have not had access to lawyers of their choosing, raising further serious questions about access to legal counsel in Mainland China", Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Diplomats from Western countries and Hong Kong journalists visited the court, but were not allowed to observe the hearing.

China upholds the rule of law and lawbreakers must be brought to justice, the embassy stressed.

The self-ruling island opened a new office in July to deal with Hong Kongers wanting to move to the island, including those seeking to stay in Taiwan for "political reasons".

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