Hong Kong protests: China officially signals activists seeking to flee Taiwan

The indictment has been brought one step closer to the court, although their trial is not scheduled to begin.

A court in southern Shenzhen, where the twelve were being held, said in a statement on Wednesday that two members of the group had been charged with organizing illegal border crossings and eight with illegal border crossings. The remaining two, both of whom are minors, will be held in camera and “decisions will be made in accordance with the law,” the statement said.

Under Chinese criminal law, convicts for organizing illegal border crossings can face two to seven years in prison – and in severe cases, life imprisonment. The crime of crossing the border illegally may result in up to one year of imprisonment. Legal observers say China’s judicial system has a sentencing rate of about 99%.

The 12 activists, most of whom were on bail or indicted in Hong Kong for last year’s anti-government protests, boarded a speedboat on 23 August in the tiny fishing village of Po Toi O, hoping to follow those who had fled. to the Taiwan Municipality about 700 kilometers (440 miles) away.

Shortly after crossing the sea border between Hong Kong and mainland China, their ship was stopped by a Coast Guard ship.

They have been detained in China ever since, while their families desperately lobbied for their return, saying the twelve were denied access to lawyers and abused while in Chinese custody.

The mainland authorities stated that they “protect the legal rights of suspects in accordance with the law” and provided them with government-appointed lawyers.

Following the court’s announcement on Wednesday, the 12 Hong Kong family members issued their own statement saying they wanted to attend the court hearings. But they fear that due to the 14-day quarantine requirement to curb the spread of the coronavirus, they will not be able to arrive on time when the trial period is announced.

In the statement, family members were also raised with the settlement of government-appointed lawyers.

Hong Kong government accused of colluding with China to monitor and apprehend refugees fleeing to Taiwan

“Families cannot trust that” government-appointed lawyers “will defend the interests of the twelve during the trial and fear that” government-appointed lawyers “will follow the government’s instructions and act against the twelve’s interests.” Communication.

The Chinese courts, along with prosecutors and the police, are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party’s huge Central Political and Legal Commission and local branches.

Fears about the Chinese justice system and its potential access to Hong Kong sparked protests last year, leading to months of anti-government riots in the semi-autonomous city.

This year, after protests revived after a ceasefire-forced break, the Chinese government introduced a national security law in Hong Kong that criminalized sediment, rupture and subversion.

The government said the law needed to restore order has flung several prominent activists overseas.

Eric Cheung contributed to the report.