Hong Kong pro-democracy activists caught at sea go on trial in China under National Security Law
National Security Law: Ten out of the 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who were arrested at sea while they were trying to flee to Taiwan by a speedboat are now on trial in China mainland, where they were being held.
The highly controversial draconian National Security Law imposed by China in Hong Kong in an attempt to crackdown the growing protests against mainland-China’s increasing authority in the territory has led to hundreds and thousands of pro-democracy activists captured for trial.
The court hearing was closed to all the foreign reporters and any diplomats. Even the families of activists were barred from hearing, a notorious explanation of China’s rather opaque judicial system.
The Court was adjourned without any verdict but the hearing is said to have included both the prosecution and defence lawyers who were given chance to speak.
The mentioned activists were captured in August in a rare scenario of attempt to flee Hong Kong after the stringent national security law was imposed by Beijing in June. The 12 people, aged between 16 to 33, were intercepted and caught at sea on August 23rd by the Chinese coastguard. The location of capture was jut 40 miles southeast of Hong Kong. Many of the people on board were already facing charges pertaining to last year’s pro-democracy protests, while one was facing charges under the new law. This meant that by any means leaving the territory was illegal.
Taiwan has emerged as sanctuary for Hong Kong activists fleeing the increasing crackdown on pro-democracy protestors by China.
The arrested activists were detained without any charge for months in Shenzhen, China. Few weeks ago the authorities finally charged 10 of the 12 activists – 8 have been charged for illegally crossing the border, which can lead to a year in jail; two face more serious charges of organizing the territory border crossing which can lead up to seven prison years.
China is infamous for putting its dissidents on trial around the Christmas period – an attempt to ward off the international attention and scrutiny. The same is evident to this trial timing. But due to the high-profile nature of this trial, international eyes were on it and attracted sharp criticism few hours before commencement of the trial.
US embassy has urged China to immediately release the activists. Embassy’s spokesperson said, “Their so-called ‘crime’ was to flee tyranny.” In response, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called upon the US to “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs through the Hong Kong issue.”