Ten pro-democracy activists who tried to flee Hong Kong by boat in China were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven months to three years. Two minors who were on the boat were returned to Hong Kong.
The twelve from Hong Kong boarded a speedboat on August 23, hoping to flee to Taiwan. There they would be safe from the Chinese authorities, who could prosecute them for their participation in the massive protests in Hong Kong. As of July 1 this year, China passed a city security law that criminalizes, among other things, undermining the government and cooperating with foreign forces.
The boat carrying the refugees was intercepted in Chinese waters and the passengers were detained in Shenzhen, where they were also sentenced on Wednesday. The organizers of the boat trip were sentenced to two and three years in prison and eight other passengers for seven months. The ten also have to pay fines ranging between 1,250 and 2,500 euros. According to family members, all ten pleaded guilty to court, possibly in hopes of commuting the sentence.
The European Union, the United States and human rights organizations have previously called on China to release the passengers on the boat because their trial was unfair. They were not allowed to choose their attorney and had very limited contact with the defense assigned to them.
China has issued arrest warrants for many protesters and opposition members who fled Hong Kong. The city’s residents, who enjoyed a certain degree of freedom and democracy, have been forced to remain in line since the Security Act was passed.
Hong Kong’s golden age will not return
Hong Kong was a free and vibrant city. But residents know their old lives are over, and now that China has managed to control them through new legislation.