China-Hong Kong conflict: Ten activists sentenced to prison terms for attempting to escape

China’s judiciary continues to crack down on Hong Kong democracy activists. A Chinese court has sentenced ten activists to long prison terms for attempting to flee to Taiwan. The defendants were sentenced to between seven months and three years in prison, according to a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.

Two of the activists were held responsible for organizing the escape attempt. Their sentences were three and two years, respectively, significantly higher than those for their companions. All ten convicts were also fined up to the equivalent of around 2900 euros each.

Coast Guard intercepted speedboat

The group, known as the “Hong Kong 12”, was arrested on August 23 when their speedboat was intercepted by the Chinese Coast Guard en route to Taiwan. They wanted to leave for fear of the new security law in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. The court charged eight defendants with illegally crossing the border.

The new so-called State Security Act passed at the end of June enables China to take extensive action against the democracy movement in Hong Kong. The law is the most extensive encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy to date and gives China’s state security extensive powers. It criminalizes treason, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers, among other things, and is directed against activities that China regards as subversive, separatist or terrorist.

Several trials against prominent democracy activist

Quite a number of Hong Kong activists had recently fled to the liberal Taiwan or other states out of fear of prosecution by the so-called State Security Act. Dozens of activists have now been arrested on the basis of the new regulations and are awaiting trial, most of them only released on bail, if at all.

19-year-old Tony Chung was the first representative of the democracy movement to be sentenced in Hong Kong on Tuesday under the so-called security law. He was charged with profaning the Chinese national flag and attending an illegal gathering. He’s going to jail for four months. In a further trial, Chung has to expect that he will be sentenced to life imprisonment in a later trial for “secession”.

When it was handed over to China in 1997, the former British crown colony of Hong Kong had been granted special rights for 50 years, including freedom of expression and assembly. Western states see the so-called security law as a blatant violation of the agreements based on the principle of »one country, two systems«.

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