Hong Kong activists to face trial in China next week, say their families

BEIJING: At least seven of 12 Hong Kong activists arrested as they tried to flee the territory by speedboat to Taiwan will face trial in mainland China next Monday (Dec 28), campaigners and family members said on Friday.

Relatives of seven detainees have been told by Chinese government-appointed lawyers that a hearing will take place Monday afternoon at Yantian District People’s Court in the southern city of Shenzhen, according to the Save 12 HK Youths campaign.

The group – the youngest just 16 years old – was caught by the coastguard 70km southeast of Hong Kong on Aug 23, before being transferred to police in Shenzhen. They are accused of charges linked to crossing a border illegally.

READ: Hong Kong people detained in China send ‘doubtful’ letters from prison: Families

The activists’ arrests were formally approved in September, with families expressing fear over their fate.

“We were informed that Andy would be brought to trial on Monday afternoon,” the family of one of the group, activist Andy Li, tweeted on Friday.

“As with other politically sensitive cases, obviously they rushed for the Christmas period so as to minimise international backlash.”

Last week, Chinese authorities announced that the prosecution process for the 12 had begun.

Eight of the group are accused of an illegal border crossing, while two are suspected of organising for others to cross the border. Two minors face non-public hearings.

READ: Families of detained Hong Kong dozen protest on island near Chinese prison

Some of those aboard the boat already faced prosecution in Hong Kong for activities linked to last year’s huge and often violent protests.

Chinese lawyers appointed by some of the fugitives’ families told AFP they have been barred from seeing their clients, after authorities stepped in to appoint state-approved lawyers.

In June, Beijing imposed a new security law on Hong Kong, announcing it would have jurisdiction for some crimes and that mainland security agents could openly operate in the city.

With Beijing clamping down on Hong Kong’s movement, Taiwan emerged as a sanctuary, quietly turning a blind eye to residents turning up without proper visas or paperwork.