Saturday, January 16, 2021

EU Calls on China to Release 12 Hong Kong Activists as Trial Begins European Union news

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The EU statement comes as Brussels prepares to strike a major investment deal with China.

The European Union has called on Beijing to release 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who were arrested as they tried to leave the territory by boat.

The EU statement came on Tuesday as 10 such activists were on trial in China as Brussels prepares to strike a major investment deal with Beijing amid concerns over the country’s rights and the record of work.

Relatives of the 10 Hong Kong people accused of fleeing the city by speedboat during a government crackdown on dissent say they have been told their family members have pleaded guilty, a support group said.

The families of the detainees were informed on Tuesday by court-appointed lawyers that a court in southern China’s Shenzhen city will deliver verdicts on Wednesday, according to the 12 Hong Kongers Concern Group, which assists the families.

It was not clear whether the 10 would also be sentenced on Wednesday, but Chinese courts often hand down sentences along with verdicts.

The 10 defendants were all charged with crossing the border illegally, while two of them were charged with organizing the attempt, according to an indictment issued in Shenzhen.

The trials began Monday afternoon, according to a statement released by the Shenzhen Yantian District Court.

Separate hearings were expected for two minors who were also aboard the boat that was apparently heading for Taiwan when it was arrested by the Chinese coast guard on August 23.

The defendants are said to have feared prosecution for their past activities in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

At least one of them may have received an arrest warrant under a strict new national security law imposed on the semi-autonomous territory by Beijing in June, according to Hong Kong media reports.

Relatives of the defendants say they have been unable to hire their own lawyers and that the charges are politically motivated.

Defendants can be sentenced to one year in prison for crossing the border and seven years for organizing the trip.

They were recovered after entering mainland Chinese waters for crossing the sea border without permission.

Although Hong Kong is part of China, travelers still have to go through immigration when traveling to and from the mainland.

The defendants apparently had to cross Chinese waters to reach the high seas.



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