The trial in China of a group of pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong who attempted to flee the city by speedboat to seek refuge in Taiwan opened on Monday when the United States demanded the immediate release of dissidents who were identified as ” fled tyranny “.
Ten of the so-called “Hong Kong 12” were on trial in the southern city of Shenzhen and were charged with illegally crossing the border.
Chinese authorities arrested her after her boat was intercepted on August 23.
The hearing began as planned on Monday afternoon, according to AFP, and should continue into the evening.
But court officials would not confirm anything about the case and the trial – like many in China’s opaque legal system – was not open to foreign reporters or diplomats.
At least two members of the group are facing seven years in prison for organizing an attempt to escape from a city where democracy activists protested against Beijing’s rule last year.
Some members of the group have already been prosecuted in Hong Kong, where China has passed a draconian national security law that has eradicated the city’s protest movement.
“Their so-called” crime “was the flight from tyranny,” a spokesman for the US embassy told AFP before their planned appearance in court via video link.
The spokesman urged their “immediate release” and said, “Communist China will stop at nothing to prevent its people from seeking freedom elsewhere.”
The US has used Hong Kong’s vaporizing freedoms to beat China in recent months.
China’s State Department entered a familiar attack mode over the US comments.
Washington must “immediately stop meddling in China’s domestic affairs through the Hong Kong issue and immediately stop meddling in China’s judicial sovereignty,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
Families of the defendants – the youngest of whom is only 16 years old – have requested the hearing be broadcast live in the Shenzhen court after being unable to attend due to the short-term trial and Covid-19 requirements.
They were not informed of the trial date until Friday while their lawyers were excluded from meeting the detainees. Instead, the authorities have appointed a state-recognized legal representative.
In a joint letter over the weekend, the families said they “strongly condemn” the authorities’ decision to hold the trial “de facto secret” in the Yantian District People’s Court.
“We urge governments to send embassy staff to the hearing in order to ensure a due and fair trial by the Shenzhen courts,” they said, noting that those detained include British, Portuguese and Vietnamese nationals.
The Security Act, which now encompasses Hong Kong, gives the authorities full law enforcement powers for acts deemed terrorism, secession, subversion, or collusion with foreign corporations.
The city had enjoyed unique freedoms since it was surrendered by former colonial power Great Britain in 1997, with an agreement promising a “one country, two systems” agreement for 50 years.
Beijing says the new security law was necessary to restore peace and stability, but critics have condemned it as a deadly attack on Hong Kong’s freedoms.
China has historically brought dissidents to justice during the Christmas and New Year periods to evade Western control.
Amnesty International said there was little chance the group would get a fair trial.
“So far, they have been deprived of their basic rights, including the right to defend themselves through legal representation of their choice,” Amnesty Hong Kong’s program manager Lam Cho Ming said in a statement.
Eight of the group are accused of illegally crossing the border, while two are suspected of organizing for others to cross the border.
Two minors face private hearings.
Since Beijing passed the security law in June, Taiwan has become a haven for activists in Hong Kong. Dissidents who show up without proper visa or paperwork are silently ignored.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)