Hong Kong activists held on speedboat face trial in China


HONG KONG—The families of a group of Hong Kong activists who were arrested as they fled the city in a speedboat in August have called on Chinese authorities to issue verdicts soon after their trial in a city court. continent.

Four hours after a closed hearing began on Monday, the Yantian District Court in Shenzhen said the trials of 10 of the activists were over and verdicts would be announced at another time.

“I want to see my son. I won’t be able to see it if you don’t decide,” said the mother of one of the defendants, Wong Wai-yin. The mother asked not to be identified by name.

The fate of those detained – who have been dubbed the Hong Kong 12 by supporters calling for their release – has drawn international attention and become a central issue for pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

The 10 defendants are charged with illegal border crossing, punishable by a one-year sentence. Two of the 10 are also charged with masterminding the escape attempt and face longer prison sentences. Two other people on the boat have not been charged because they were under 18, but will face a hearing, the families said.

“None of the families know what happened in Yantian Court.”

— Lester Shum, pro-democracy activist

A group of foreign diplomats attempted to attend the hearing but were denied entry. Before the trial, the US State Department called on China to immediately release them and allow them to leave the country. “Their so-called crime was to flee tyranny,” the State Department said.

China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the US remarks as “confusing fact with fiction”.

Families of the defendants and other Hong Kong activists have criticized their detention on the mainland, where they have not been allowed to meet lawyers hired by their families. The families say they have not been able to meet their loved ones since being taken from the boat to a detention center in Shenzhen in late August. At a press conference on Monday evening, they called the trial secrecy and politically motivated.

“The court-appointed lawyers dodged my questions,” said Chan Lok-yin, mother of fellow defendant Li Tsz-yin. “How much longer do I have to wait before I can see it?” »

Last month, some of the detained activists sent handwritten letters to their families saying they had been treated well. A letter from Andy Li, who was arrested in Hong Kong for breaking national security law before being detained on the boat, asked his sister to stop campaigning and expressed remorse for having join the protest. Beatrice Li, his sister, said she believed her brother was coerced into writing the letter.

The 12 people on board the boat faced charges in Hong Kong related to pro-democracy activities before fleeing. Hong Kong police said the 12 activists each paid tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars to be smuggled out.

The Yantian court said the trial was open to the public and attended by journalists and relatives of the accused. The Hong Kong families said they did not know which relatives the court was referring to.

The families said they were notified of the trial three days ago, which prevents them from attending under current coronavirus restrictions, which would require them to be quarantined for two weeks after entering the mainland .

“None of the families know what happened in Yantian court,” said Lester Shum, a pro-democracy activist who had helped the families. “A public hearing is one that the outside world is aware of.”

Write to Wenxin Fan at Wenxin.Fan@wsj.com

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Appeared in the print edition of December 29, 2020 under the title “Hong Kong activists are judged by Beijing”.


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