China sentences HK activists up to 3 years in jail

Ten Hong Kong activists who attempted to flee to Taiwan by boat were sentenced in mainland China for up to three years in jail on Wednesday (December 30) for illegally crossing the border.

The case has drawn international attention and concern over the defendants' treatment.

The group all had faced charges in Hong Kong from last year's anti-government protests and were travelling away from the city when they were intercepted on August 23rd, allegedly en route to self-ruled Taiwan.

They have been held virtually incommunicado in a mainland Chinese prison since then.

A court in the Chinese city of Shenzen, just over the land border with Hong Kong, found eight of the defendants guilty of illegally crossing the border - and sentenced them to seven months in jail and a fine of over $1500 dollars.

Two more were also found guilty of organizing the crossing and face two and three years in jail.

The court said all ten had pled guilty to their crimes.

After the verdicts were announced, Hong Kong police said that two minors in the group, now aged 17 and 18, had been handed over and would appear in court in Hong Kong after completing quarantine for coronavirus.

The mainland prosecutor said they would not be charged after the two minors had willingly admitted to their guilt.

However, Hong Kong police said they may face additional charges when they return home.

Rights group Amnesty International expressed concern over the safety of the defendants in the mainland prison system.

Family-appointed lawyers were denied access to their clients, and their government-appointed lawyers were not available for comment.