Ten people accused of trying to flee Hong Kong by speedboat plead guilty, group says
Relatives of 10 Hong Kongers on trial for allegedly trying to flee the city by speedboat during a Chinese government crackdown say they’ve been informed that their family members pleaded guilty, according to a support group.
The families were informed by court-appointed lawyers Tuesday that a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, across from Hong Kong, would announce the pleas Wednesday, according to the 12 Hongkongers Concern Group, which is assisting the families.
It was not clear whether the 10 would also be sentenced Wednesday, but Chinese courts often issue sentences at the same time as verdicts.
The 10 defendants all faced charges of illegally crossing the border; two of them faced additional charges of organizing the attempt, according to an indictment issued in Shenzhen. The trials began Monday afternoon, according to a statement issued by the Shenzhen Yantian District court.
Separate hearings were expected for two minors who were also aboard the boat, which was apparently heading for Taiwan when it was stopped by the Chinese coast guard Aug. 23.
The defendants are believed to have feared they would be prosecuted for their past activities in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Hong Kong media reports said at least one may have had a warrant out for his arrest under a tough new national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in June.
What sparked Hong Kong’s mass protests last year — fear of extradition to mainland China — has become a dark reality for 12 Hong Kong families.
Relatives of the defendants say that they have been prevented from hiring their own lawyers and that the accusations are politically motivated. The defendants can be sentenced to up to a year in prison for crossing the border and seven years for organizing the trip.
They were picked up after entering mainland Chinese waters and accused of crossing the maritime border without permission. While Hong Kong is part of China, travelers must still pass through immigration when going to and from the mainland. The defendants apparently needed to pass through Chinese waters to get to open seas.
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