10 accused of trying to flee Hong Kong by speedboat may plead guilty

10 accused of trying to flee Hong Kong by speedboat will plead guilty, relatives say they’ve been told

December 29, 2020 / 4:46 AM
/ AP

Hong Kong jails pro-democracy activists

Hong Kong jails pro-democracy activists

02:19

Relatives of the 10 Hong Kong residents accused of fleeing the city by speedboat during a government crackdown on dissent say they’ve been informed that their family members pleaded guilty, according to a support group. It was not clear whether the 10 would also be sentenced on Wednesday, but Chinese courts often issue sentences at the same time as verdicts. Relatives of the defendants say they’ve been prevented from hiring their own lawyers and that the accusations are politically motivated. While Hong Kong is part of China, travelers must still pass through immigration when going to and from the mainland. They were picked up after entering mainland Chinese waters for crossing the maritime border without permission. First published on December 29, 2020 / 4:46 AM TYRONE SIU / REUTERS

Separate hearings were expected for two minors who were also aboard the boat that was apparently heading for Taiwan when it was stopped by the Chinese coast guard on Aug. The 10 defendants all faced charges of illegally crossing the border and two of them faced additional charges of organizing the attempt, according to an indictment issued in Shenzhen. 23. The trials began Monday afternoon, according to a statement issued by the Shenzhen Yantian District court. 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 semi-autonomous territory by Beijing in June. The defendants apparently needed to pass through Chinese waters to get to open seas. The defendants are believed to have feared they would be prosecuted for their past activities in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. A police officer records a video during a protest to urge the release of 12 Hong Kong activists arrested as they reportedly tried too flee to Taiwan to seek political asylum and the release of Saudi citizen journalist Zhang Zhan outside China’s Liaison Office, in Hong Kong, on December 28, 2020. The defendants can be sentenced to up to a year in prison for crossing the border and seven years for organizing the trip. The families of the detainees were informed by court-appointed lawyers Tuesday that a court in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen will deliver the verdicts on Wednesday, according to the 12 Hongkongers Concern Group, which is assisting the families.