Hong Kong jails 7 protesters who attempted to flee to Taiwan

HONG KONG (AP) — Seven Hong Kongers who were caught at sea while attempting to flee the city by speedboat to Taiwan were sentenced Friday to up to 10 months of jail, according to local media reports.

The seven men, aged 19-32, had pleaded guilty to charges of acting to pervert the course of public justice by evading criminal proceedings in their attempt to flee, according to local newspaper South China Morning Post.

They were part of a broader group of 12 people who were on board the speedboat. The group had departed Hong Kong in August 2020, but were caught at sea by mainland authorities.

Most of those on board were on bail and awaiting trial for protest-related offenses.

Of the 12 who were detained at the time, 10 had previously been convicted of illegally crossing the border in a December 2020 closed-door trial in Shenzhen, a southern Chinese city that borders Hong Kong.

Eight were sentenced to seven months in prison and have since served their sentence and returned to Hong Kong, while two others, who were deemed the main organizers of the illegal crossing, were sentenced to two and three years of prison.

The two youngest detainees of the group were returned to Hong Kong authorities in 2020 and were not persecuted as they were minors at the time.

The case of the 12 detainees had sparked debate about China’s opaque judiciary system after the group was held for months with relatives and family members stating that they could not get in touch with them or hire their own lawyers for the case.

They are also among the latest amid dozens of protesters who have been convicted and jailed amid Hong Kong’s political crackdown.

Earlier this week, 66-year-old protester Alexandra Wong — commonly referred to as “Grandma Wong” and known for her penchant for waving a British union jack flag to pro-democracy protests — was jailed 32 weeks for her role in two unauthorized assemblies in 2019.

Another older protester, Koo Sze-yiu, was found guilty Tuesday of breaching a colonial-era sedition law by planning a protest against Beijing’s Winter Olympics outside China’s liaison office in February, and was sentenced to nine months in jail.

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