U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized Beijing after a Chinese court sentenced 10 Hong Kong citizens who were arrested by the Chinese coast guard in August. These 10 were a part of 12 Hong Kong activists, which included two minors. They were attempting to escape to Taiwan. According to their relatives, they all pled guilty in hopes of receiving lighter sentences.
Tang Kai-yin was sentenced to three years in prison, while Quinn Moon received a two-year jail term. The remaining eight were given seven months in prison for the crime of “illegally crossing the border.” Tang was fined 20,000 yuan ($3,060); Quinn was ordered to pay 15,000 yuan ($2,300) in fines. The remaining eight were fined 10,000 yuan ($1,533). The minors were repatriated back to Hong Kong. However, Hong Kong police declared that the minors might soon face charges.
Relatives of the imprisoned victims accused the government of preventing them from appointing their own lawyers and said that the charges were politically motivated. The group of activists had tried to enter Taiwan via mainland China’s waters, where they were captured. Their sentencing is a warning for other Hong Kong activists attempting to flee the city. At a news conference, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that China follows the rule of law and that violations will be punished.
Pompeo noted that the ‘Hong Kong 12’ actually deserve a hero’s welcome and demanded that the 10 punished people be freed unconditionally
“The CCP’s persecution of the Hong Kong 12 — two of whom were juveniles at the time of their arrest — exposes once again Beijing’s brutality, blatant disregard for the international treaties it has signed, and its disdain for the rights of the Hong Kong people. A regime that prevents its own people from leaving can lay no claim to greatness or global leadership. It is simply a fragile dictatorship, afraid of its own people,” he said in a statement.
A spokesperson from the U.S. embassy said that communist China will do anything to stop its people from pursuing freedom elsewhere. Benedict Rogers, chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, expressed concerns that the sentenced Hongkongers will be mistreated in jail, including torture. He also warned that this specific case could end up becoming a precedent, allowing the extradition of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists to mainland China where they will be judged by CCP-influenced courts.
Many pro-democracy activists say that the court’s judgment is a clear example that the free Hong Kong of a few years ago is now truly gone.
“What unfolded inside the Shenzhen courtroom today confirmed what many Hong Kongers feared most — that they no longer enjoy the same rights and protections under the rule of law and an independent judiciary system once guaranteed to all Hong Kongers… Despite China’s repeated claim of having a ‘sunshine judiciary’ system, the 12 Hong Kongers were denied their chosen legal representation. And no family, rights observers, or representatives from foreign embassies were allowed in the ‘open’ courtroom,” Hong Kong Democracy Council’s Samuel Chu told Newsmax.
Taiwan is one of the top destinations for people escaping Hong Kong. Data from the Taiwanese government shows that it received 5,858 Hongkongers in 2019, a 41-percent rise compared to the previous year. For 2020, more than 7,474 Hongkongers have already applied for residency in Taiwan in the first 10 months. In May, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen pledged that her country will assist Hongkongers who have fled the city after the imposition of communist China’s notorious national security legislation.