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Hong Kong jails 7 protesters who tried to flee to Taiwan

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

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

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

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

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

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

The two youngest detainees in 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 over China’s opaque justice system after the group was detained for months with relatives and family members saying they could not contact them or engage their own lawyers for the case.

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

Earlier this week, 66-year-old protester Alexandra Wong – commonly known as ‘Grandma Wong’ and known for her penchant for waving a British Union Jack flag at pro-democracy protests – was jailed for 32 weeks for her role in two unauthorized assemblies in 2019.

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

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Post expires at 1:07am on Thursday July 21st, 2022