Responding to China’s sentencing of 10 Hong Kong residents who have been detained in mainland China since attempting to leave Hong Kong by speedboat in August, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said:
“These sentences meted out after an unfair trial lay bare the dangers faced by anybody who finds themselves tried under the Chinese criminal system. This group of young Hongkongers will be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment in Chinese jails.
“The Chinese authorities have shown the world once again that political activists will not receive a fair trial. Diplomats, journalists and family members were not allowed to observe the effectively closed-door hearing on Monday.
“The Hong Kong youths were deprived of the right to defend themselves through legal representation of their own choosing. Multiple mainland lawyers attempted to represent them at the families’ request, but they have been threatened by the Chinese authorities to force them to drop the cases.”
Twelve young people were intercepted by coast guard officers from mainland China after leaving Hong Kong on a speedboat on 23 August 2020. Ten of them were sentenced today after a hearing on Monday at Yantian District People’s Court in the southern city of Shenzhen.
Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon, charged with “organizing other persons to secretly cross the border”, were sentenced to two and three years’ imprisonment respectively. The eight others were charged with “secretly crossing the border” and sentenced to seven months.
Two of the “Hong Kong 12” were under 18 at the time of their arrest and will be handed over to the Hong Kong police today.
Amnesty International has documented numerous cases in which detained individuals in mainland China, many of them human rights defenders, have been routinely deprived of their right to see lawyers that they or their families have chosen to represent them.
In some instances, the authorities have appointed lawyers for detainees without their, or their families’, consent. In other cases, the authorities have threatened lawyers to make them drop cases. China has also sometimes claimed, without providing evidence, that detainees have dismissed family-hired lawyers, and has stopped families from hiring lawyers.
All of this effectively amounts to depriving the detainees of their right to legal representation. Individuals deprived of legal representation of their own choice are often denied access to information about their legal rights, making them more vulnerable to unfair legal procedures and to ill-treatment while in detention.