The trial in China of a group of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who tried to escape the city by speedboat for sanctuary in Taiwan opened on Monday, as the U.S. urged the immediate release of dissidents it says “fled tyranny”.
Ten of the so-called “Hong Kong 12” were in court in the southern city of Shenzhen facing charges linked to an illegal border crossing.
Chinese authorities took them into custody after their boat was intercepted on August 23.
Court officials stayed tight-lipped about the case and the trial — like many in China’s opaque legal system — was not open to foreign reporters or diplomats.
At least two of the group face around seven years in jail for organising the attempted escape from a city where democracy activists last year led massive protests against Beijing’s rule.
“Their so-called ‘crime’ was to flee tyranny,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said.
Urging their “immediate release”, the spokesperson said: “Communist China will stop at nothing to prevent its people from seeking freedom elsewhere.”
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