UPDATED 9:12 AM PT – Tuesday, December 29, 2020
The Chinese Communist Party has rejected U.S. calls for the immediate release of 12 Hong Kong fugitives.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou made that demand in a statement, saying “China will stop at nothing to prevent its people from seeking freedom elsewhere.” The spokesperson added, the “only so-called crime was to flee tyranny.”
The trial for 10 out of the 12 pro-democracy activists began on Monday. The fugitives were accused of attempting to flee from the Chinese territory to Taiwan back in August. Two are facing additional charges for allegedly organizing the escape.
Later on Monday, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, rejected the U.S.’s demands. Lijian insisted that America should stop interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
“The U.S. side’s remarks disregard the fact and confuse right and wrong,” stated the Chinese official. “China firmly opposes these remarks. China is a country under the rule of law where the laws must be followed and violations must be punished.”
He went on to insist the Chinese judicial body is handling the case in accordance to the law. However, supporters of the defendants are questioning these claims and are accusing the government of holding a secret trial.
“The unfair court proceeding is evidence of an obvious, draconian political persecution,” pro-democracy activist Owen Chow stated. “They have denied the access of families, lawyers, journalists and diplomats to attend the trial on the grounds that the auditorium was full, which renders the trial a de facto secret trial.”
Relatives explained the trial has ended and the verdict will be handed down at a later date. Authorities said they face up to a year in prison for illegal border crossing and up to seven years if convicted of organizing the trip.
The two other defendants, both minors, will face a separate hearing.