Hong Kong democracy activists will return from China after serving prison sentences

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© Reuters. A police car carrying an arrested Hong Kong activist arrives at the Tin Shui Wai Police Station in Hong Kong

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From Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Eight Hong Kong democracy activists arrested in China last year for illegally crossing the border were back in town on Monday after completing their sentences in a case that attracted international attention and concern about their treatment attracted.

They were among 12 activists whose boat was intercepted by mainland authorities at sea in August 2020, allegedly en route to the democratic island of Taiwan.

All of them have been charged in Hong Kong for the pro-democracy protest movement and are to be taken into custody on their return.

Among the eight is Andy Li, arrested under a comprehensive national security law that Beijing imposed on the Asian financial center in June 2020, which critics say is aimed at suppressing dissent.

In December, a Chinese court sentenced 10 of the 12 to seven months to three years in prison. Defendants Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon, who were sentenced to three and two years, respectively, are staying in Shenzhen.

Two minors among the 12 pleaded guilty to illegally crossing the border and were returned to Hong Kong in December.

While the 12 were detained in the southern city of Shenzhen, mainland authorities refused access to their families and lawyers and insisted that they be represented by officially appointed lawyers, which drew criticism from right-wing groups.

Pro-democracy activists have fled Hong Kong to democratic Taiwan since the early months of the protests in 2019, most of them legally by air, but some by boat.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of freedoms not seen on the mainland, including freedom of expression and assembly.

Democracy activists complain that the Communist Party rulers in Beijing are curtailing these freedoms, an accusation that China rejects.

Since Beijing imposed the national security law on Hong Kong, numerous democracy activists have been arrested, some elected lawmakers have been disqualified and others have fled overseas.

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