The indictment took their cases one step further to court, although no date has been set for their hearings to begin.
A court in the southern city of Shenzhen, where 12 people were held, said in a statement on Wednesday that two members of the group had been charged with arranging illegal border crossings and eight had been charged with illegal border crossing. The remaining two, both minorities, will be subjected to closed-door hearings, and “decisions will be made in accordance with the law,” the statement said.
Under Chinese criminal law, those convicted of arranging an illegal crossing could face up to two to seven years in prison – and in severe cases, life imprisonment. Illegal cross-border offenses are punishable by up to one year in prison. According to legal observers, China’s judiciary has a 99% sentencing rate.
As soon as they crossed the maritime border between Hong Kong and Chinese mainland, their boat was stopped by the Coast Guard.
Twelve lawyers have been detained on mainland China despite their families’ insistence that they be denied permission and abused while in Chinese custody.
Mainland officials have said they will “protect the legal rights of suspects under the law” and have provided them with government-appointed lawyers.
In that statement, family members also took up the issue at the behest of government-appointed lawyers.
“Families cannot trust ‘government-appointed lawyers’ to protect the interests of the twelve during the trial, and they fear that ‘government-appointed lawyers’ will follow government orders and act against the interests of the twelve,” the report said.
The Chinese courts – along with prosecutors and police – are overseen by the Communist Party of China’s powerful Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission and its local branches.
This year, when protests resumed following a corona virus forced break, the Chinese government imposed a national security law in Hong Kong, accusing it of treason, secession and disobedience.
The law, which the government says is necessary to restore order, has led many prominent activists to flee abroad.