A Chinese court on Wednesday sentenced ten pro-democracy activists who sought to escape Hong Kong by speedboat earlier this year to between 7 months and 3 years in jail.
Yantian District Court in the southern city of Shenzhen gave the harshest sentence to one of the two accused organizers of the ill-fated August 23 try to reach self-ruled Taiwan. Relatives said all defendants pleaded guilty, a move apparently aimed at receiving lighter sentences. The defendants are believed to have feared they would be prosecuted for their activities in support of Hong Kongs pro-democracy movement. Hong Kong media reports said at least one may have had a warrant out for his arrest under a tough new national security law imposed on the semi-autonomous territory by Beijing in June.
The court said it had held a private hearing for two under-aged suspects and would not charge them for illegally crossing the border even though they pleaded guilty. Another organizer was given two years while other participants were given seven months in prison.