China on Wednesday arraigned in court 17-year-old Hoang Lam Phuc, one of the Hong Kong citizens earlier arrested and detained in China in 2020 for illegal border crossing, reports said.
Hoang was among the 12 persons captured at sea in August 2020 by Chinese authorities while fleeing in a speedboat believed to be bound for Taiwan after the Hong Kong protests.
Hoang was at the Wednesday hearing of the case charged with arson and possession of offensive weapons related to the anti-government protests of 2019.
Dozens of people gathered outside the court to show their support and solidarity.
Hoang and another minor were returned by China to Hong Kong on Dec. 30, while the other 10 were sentenced by a court in the neighbouring mainland city of Shenzhen.
They were sentenced to between seven months and three years in jail for illegally crossing the border.
Their virtual incommunicado detention has drawn condemnation from rights groups and the West at a time of growing fears about the city’s high degree of autonomy.
Authorities have denied family and lawyers access to the 12, insisting they be represented by officially appointed lawyers.
China has said their “legitimate rights” have been protected and their case was handled according to the law.
All of the 12 had faced charges in Hong Kong linked to an anti-government protest movement, including rioting and violation of a contentious national security law that China imposed in June 2020.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of freedoms not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and assembly.
Democracy activists complain that Communist Party rulers in Beijing are whittling away at those freedoms, a charge China rejects.
Hoang, who did not apply for bail, is remanded in custody and his case will resume on Feb. 26.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are looking into whether to press further charges, including absconding and conspiracy to aid criminals. (Reuters/NAN)