CHINA / SOCIETY
Sentencing of 10 Hong Kong detainees underscores rule of law
Published: Dec 30, 2020 03:55 PM Updated: Dec 30, 2020 10:20 PM

Photo: VCG



A local court in Shenzhen on Wednesday sentenced 10 Hong Kong detainees to imprisonment from seven months to three years for illegally crossing the border into the Chinese mainland and organizing the crime in August, after a two-day trial where the 10 suspects had pleaded guilty.

Two other suspects, under the age of 18, were returned to Hong Kong police on Wednesday.

The sentencing is seen as accurate jurisdiction that falls into the range, which is also statutory punishment that fully underscores the principle of upholding the rule of law, experts said. 

They stressed that the case has strictly abided by the legal process, which is also demonstrated by the different handling of the two minors.  

The sentencing is also believed to be "a thing that falls into place," legal experts said, slamming some Western countries which have been shifting the focus by advocating that the convicts "were fleeing from political persecution." 

According to Chinese mainland laws, those who organize people to illegally cross the border will be subject to sentences of between two and seven years. An individual illegal border crossing conviction will result in a sentence of less than two years.

The court sentenced the two who organized the crime for three-year and two-year imprisonment, respectively, with fines of 20,000 yuan ($3,066) and 15,000 yuan. The rest were sentenced to seven months in jail with a fine of 10,000 yuan. 

During the court proceedings, prosecutors displayed four sets of evidence materials to confirm each other, forming a complete chain to prove the criminal facts. The suspects' lawyers expressed no objection at the court, local newspaper Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported. 

The report said at the court, one of the defendants was choked with tears in their final statement.

"Now that I am aware of the fairness, justice and rigor of the rule of law in the mainland and I am also entitled to my due rights. However, because of prejudices and impulse, I have done a lot of things to harm my family, society and committed a crime. I am very regretful and hope the court can be lenient on me," she said.

Judicial organs have guaranteed the legal rights of the criminals in accordance with the law in terms of investigation, prosecution, trial and other litigation stages, the report said.

Some Hong Kong media revealed the letters sent by the suspects to their families, which show some fragments of their daily lives in the detention center with "good dishes, doctors and no abuse."

Previous information disclosed also showed that during the investigation and hearing of the case, the city's judicial organ has continued to release the latest progress in the case to the public in a timely manner.

The Chinese mainland Coast Guard arrested the 12 in August. Shenzhen prosecutors charged them on December 16. 

The trial of 10 detainees was opened on Monday with the court hearing the public prosecution's opinions as well as the suspects' defense. Journalists and relatives of the suspects attended the trial and the court has provided a list of lawyers for the convicts to choose from. This rebutted some reports that claim the case was conducted "in secret" and violated the legitimate rights of the Hong Kong residents in question.

Some Western media also made accusations that some relatives did not show up at the court hearing as the convicts wanted. But the Global Times learned that this was because the COVID-19 epidemic is severe in Hong Kong. Relatives of the accused who wanted to attend the court hearing in Shenzhen have to go through strict quarantine measures, but some of them do not want to go through the process.

Commenting on this case, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin emphasized at Wednesday's routine press conference that China is a country ruled by law and always holds offenders accountable, with authorities processing cases in accordance with the law.

Some mainland legal experts see it as a "very simple" criminal case. Since it happened within the jurisdiction of the Chinese mainland, mainland jurisdiction organs are responsible for initiating prosecution and the trial itself, in accordance with the law, said Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert at Beihang University in Beijing.

Tang Fei, a Hong Kong-based member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said the ruling demonstrated the mainland authorities' adherence of the "one country, two systems" principle. 

"The crimes the suspects committed in Hong Kong will be followed up by Hong Kong law enforcement authorities after they serve their sentences and return to Hong Kong. Law enforcement officers on the mainland only handled the crime of illegally crossing the border," Tang explained. 

While China has been excising its juridical sovereignty by processing the case in accordance with the law, some Western politicians and countries such as UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab and the US Embassy in China continued pressuring China by demanding the release of the Hong Kong detainees, which, however, won't have any impact on the matter, Chinese experts said. 

"The judges thoroughly considered the different circumstances of these detainees, issuing their judgment in line with the law which will also send a warning to the local legal system of Hong Kong when it deals with relevant cases," Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times.

"In spite of Western countries and politicians exerting pressure on China through the case, Chinese juridical authorities process the case properly and legitimately, which also reflects the dignity of the Chinese rule of law," Li said.

Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Standing Committee of the NPC, considered the prosecution as a thing that falls into place. If Western-led public opinion and some politicians in foreign countries have doubts about that and criticize it, it is a typical reflection of double standards, Tam said. "Will they tolerate those who violate the law?"


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