Hong Kong 12 who fled by boat for Taiwan held in ‘criminal detention’ by China

Hong Kong 12 who fled by boat for Taiwan held in ‘criminal detention’ by China

  • Beijing confirms for first time they are likely to face criminal charges, as foreign ministry accuses them of separatism

Chinese authorities have confirmed the criminal detention of 12 Hongkongers accused of attempting to travel illegally to Taiwan by boat last month, a group the foreign ministry in Beijing has labelled separatists.

The 12 people, aged 16 to 33, were under “compulsory criminal detention” in accordance with Chinese law for illegally crossing the border, a statement from the public security bureau in Shenzhen read on Sunday. It said they were arrested on 23 August.

The statement was the first formal announcement from Chinese authorities that the 12 would likely face criminal charges. Last month authorities confirmed the detention at sea of the 12, some of whom were linked to the anti-government protest movement in the city last year.

The 12 were believed to be travelling to the self-ruled island of Taiwan, a popular choice among protesters who have chosen to leave Hong Kong since the passage of a new national security law in June. Critics say the law is Beijing’s clearest attempt to erase the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist party system.