The indictment took their cases a step closer to the court, although no date has been set for the start of the hearings.
A court in the southern city of Shenzhen, where the 12 were detained, said in a statement on Wednesday that two members of the group were accused of organizing illegal border crossings, while eight were accused of crossing the border illegally. The statement said that the remaining two minors will undergo a closed hearing and “decisions will be taken in accordance with the law.”
According to Chinese criminal law, those convicted of organizing illegal border crossing can face a prison sentence of two to seven years – and in severe cases, life imprisonment. The crime of illegally crossing the border can lead to a maximum of one year in prison. The conviction rate in the Chinese judicial system is around 99%, according to legal observers.
Soon after they crossed the maritime border between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, a Coast Guard vessel stopped their boat.
They have been detained in mainland China since then while their families have been pressing hard for their return, saying the 12 have been denied access to lawyers and have been abused while in detention in China.
Mainland authorities said they would “protect the suspects’ legitimate rights in accordance with the law,” and provided them with government-appointed attorneys.
In the statement, family members also objected to the government-appointed attorneys’ arrangement.
“Families cannot trust that“ government-appointed attorneys ”to protect the interests of the Twelve during the trial, and fear that“ government-appointed lawyers ”will follow government orders and act against the interests of the Twelve.
Chinese courts – along with prosecutors and police – are overseen by the powerful Central Political and Legal Affairs Committee of the Communist Party of China and its local branches.
This year, when protests began to re-emerge after a forced break due to the Coronavirus, the Chinese government imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, criminalizing sedition, secession and sabotage.
The law, which the government says is necessary to restore order, has caused many prominent activists to flee abroad.