Washington [US], December 19 (ANI): The United States has called for the release of 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who were detained in China for fleeing to Taiwan in order to escape Beijing's exercise of the draconian National Security Law, the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Saturday.
Pompeo slammed the Chinese Communist Party for turning Hong Kong into "East Berlin of yesteryear."
"The Hong Kong 12 should be released immediately. Their so-called "crime" was to flee tyranny," Pompeo said in a tweet dated Saturday.
He added, "Communist China today is turning Hong Kong into the East Berlin of yesteryear, actively preventing its own people from seeking freedom elsewhere."
According to South China Morning Post, Shenzhen authorities said that 10 pro-democracy activists had been charged with illegal border-crossing offences, while closed-door hearings would determine the cases of the other two suspects who were underage.
"Under the mainland's criminal law, the maximum penalty for crossing the border illegally is one year in prison. Organisers of such activities can be jailed for a maximum of seven years, while those running cross-border syndicates face life in prison," South China Morning Post reported further.
The Chinese foreign ministry in a statement had confirmed that the group comprised 11 men and a woman, aged 16 to 33 were detained while they were trying to escape China.
According to earlier Hong Kong media reports, among the people arrested was pro-democracy activist Andy Li.
Li is among the other pro-democracy activists including Agnes Chow and Jimmy Lai who were arrested on August 10 under the draconian National Security Law.
The draconian National Security Law imposed on the city by Beijing criminalizes secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect from July 1.
Several of those disqualified were sitting lawmakers, who were subsequently ejected from the parliament by Beijing overruling constitutional precedent and bypassing Hong Kong's courts on November 11, sparking the mass resignation of the entire pro-democratic camp. (ANI)