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Democracy activists were released from Chinese prison again in custody in Hong Kong

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – Eight pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong jailed in China last year after being caught at sea returned to the city and were immediately arrested Monday in a case that has drawn international attention and concern over the treatment of tire.

They were among 12 activists facing charges in Hong Kong of pro-democracy protests who were intercepted by continental authorities in August 2020 on a ship allegedly on its way to Taiwan.

They were sent home to Hong Kong on Monday after serving a sentence in China for illegal border crossing, only to be detained upon arrival on previous Hong Kong charges.

Activist and lawyer Chow Hang-tung, speaking on behalf of a group concerned about the defendants, said she was unhappy with the delivery arrangements for them.

(Authorities) have never communicated with the family about the whole deal, so family members are forced to come here and wait all day until now, Chow said at a news conference outside a Hong Kong police station near the mainland border.

Just for the faint hope of seeing their families, waving at them, shouting, even so far, they have not yet had any occasion to meet their sons.

Johnny Patterson, policy director for the Hong Kong Watch rights group, said the horrific ordeal the group faced shines in the spotlight for the new Draconian normal in Hong Kong.

It is a case that comes out of the pan, on fire.

Among the eight is Andy Li, arrested under a comprehensive Beijing national security law set up at the Asian financial center in June 2020 that critics say is aimed at destroying dissent.

In December, a Chinese court sentenced 10 out of 12 to seven months to three years in prison. Defendants Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon, who were sentenced to three and two years respectively, are still in southern Guangdong province.

Two juveniles who were among the 12 pleaded guilty to illegal border crossing and returned to Hong Kong in December.

During the 12th detention in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, continental authorities denied their families and lawyers access, insisting that they be represented by formally appointed lawyers, provoking criticism from rights groups.

Pro-democracy activists began fleeing Hong Kong to Taiwan from the first months of protests in 2019, more legally by air but some by boat, activists told Taipei Reuters.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 by guaranteeing freedoms not seen on the country’s territory, including freedom of speech and assembly. Democracy activists complain that Communist Party rulers in Beijing are relinquishing those freedoms, a charge China denies.

Since Beijing enacted national security law in Hong Kong, many pro-democracy activists have been arrested, some elected lawmakers have been disqualified and others have fled abroad.

Reporting by Jessie Pang; Written by Anne Marie Roantree; Edited by Clarence Fernandez and Peter Graff

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