Two Chinese activists have been sent to a labor camp for taking part in this month’s large pro-democracy march in Hong Kong and other protests, a report said yesterday.
It is the first time Beijing has punished activists for attending a rally in the semi-autonomous former British colony, where freedoms of speech and assembly are protected under law, the South China Morning Post reported.
The Hong Kong-based People’s Rights Union said Song Ningsheng (宋寧生), 44, and Zeng Jiuzi (曾九子), 53, were tried by police and sentenced to 14 months each in a labor camp after attending the July 1 march.
Court documents also accused them of petitioning in Beijing on July 9 and 11, the Post reported.
People’s Rights Union chairman Liu Weiping (劉衛平) said Chinese security officers had tracked the pair during their trip to Hong Kong for the 15th anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule.
“If these mainland security personnel prevail, what does it mean to Hong Kongers? They should really think about it,” he was quoted as saying in the Post.
Hong Kong’s biggest protest for nearly a decade packed the territory’s streets on July 1, in a defiant reception for its new leader and a show of popular anger after 15 years of Chinese rule.
Organizers put the crowd at 400,000, their largest claimed turnout for eight years and almost twice their number last year. Police said only 63,000 attended — although that was also their largest figure in eight years.
The vast rally came after Leung Chun-ying (梁振英), a millionaire property consultant seen as close to China’s communist authorities, was sworn in as chief executive in front of Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).
Hu’s visit and Leung’s inauguration were focal points for growing discontent toward Beijing, which has been fueled by a yawning wealth gap and perceived attempts by China to limit the territory’s freedoms.