Two Chinese activists have been sent to a labour camp for taking part in this month’s massive pro-democracy march in Hong Kong and other protests, a report said Thursday.
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, 44, and Zeng Jiuzi, 53, were tried by police and sentenced to 14 months each in a labour 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 chair Liu Weiping said mainland 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 former British colony’s streets on July 1, in a defiant reception for the city’s new leader and a show of popular anger after 15 years of Chinese rule.
Organisers 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 for eight years.
The vast rally came after Leung Chun-ying, 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.
Hu’s visit and Leung’s inauguration were focal points for growing discontent towards Beijing, which has been fuelled by a yawning wealth gap and perceived attempts by China to limit the territory’s freedoms.