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Activists flee on boats from Hong Kong, once a safe haven from China

September 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

For Ha Sze-yuen, the sea surrounding Hong Kong is more than just a backdrop for sunsets and beaches.

"Now I feel like freedom is being taken away gradually," he said, referring to an ongoing crackdown on political opposition in the city by the government and Chinese authorities, who recently imposed a national security law on Hong Kong, which has further limited space for dissent and left many activists fearing arrest.

Several days after the conspicuous departure from Po Toi O, the Coast Guard in China's coastal Guangdong province made an unusual announcement that its officers "seized a speedboat suspected of illegally crossing the sea border. " Guangdong authorities provided coordinates for the seizure, roughly 50 kilometers (31 miles) off the eastern coast of Hong Kong.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Friday that he was "deeply concerned" that the group has been denied access to their lawyers, and called on the authorities to "ensure due process. " In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted that the 12 were "not democratic activists, but elements attempting to separate Hong Kong from China. "

"Our government has emphasized repeatedly that Taiwan supports Hong Kong's democracy and freedoms, but it is also a society under the rule of law," the island's Mainland Affairs Council told CNN.

At the time, Hong Kong authorities did not return dissidents to mainland China.

"This time, the territory we need to escape from (includes) Hong Kong, and Taiwan becomes the destiny of people, the hope of Hong Kong people," said Eddie Chu, a pro-democracy lawmaker.

According to the Taiwanese government, the number of Hong Kong residents settling in Taiwan more than doubled during the first six months of 2020, compared to the previous year.

"Taiwan is a lot safer than Hong Kong," Lam said.

CNN has spoken to several frontline protesters who recently fled to Taipei to escape criminal charges in Hong Kong.

"Right now everyone somehow is trapped in Hong Kong," said an older activist, who flew to Taiwan in July 2019 after participating in the storming and vandalizing of Hong Kong's Legislative Council.

Forty-five years later, Ha says he is dismayed at the Chinese government's encroachment on Hong Kong's autonomy.

"When I first came to Hong Kong I felt so free," he said.

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