Four people, including two Hong Kong journalists were sentenced to up to five years in prison by a Chinese court Wednesday, accused of running an illegal business after mailing copies of their political magazine across the border into the mainland, reports the Associated Press.
The sentencing follows the high-profile disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers, who were detained in China on the same charges, and whose case sparked concerns that Hong Kong’s status as a semi-autonomous territory was being eroded.
Magazine publisher Wang Jianmin, 62, was sentenced to five years and three months and editor Guo Zhongxiao, 40, was given two years and three months, reports the South China Morning Post. The pair were reportedly detained back in 2014 in the southern Chinese city Shenzhen. The identity and reasons for conviction of the other two people remain unclear.
Wang and Guo published New Way Monthly and Faces, magazines concerning the dealings of the Communist Party of China. Wang’s lawyers maintain the two men were not running a mail-order business, but rather, they had sent eight copies of the magazine to friends in the mainland. The two had pleaded guilty to the charges last year.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association and Independent Commenters Association expressed concerns over the sentencing, saying the verdict was another attempt by Beijing to target Hong Kong publishers and “clean the origin” of mainland political gossip in Hong Kong.
One of the missing booksellers, Lam Wing-kee, returned to Hong Kong last month and delivered a surprise press conference, detailing his capture, eight-month detention and mistreatment at the hands of Chinese authorities.