01:50 GMT25 January 2021
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    The US Embassy in China has issued a statement urging Chinese authorities to "immediately release 12 fugitives" from Hong Kong who attempted to flee to Taiwan.

    The US must immediately stop using Hong Kong issues to meddle in China's internal affairs, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday in response to US calls to release fugitives from Hong Kong who are awaiting trial for their attempted escape from the city.

    Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the press that the US remarks "disregard facts".

    Twelve Hong Kong democracy activists were taken into custody in August after the Chinese authorities detained them over an illegal border crossing by boat. They are awaiting a court hearing in the southern city of Shenzhen.

    Some of the fugitives could face a jail sentence of up to seven years for organising the botched escape.

    A spokesman for the US Embassy in China recently called on Beijing to "immediately release" the activists, saying their only crime was "fleeing tyranny".

    In late June, China adopted legislation that bans separatist and terrorist activities in Hong Kong as well as any type of outside meddling. While opponents of the law both in Hong Kong and abroad see it as a violation of freedom, Beijing has emphasised that it aims to punish illegal activities without encroaching on the local population's rights.

    US, China, Hong Kong
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