12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were arrested by the Chinese maritime police while attempting to flee to Taiwan on August 23.

Their relatives called on the Hong Kong government for help but were denied. The reason given was that those arrested are under the jurisdiction of the mainland.

According to Taiwan News, the young people were arrested while preparing to flee by sea to Taiwan. Hong Kong police later contacted the families, telling them that their young family members were being held at the detention center in Yantian, Shenzhen.

“The relevant crime falls within the jurisdiction of the mainland and the special administrative region government respects and will not interfere with law enforcement actions,” a statement released last Sunday said, quoted by RTHK.

At first, the youths hired legal help from local lawyers to follow due process. However, they were not allowed to receive the lawyers’ assistance. The families of the detainees argue that Chinese and international law was being violated.

The detainees’ families who attended a press conference in Hong Kong wore masks and hats to protect their identities.

According to Reuters, they asked the Hong Kong authorities to allow the detainees to be assisted by lawyers appointed by them, rather than by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

On September 10, Chinese lawyer Ji Zhongjiu was prevented from meeting with the detainees. He was told that lawyers had already been appointed to the case. The next day Ji tried again to see those involved but again was unsuccessful.

As Taiwan News notes, another unidentified lawyer claimed that they were threatened by a Chinese security officer, who warned them that they would face consequences if they did not drop the case.

Before traveling to Shenzhen, the lawyer said he had to notify the authorities and assure them that he would agree to be accompanied by a security officer and would not give interviews.

Meanwhile, the detainees’ relatives asked the Chinese authorities to allow them to communicate with the detainees so that they could send medicine to those in need and requested that the Hong Kong authorities ensure their release and return.

According to statements offered by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Sunday, the people arrested were separatists.

The arrest of the young activists comes two months after the central government in Beijing imposed a controversial security law on the Special Administrative Region after months of pro-democracy protests.

According to critics, the new law dramatically affects the Hong Kong government’s autonomy. That autonomy was established in a deal between the United Kingdom and mainland China after the region passed into Chinese hands and ceased to be a British colony in 1997.

The new legislation allows for the repression and punishment of those involved in separatist actions or who are accused of colluding with foreign countries, as well as terrorism and subversion.

According to The New York Times, the law is formulated in an ambiguous way to empower authorities to attack activists who criticize the CCP.