China calls Hong Kong people arrested at sea 'separatists'

BEIJING: The 12 Hong Kong people arrested at sea by Chinese authorities last month were separatists, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry said yesterday, in response to her US counterpart's characterisation of the arrests as a deterioration of human rights.

The comment came a day after relatives of the detainees held a news conference in Hong Kong demanding the urgent return of the 12 who were intercepted by the Guangdong coast guard on Aug 23 on a boat bound for Taiwan.

US State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus tweeted on Saturday that their arrest was "another example of the deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong".

China's spokesman, Ms Hua Chunying, responded in another tweet.

"Seriously?! Fact check: The 12 people were arrested for illegally crossing the border in waters. They are not democratic activists, but elements attempting to separate #HongKong from China," she wrote.