Hong Kong journalists China
Police officers look on as pro-China protesters waving Chinese national flag shout to passing-by pro-democracy protesters Bobby Yip/Reuters file photo

China has jailed two veteran Hong Kong journalists on charges of running an "illegal business". The two of them had been publishing political magazines in the semi-autonomous region and were found guilty of sending the publications to mainland China.

Wang Jianmin, 62, was given five years and three months while Guo Zhongxiao, 40, was sentenced to two years and three months on Tuesday, 26 July. They were working for the political affairs magazines, New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face — publications that report rumours and gossip about top Chinese authorities. The magazines, published by the Hong Kong-registered company National Affairs Limited, often shed light on infighting and political struggles in the Communist party in China.

Wang and Guo, both permanent residents of Hong Kong, are originally from mainland China and were sentenced by the Shenzhen court. The pair were arrested by Chinese authorities in May 2014 shortly after their media outlets were shut down. Both the journalists pleaded guilty in November 2015 and are not likely to appeal against the latest verdict.

The incident has yet again underscored tensions between Beijing authorities and the Hong Kong administration. Only months ago, similar cases of crackdown on booksellers had fuelled friction between them.

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan responded to the latest clampdown from China by saying: "The jail terms were very heavy. The publications were in fact printed in Hong Kong by registered companies here. It appears that the Chinese government has intensified its crackdown on such publications," reported the South China Morning Post. Rights groups have also urged the Hong Kong administration to handle the matter more deftly and assist its citizens.

In 2015, five Hong Kong booksellers mysteriously disappeared and it turned out they were abducted by Chinese authorities. One of them, Lam Wing-kee, managed to free himself and revealed explosive details about his detention in June 2016.