A 20-year-old activist who pleaded for Hong Kong’s independence from China was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison on Tuesday for breaking the country’s national security law.
Tony Chung pleaded guilty to secession under the law, which took effect in June 2020, according to the Washington Post.
Hong Kong’s Basic Law – in fact, its constitution – claims to enshrine freedom of expression. But under the new national security law, a speech determined to undermine the Chinese government may result in a charge of life in prison.
Chung’s crime, which he committed as a teenager, was completely non-violent and was carried out only through slogans, social media posts and speeches, the Post reported.
“Secession does not need to involve real violence,” Justice Stanley Chan said, according to the Post. “The penalty should deter future acts. “
Chung is the third person to face a prison term for violating the law and the youngest to be sentenced under it.
His sentence is slightly reduced from that previously imposed on Tong Ying-kit, 24, and Ma Chun-man, 31, due to his guilty plea.
” I plead guilty. I have no shame in my heart, ”Chung said earlier this month, according to the Post.
As a high school student, Chung was a co-founder of Studentlocalism, a group of student activists who advocated for Hong Kong independence. The group disbanded just before the national security law was passed, with officials saying it would not be applied retroactively, according to the Post.
But Chung was one of the first people to be arrested under it, with officials pointing to the manifesto and clothing produced by Studentlocalism in support of the charge. According to the Post, prosecutors justified this by claiming that Chung continued to violate the law after it came into effect.
The newspaper noted that Chung had previously attempted to seek asylum at the US consulate in Hong Kong, but was apprehended before his arrival. He has since been held without bail.