Authorities in Hong Kong have accused 19-year-old independence activist Tony Chung of “secession” under a draconian national security law that went into effect in the city on July 1.
“Chung has been formally charged with one count of ‘secession’, one count of” conspiracy to publish seditious material “, as well as two cases of” money laundering “,” the group said. now disbanded Chung activists Studentlocalism on his Facebook page.
Chung appeared in West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning, where his application for bail was denied, the statement said.
Chung was arrested on October 27 for allegedly violating Article 21 of the National Security Law, which prohibits anyone from providing assistance to anyone who breaks the law and which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.
He is accused of “actively organizing, planning, implementing or participating in acts aimed at dividing the country and undermining national unity in Hong Kong from July 1 to October 27 this year, along with others.” , according to the charges against him.
The money laundering charges relate to a crowdfunding campaign by Studentlocalism, which called for donations only from those who supported Hong Kong’s independence, and payments totaling nearly HK $ 700,000 made to the bank account Chung staff between January 2018 and July 2020.
Chung is also accused of conspiring to publish seditious publications in Hong Kong between November 30, 2018 and June 9 this year, before the National Security Act came into force.
After the hearing, Chung was taken to the infamous Pik Uk Correctional Facility, where he will remain in detention for at least the next 10 weeks pending another hearing in January, the group said.
The judge’s decision to deny bail came after the prosecution claimed Chung was likely to reoffend and run away if released, given that the alleged offenses took place while he was out on bail pending a different charge.
Four under arrest
Chung was one of four youths arrested by Hong Kong police on July 26 on suspicion of “secession” under the National Security Act, which came into force on July 1.
The arrested persons, aged 16 to 21, were taken into custody during raids in the districts of the New Territories of Yuen Long, Shatin and Tuen Mun, suspected of having “organized and incited secessionist activities”.
Police said they were suspected of posting ads online calling on people to fight to establish a “Hong Kong nation”, to declare that they will use whatever means necessary to achieve this goal and to call for the union of separatist groups.
Studentlocalism was dissolved before the law was implemented, but as the posts were published after the new law came into force, they fell under articles of the law prohibiting “incitement” to secessionist activity, he said. police said at the time.
Chung and two other activists were separately arrested by the national security police on Tuesday after Chung was refused permission to enter the US consulate, where he is said to have planned to seek political asylum. The other two arrested, former studentlocalism members William Chan and Yanni Ho, have been released on bail.
Hours later, when news of Chung’s arrest became public, four more activists entered the consulate, but were told that they could not be protected and were finally ordered to leave. one of them later told Voice of America (VOA).
News commentator Liu Ruishao said that the fact that Chung has been charged means authorities expect to make an example of him.
“The fact that they are making such accusations means that they (…) expect a result that will be in favor of the government,” Liu said. “In fact, it will probably have the effect of restricting everyone’s behavior in the future.”
“The effect of [such a prosecution] will be magnified, which means that a much larger portion of the population is actually targeted, “Liu said.” That’s what they want to achieve: a crippling effect where people limit their own behavior. “
Call for release
Rights groups denounced Chung’s arrest and the charges against him as a violation of his right to free speech.
The overseas-based Chinese Network of Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) called for Chung’s immediate release, in a statement posted on its website Thursday.
“The charges against Chung, a former member of the Studentlocalism group, relate to posts he made on social media platforms and his advocacy, in violation of his fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association, ”the group said.
Chung is the second person to be charged under the National Security Law since it came into force. The first was Tong Ying-kit, who rode his motorbike among a group of police officers during a July 1 protest while carrying a flag bearing the popular protest slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolutionize Now!”
“The National Security Law, imposed in Hong Kong by the Chinese legislature on June 30, criminalizes the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly under the pretext that non-violent speech or behavior can ‘put endangering national security, ”the CHRD said.
He called for an independent international review, led by the United Nations, of human rights violations in China.
Under the 1997 handover agreement, Hong Kong was promised to maintain its traditional freedoms of expression and association, as well as universal suffrage.
But Beijing’s decision to exclude fully democratic elections in 2014, its insistence on the prosecution and disqualification of key opposition figures, and its subsequent imposition of the national security law following mass popular protests against declining freedoms throughout 2019 have shown that the ruling Chinese Communist Party has no intention of keeping those promises.
The loosely-worded new security law threatens anyone who criticizes Chinese or Hong Kong authorities anywhere in the world.
The dreaded Chinese State Security Police have now established a seat in the city to enforce the law, while the government has warned that slogans linked to last year’s protest movement, including “Free Hong Kong, do the revolution now! “, will come under the mandate of the law. .
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier said the law would be “devastating” for the protection of human rights in the city.
It created specialized secret security agencies, denied the right to a fair trial, granted expanded new powers to the police, increased restrictions on civil society and the media, and weakened judicial oversight, the group said in a statement. report published on its website.
The law will also affect the right to education and freedom of information, opinion and expression in schools, as political statements and discussions are prohibited in city classrooms and the books of prominent figures. -Democracy are being removed from its public libraries, HRW said. .
Reported by Lu Xi and Man Hoi-tsan for the Cantonese and Mandarin services of FRG. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.