A young Hong Kong democracy activist was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to secession under the city’s sweeping national security law.
Tony Chung, 20, is the youngest person to be sentenced under the new law that crushed dissent in Hong Kong and transformed the once outspoken international business hub.
Earlier this month, he pleaded guilty to one count of secession and one count of money laundering, but defiantly said he had “nothing to be ashamed of”.
Chung was previously the chairman of Student Localism, a small group he set up five years ago as a high school student to defend Hong Kong’s independence from China.
Separation from China was a minority view in Hong Kong then, although calls for autonomy became more vocal in huge and often violent protests for democracy two years ago.
Beijing imposed security law on Hong Kong in response to the protests, and Student Localism was dissolved hours before it went into effect.
Authorities accused Chung of continuing to exploit the group with the help of foreign activists and of soliciting donations through PayPal – the basis of the money laundering charge.
Prosecutors said Chung’s group had posted more than 1,000 social media posts, including calls to “get rid of the Chinese Communist colonial regime” and “build a republic of Hong Kong.”
Some of the posts cited by prosecutors predate the enactment of the Security Law, although Hong Kong officials have promised the law will not be retroactive.
On Tuesday, Stanley Chan, one of a panel of judges selected by the government to try national security cases, said Chung’s criminal intent was “clear for all to see” on social media. , in interviews, in street kiosks and in schools.
Chung has already spent more than a year in detention after his arrest in October 2020.
He was arrested by plainclothes police at a cafe across from the US Consulate, where he was considering seeking asylum.
The security law covers anything the authorities deem to be subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.
Chung initially faced an additional charge of sedition and another count of money laundering, but they were suspended following a plea bargain.
In another case last December, Chung was jailed for four months for illegal assembly and insulting the Chinese national flag.
Four other men have so far been convicted in separate cases under the security law, mainly for their political views.
More than 150 people have been arrested under the legislation, about half of whom have been charged.
Bail is often refused, and guilty pleas are a way to reduce both the final sentence and the legal costs of a lengthy court battle.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)